By John B. Green III
|Photo, ca. 1935, of cannons at intersection of Middle and Pollock streets.|
|Photo, ca. 1935, of the "Lady Blessington" cannon.|
A second legend attached to the "Lady Blessington" cannon concerns its odd placement - muzzle buried in the ground. Col. John D. Whitford is again the authority. Writing in 1904 he states that when the surveyor Jonathan Price was hired in 1810 to produce a new survey of the town "the cannon was carried and then set up, where it is now, as a starting point for Price in his survey." The minutes of the town commissioners do record Price being hired on April 26, 1809 "to run off and survey the Town of New Bern and to establish such corners of squares, as near the original plan of the said Town as possible." One year later the commissioners ordered that Price "be paid the sum of Two hundred & fifty dollars for his services in Surveying the Town - fixing the Corner stones, making two plans of the town, with notes etc." Alas, no mention is made of Price being ordered to bury a cannon up to its trunnions for use as a benchmark.
The cannon's 20th century history is marked by only two events of note. When the Episcopalians erected the present wrought and cast iron fence around their churchyard in 1902, the "Lady Blessington" cannon was revered enough, and enough of an immovable object, that the fence was caused to curve around the gun. And in May 1928 the Richard Dobbs Spaight Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution embedded a small bronze tablet in the sidewalk in front of the cannon which recounted the traditional history of the gun.
|Photo, c. 1935, of "Lady Blessington" cannon and companion in its drinking fountain phase.|
|Photograph and enlarged detail, c. 1900, of corner of Middle and Pollock streets.|
|"Drinking Fountain" cannon arriving at Tryon Palace conservation lab Sept 30, 1988.|
|Cannon in Tryon Palace conservation lab Sept 30, 1988. Hole for 1916 water line visible in cascabel.|
|Photo, c.1933, of the East Front Street cannon.|
|"Tryon Palace Cannon" historical marker, East Front Street.|
The historical marker is long gone and the shell rock and anchor chain base for the cannon was destroyed during the refurbishing of the East Front Street park 1999-2000. The old cannon is still to be seen there although now mounted on a plain granite base.
The fourth and last cannon on our tour has a history as murky as all the rest. Found somewhere in New Bern in the 1950s, it came into possession of the City of New Bern who donated it to the Tryon Palace Commission. Mounted on a reproduction naval gun carriage, designed with assistance from the Smithsonian Institution, the cannon was placed on a brick platform on the south lawn of the Palace. There it was dedicated on September 17, 1961 and fired by a U.S. Marine Corps gun crew.
|18th century cannon, South Lawn, Tryon Palace, photo c.1965|