By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN – In the late 19th century, a club for Civil War veterans in Methuen pooled $250 to purchase a cannon for their post. Throughout the decades, that cannon has lived in a few spots around town before finally settling out side the Quinn Building on Hampshire Street.
Those decades ate away at the wooden wheels and supports, and corroded the 8-foot-long bronze barrel until some residents worried it had become a safety hazard in a public place.
“It was in such bad condition, I was afraid if some kid climbed on it it would collapse, it was so bad,” said Jack Cronin, a former city councilor who was one of the residents who approached the mayor’s office with the idea of fixing it up.
Now, after several months of renovation and refurbishment, the cannon, a Napoleon 12-pounder dating from around 1840, will be reintroduced to a public that is more familiar with rotting wheels and a moldy green barrel at an open house at Greater Lawrence Technical School, 57 River Road, Andover, tomorrow from 5 to 7 p.m. The cannon is in the auto body shop.
“I almost didn’t recognize it as the Methuen cannon,” said Joe Bella, the vice president and historian of the Methuen Historical Society who also asked to have the cannon repaired. “The restoration was pristine. It’s a great, great job.”
Students from Greater Lawrence worked on the cannon for several months, replacing the wood, creating new metal replacement pieces and scouring and polishing the bronze, using photos from the Internet and a history lesson from Bella to get it as close to its original condition as they could.
Bella said that Henry Coffin Nevins, of the prominent Nevins family in Methuen, joined the Methue
n post of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a fraternal organization for Civil War veterans, as an honorary colonel for his donations to the local William B. Greene post.
Around 1880, members of the club collected $250 to buy a cannon for the GAR club. Nevins purchased this 12-pounder Napoleon, which was a popular field artillery piece in the Civil War, and gave it to the local post on the condition that if the post dissolved, ownership of the gun would be transferred to the Methuen Fire Department.
Seven or eight members of the Methuen Fire Department served in the Civil War, among about 600 Methuen residents.
After the post dissolved in the early 20th century, Bella said it eventually wound up outside the American Legion Post 122 on Broadway and stayed there in the 1960s and 1970s. After that, it took up residence at the Quinn Building, which housed the town’s administrative offices, and remained until it was transported to Andover for refurbishment.
Cronin said he has asked the city to install the cannon on the bottom level of the Searles Building, which now houses municipal offices and serves as City Hall, to preserve it in top condition. He said he would like to put it inside the rear entrance from the lower parking lot under a crest.
“Before, it was pitted, green and moldy. Now it looks like it could be in a museum,” he said “The barrel was brushed and polished down, it looks likes a bar of gold.”
Much of the material for the repairs were donated, according to Greater Lawrence Tech. Cronin said Lee Sawyer offered to rebuild the wheels, the only work done off site, at a fraction of the cost of other bidders.
The lumber for the caisson was donated by Doyle Lumber, White Street Paint donated the green paint, the wheels’ spokes were refinished by Lee Sawyer of Jaffrey, N.H., Don Kennett’s Paints donated
the clear coat for over the bronze barrel, and Sheehan Towing transported the cannon to the school.
It may be brought back to Methuen as early as Friday.
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