Cannon being memorialized has colorful pioneer history

A cannon being memorialized in a monument now being created, to be placed in a Parowan, Utah, park in 1995, has a long and storied past.

Historians believe the cannon could have been used on a ship during the War of 1812. It was likely purchased in New Orleans, La., as war surplus and brought to Missouri. The piece has a short barrel and fired a six-pound shot.It is believed that the cannon came into Mormon hands in 1838 in Daviess County, Mo. At that time, old conflicts between the Saints and the Missourians broke out anew. The trouble came to a boil in Gallatin, Mo., when the Mormons were prevented from voting. This led to additional confrontations and eventually a mob of some 300 men approached Adam-ondi-Ahman with a cannon, with which they threatened to blow up the settlement.

But the Mormons organized under Apostle David W. Patten to protect themselves. When a group of armed scouts from Patten's company rode forward to locate the mob, the disorderly band scattered to a campground 25 miles distant.

Daniel McArthur, one of Patten's men, wrote in his autobiography, that the mobbers, in their haste to retreat, "thought to hide it [the cannon] so that Mormons could not find it, but in this thing they were awfully mistaken in, for the Lord was with David [Patten] and his boys. The mob hid the cannon in the road, thinking by riding their horses over it, they might deceive somebody, but when the Mormon boys found that the mob had fled in every direction, . . . [they] concluded that it was thought best to look about and see what was left after the flight. They soon found some cannon balls and shortly a keg of powder and then the cannon stalk, wagon and harness, and of course, they expected to see barrel next, and while looking for it there was an old sow walking about. She went to the middle of the road and went to digging hog fashion. Low and behold, there lay the old barrel. Of course the boys had some little shouting over it when they found it. They soon loaded it up and started for Adam-ondi-Ahman, and while on their way back, one of the mob came up thinking he was entering the right crowd but found his mistake after it was too late. So David thought . . . that it would be right to invite him to ride. Consequently, he got straddle of the cannon and rode it into the city bearing the resemblance to a prisoner."

The cannon was named after its discoverer, the old sow, and was taken from Missouri by the members as they were expelled following the "extermination order." Later the ponderous weapon became part of the Nauvoo artillery. It was used for ceremonial purposes until the Saints were expelled from Nauvoo in 1846. They evidently hauled it with them across Iowa to Winter Quarters.

And when the first party of pioneers moved west to the Rocky Mountains, they drew the wheeled cannon with them. Although the weapon was occasionally readied for use against Indians, it was never used in that regard. Mostly it was fired to call the Saints together or to celebrate. Doubtless, however, its mere presence had a chilling effect on any who had hostile intentions against the pioneers.

In Salt Lake City, the cannon was placed at the Old Fort. In 1851 when the pioneers under Apostle George A. Smith left for the Iron County Mission, they took this cannon with them, to their new home in the heart of Indian country.

The settlers fired the cannon upon arriving in Iron County, and then placed it in the fort at Parowan. The Indians stayed away from the cannon, according to Frank Hamilton, as quoted in History of Iron County Mission, by Luella A. Dalton.

"They called it Pe-up-caribine (big gun). It was used as a salute on state occasions," he wrote. The cannon was also used as a stand for preaching.

The Old Sow cannon was later returned to the Old Fort in Salt Lake City.The cannon now is on display at the Church Museum of History and Art.

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