Tri-City Ledger -

By Kevin McKinley
Guest Columnist 

Story of the courthouse cannons

 

April 12, 2018

Escambia County Court House early 1900s

Much has been written about the cannons on the Escambia County Courthouse lawn. They stand as silent sentinels, bearing witness to decades of local history and the ebb and flow of attorneys, judges and residents through our collective memory. Yet their own history beckons the curiosity of any who stop and examine.

The Thursday, April 5, 1906 edition of The Brewton Standard carried the story; "The United States government having presented to this county two cannons at Fort Barrancas, we suggest and recommend that the county commissioners have same removed to the county seat and properly set on the Court House grounds, paying out of the county treasury all expense therefor except the freight charges, which the town of Brewton has agreed to assume."

This wording apparently came from a recommendation from the Grand Jury of the County. It appears grand juries in 1906 had additional duties than what we think of a grand jury today. The "Commissioners Court" section of the same date's paper carried the following:

"The recommendation of the Grand Jury that the County pay for the installment on the Court House grounds, of the two large cannons which were donated to the county by the US Government, was taken up for consideration, and the court adopted a motion appreciating (sp) $250.00 for this purpose."

The commissioners present with Judge M.F. Brooks were Commissioners Hall (from Canoe Station), Jordan (he is buried at Traveler's Rest on Upper Creek Road) and Lovelace.

This would have been located at the same site as where the cannons set today. However, it was a very different courthouse. The gothic design of the early 1900s, with its cathedral-like spires, rose from the dusty streets below early in the last century and only artillery from the century before that would be appropriate to guard its march into our modern times.

Fort Barrancas was one of several forts built around the coast line of the nation to defend against foreign attack. Several forts in the Pensacola area have Spanish origins but were refitted and Americanized in the early 1800s. During the War Between the States, Barrancas was occupied by the Confederate army.

Later, after the Union took over the fort, it was used to house military personnel for the final push into our area in March 1865. Confederate deserters were also housed at the fort and eventually some of them were organized into the 1st Florida Cavalry USA and used as scouts when the blue clade invaders entered our area at war's end.

Ms. Lydia Grimes noted on January 18, 2009, in an article in the Brewton Standard, how an earlier Brewton Standard article from 1906 detailed the arrival of the cannons.

"The cannons came to Brewton during the summer of 1906," noted Grimes. Citing Ed Leigh McMillan and John David Finlay, her article states, "the cannons were given to Escambia County by Fort Barrancas at Pensacola early in 1905, when the fort was disposing of antiquated artillery."

Other sources note the use of a team of oxen to move the massive guns to their current site in 1906. Fort Barrancas personnel were very familiar with Brewton in those days in that soldiers from Barrancas routinely came to Brewton to play baseball against Brewton's minor league team.

It has been said the guns would have been scrapped during the World War II recycling efforts but, fortunately for those of us who admire their presence, there was no crane available to move them.

Coming soon: Shadows and Dust III-view the trailer on Canoe Civic Club's Facebook Page.

 
 

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