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The Lost Frémont Cannon
The recovery of Frémont howitzer carriage parts near Bridgeport, 2008.

The 19C relations of the discovery of "Frémont's cannon" extracted from settler's accounts and newspaper reports.


It is the impression of those of the old settlers on Walker River, of whom we have inquired regarding the subject, that the cannon was found early in the 6o's near the head of Lost Canyon [now Lost Cannon Canyon]. This canyon comes into Little Antelope Valley--a branch of Antelope Valley-from the south. This impression evidently was accepted by the government geological surveyors, for they twisted the name of the creek coming down this canyon to " Lost Cannon Creek," and called a peak, which looks down into this canyon, Lost Cannon Peak. The origin of the name of this canyon lies in the fact that an emigrant party, on its way to the Sonora Pass, and in an endeavor probably to avoid the rough river canyon down which Frémont came, essayed this pass instead of the meadows above. It is a canyon which, at first, promises an easy pass but finally becomes almost impassable. The party in question found it necessary to abandon several of their wagons before they could get over.
James U. Smith, Frémont's Expedition in Nevada, 1843-44, Second Biennial Report of the Nevada Historical Society, Carson City, 1911


Mr. Timothy B. Smith, who went to Walker River in 1859, says that the wagons were there at that time. [ship's] Captain A. W. Pray, who was then in the Nevada mining metropolis, succeeded in getting and maintaining possession of it. Being mounted on a carriage with fairly high wheels, these latter were taken and converted into a hay-wagon, with which, for several years, he hauled hay from the Glenbrook meadows to his barn in town. The cannon itself was mounted on a heavy wooden block to which it was affixed with iron bands, securely held in place by bolts and nuts....In July of 1861 the gun was said to have been found in the vicinity of the West Walker by a man named Sheldon.

Early Walker River settlers insisted that it was located near some abandoned emigrant wagons at the head of Lost Canyon...The United States Geological Service placed enough credence in the latter report to name the creek running through the canyon "Lost Cannon Creek" and the peak at its head, "Lost Cannon Peak."
George Wharton James The Lake of the Sky; Lake Tahoe, George Wharton James, Pasadena, 1915


A man named Sheldon brought a brass howitzer, which he found on the east fork of Walker's river, to Carson City one day last week, and offered to dispose of it for $200. Failing to find a purchaser there he brought it up to Gold Hill. Some of our citizens hearing of its arrival, went down there with purchase money and nipped it before Gold Hill folks were aware of it.

It always was an object of wonder to the Indians in that vicinity. They burnt the carriage and carried off most of the irons, but the cannon was too heavy for them to manage.

Captain Truckee, the old Pah-Utah chief, had a wonderful idea of its power, and repeatedly requested the whites to go, with him and get it. Old Peter Lassen, who was with Frémont at the time it was left, just before his death, tried to get up a party to go after it.
Daily Alta California, July 6, 1861, reprinted from the Virginia City Enterprise.

Notes:
Lassen was not with Fremont in 1844, but Lassen's neighbor Sam Neil was.
Truckee was also not with Frémont in 1844. He was also, as not with Frémont, as is sometimes related, on Frémont's 1845 crossing of the Sierra at Donner Pass in 1846. There were, however, three Indians named Trucky [sic], Juan, Jose, and Phillip, enlisted in Frémont's 1846 California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen.


The elusive 12-pounder was actually hidden behind the stairway of the help's quarters at Tahoe Tavern after being removed for the last time from the Tahoe City Commons. Here it was discovered by Ernest Henry Pomin while he was helping Tavern manager Jack Mathews move out an assorted stock of groceries. Pomin smuggled the cannon to A. M. "Joe" Henry's garage in the city and, later, Ernest Pomin, acting as the new custodian of the relic, presented it to Will A. Bliss of Glenbrook. Bliss, in turn, donated it to the Nevada State Museum at Carson City. Edward B. Scott
Scott, Edward B., The Saga of Lake Tahoe, Sierra-Tahoe Publishing Co., Nevada, 1957


That the Pray cannon, photographed in Glenbrook on the 4th of July 1896 and the Nevada State Museum howitzer are one in the same is evidenced in the comparison of the bulges in the tubes--an accident due to careless loading, rendering it useless for further military purposes.

In addition, there are also two identifying small indents on the trunnion in both the 1896 Glenbrook photograph and in the museum display photograph.

If the mid 19C stories of the discovery of Frémont's cannon are true, then this was the fate of the howitzer, and perhaps the very important Bridgeport discoveries are left-overs.

More accounts

 


©1999, 2007
Bob Graham