LINCOLN – Stuart Mowbray still remembers the day in the fall of 1971 when his father Andy gathered a group of friends to move a 1,500 pound cannon.
Childhood memories can be fleeting, but this particular day stands out among Stuart Mowbray’s earliest memories of his youth at Hearthside House.
The late Andy Mowbray was the owner of a Providence publishing house and collector of historical military weapons and artifacts. When the Mowbrays made Hearthside their home, a Revolutionary War era cannon sat in the front yard.
The cannon, which was returned to Hearthside this week after several decades, was sunk around 1728 in France. It is believed that during the Revolutionary War the cannon fell through the ice while crossing a river in Warwick, probably on the way to the siege of Boston.
A team from the Works Progress Administration discovered and recovered the sunken barrel in the 1930s, and it was on display for a time at a local Pontiac dealership. When the business closed, Andy Mowbray bought the barrel for $ 400 at auction.
The tube was delivered to Hearthside, where it sat next to the aisle for several years, that is, until a family friend smashed his 1956 Imperial LeBaron into the barrel.
The car was custom built for the son of the founder of Chrysler and had a complete record player in the dashboard. The gun survived the collision unharmed, but the Chrysler had a permanent battle scar after the incident.
Asked to lift the cannon off the ground, Andy asked George Lucier to build a custom car. For work, Mowbray traded in a Smith & Wesson Model No. 1, third number revolver.
He had purchased the pistol and several others in their original boxes at a local hardware store, where it was still on the shelves of the 1870s.
When the time came to install the cannon on the wagon in the fall of 1971, Andy gathered a group of friends of his son Drew and daughter Sherry from their meeting place in the kitchen to help them out.
“It literally happened on the spur of the moment,” recalls Joe Puleo. “George showed up with the car in the back of his van, and we said, what is it, why don’t we put the cannon on it?” That’s what it was made for. So we rolled the cannon across the yard! “
They gathered fence posts – a bunch of them lay on the ground to rebuild a corral for Sherry’s horse – and used the posts to roll the 1,500-pound cannon through the front yard in Hearthside .
Stuart, who had been their miner for several years, oversaw the effort, while his mother Penelope took pictures.
“It was quite the spectacle when they manhandled the tube on the grass and knocked it over with the muzzle pointing skyward,” Stuart wrote in a copy of The man-at-arms, a magazine founded by his father’s publishing house. “It was so heavy that the cascabel sank into the ground and left an impression that I still encountered with my lawn mower years later.”
Hoisting the cannon into place on the cart required help from everyone involved, he said. It took several hours, and “a collective sigh of relief” was heard when it snapped into place.
And he stayed there for several decades, chained to a tree by Drew. “Fifteen years later the tree died and we found this chain embedded in the bark, where it had girded it and killed it,” Stuart wrote.
Upon Andy’s death in 1996, most of his collection of military artifacts was donated to local historical societies, including the cannon. The cannon was hung in a factory, where it remained intact until last year, when the cannon returned home to Hearthside.
The Homecoming Cannon reunites old friends
Hearthside is now a historic house museum, operated by the Friends of Hearthside nonprofit. The association has brought home several items over the years, but the cannon was the first to require the help of a tow truck.
The cannon was returned to Hearthside by the Rhode Island Historical Society last October, but it remained in the yard (much like the 1970s) until a custom cart could be built to replace the old one. .
Lincoln’s favorite towing helped lower the cannon onto the re-created wagon by Ed Bentatelli.
When the cannon was installed last week, several people who helped set it up on that fall day 50 years ago returned to view and recreate the memorable photos from 1971.
Stuart and his mother Penelope were among them, with Puleo (who was 20, pictured in his WWII “Ike” jacket in 71), Bill Truesdale and brothers Paul and John Zangari sporting much more haircuts. short than the back then.
It was a chance to reconnect and recall the days of yore and their memories at Hearthside, where they came together as young adults. Few friends moved a cannon together, they said.
“I once asked Penny why she put up with us all these years,” Puleo recalls. “She said right, we always thought if you were here you couldn’t be in trouble,” he said with a chuckle. Although Puleo was present for the return of the cannon, he was reluctant to enter the house, instead wanting to preserve his memories of Hearthside as it was when the Mowbray lived there. “We would sit and drink tea,” Puleo said.
“Some days … nights really, she would say, I’m going to bed, lock the door on my way out,” John said.
Stuart said it was a great place to grow up, although he admits that his exuberant tendencies as a child caused Penelope a lot of anxiety.
“I would jump off the top of the stairs and fly all the way down,” he said. “My poor mother. “
At that point he said it was safe enough for children to play on the Great Road.
As for the canon: Puleo said some of the people in the original photos were there just because they stopped to see what it was.
“That’s a good thing in a way, considering he weighed 1,500 pounds. You needed all 11 of us, ”John said.
Puleo joked that they were lucky to have good weather. “You don’t want this thing to fly away,” he said sarcastically.
The Mowbray’s were the last family to make their home in the Federal-style mansion around 1810 before the town of Lincoln took ownership in 1996 on Andy’s death. They have lived in the house for 40 years, longer than any other family.