Grass Lake gets British cannon found in Detroit River

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A British cannon that lay at the bottom of the Detroit River for two centuries will now stand guard at a Jackson County museum.

Members of the Detroit Police Department Underwater Recovery Team raise a cannon from the Detroit River. The cannon is believed to be more than 200 years old.

“It’s marvelous,” said Marilyn O’Leary, president of the Grass Lake Area Historical Connections, formerly the Grass Lake Area Historical Society.

“It’s a feather in the cap for a small Jackson County museum.”

O’Leary said her group plans to showcase the 1,200-pound Revolutionary War-era cannon at its planned Michigan Military Heritage Museum. It wants to build a replica carriage for it with white oak.

Joel Stone, senior curator for the Detroit Historical Society, which loaned out the cannon, said the Michigan military-themed museum seemed like a perfect place to put it on display.

“There’s no sense in keeping it in a warehouse,” he said. “So we might as well get it out there so people can see it and appreciate it.”

He said the cannon is on a five-year, renewable loan, which offers the opportunity to showcase a piece of Michigan history, he said.

O’Leary said her group is working to create an exhibit for a century-old interurban car, an electric rail car that ran from Grass Lake west to Kalamazoo and east to Detroit. It has just kicked off a capital fund drive for the museum, she said.

In the meantime, anyone who wants to see the cannon can, but only by appointment, O’Leary said.

A Revolutionary War-era cannon is loaded into storage at the Coe House Museum, in Grass Lake, Mich. on Feb. 12, 2016.

The British army once used the cannon and others like it during the Revolutionary War as they stood guard against American Indian or colonist attacks at Fort Lernoult, which was located in front of where Cobo Center now stands in downtown Detroit. The cannon was forged in England in the mid-1700s during the reign of King George III.

When the war ended in 1783, defeated British soldiers knew there weren’t enough colonial troops to make them leave the fort right away, so they stayed for 13 years before finally departing for a new post in Canada.

Before leaving in the winter of 1796, the British dragged the cannons onto the ice to keep them out of the hands of the colonial troops. The cannons sunk when the river thawed in the spring.

They were discovered by a Detroit Police dive team nearly two centuries later.

Since 1984, six such cannons have been brought up from the Detroit River.

The Grass Lake museum is the fourth location to put one of the cannons on display. Others are at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle and the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.

Two cannons are unaccounted for and may be at the bottom of the river, according to records.

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The Associated Press contributed.