Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bertha, Huron's Civil War Memorial


Subtitled  "DUCK!!!"

Photo courtesy of Stan Phillippi


Whenever my parents drove us down 3rd street past the Beadle County courthouse, all three of us kids would duck down and laugh as we went past the cannon - just in case it should fire.  None of us really believed it would, but it was such a fun tradition that we couldn't help continuing it much long than we should have.

A group of young people from Miller enjoying the cannon, including my father-in-law and mother-in-law, on the left end.  Photo courtesy of Louise Ulmer.


Despite driving past that cannon thousands of times in my life, I always just assumed it was from the Civil War.  Well, here are the facts:

The cannon, known as "Bertha," is indeed as heavy as it looks - two tons.    It was gifted to the Beadle County Grand Army of the Republic as a memorial by the Kilpatrick Post No. 4 of the GAR.  They obtained it from Fort Schuyler, New York in 1907.  The cannon was made in 1861 to defend the fort, but was not necessarily used.

This wonderful piece of history was nearly lost in 1942 when metal was being collected for World War II.  Two tons of metal would certainly have helped the cause, and Huron's citizens were sharply divided over the issue.  The Historical Society argued that it was one of a kind and replacing it would be impossible, and that it serves as a memorial to those who fought in the Civil War.  Despite offers to build a different type of memorial, Bertha was saved from the scrap heap.

Above: The cannon sat on the grounds of the old courthouse, and (below)
at the current courthouse.
 


Last summer when I was in Huron with my grandkids, we drove down 3rd street past the cannon, and of course, we all ducked.  For old times' sake.  And next time, they'll get a history lesson as well.

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Sources:
Stan Phillippi (current photos)
Louise Ulmer
The Evening Huronite, 24 October 1942

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