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A military engine, of which the general form is that of a hollow cylinder closed at one end, and variously mounted, used for throwing balls and other instruments of death by the force of gunpowder. Cannons are made of iron, brass, bronze, and sometimes of steel rods welded together, and are of different sizes, carrying balls from one pound in weight to that of three hundred pounds or more. They are classified, from their nature, as guns, howitzers, and mortars; also, from their use, as field, mountain, prairie, sea-coast, and siege; also, as rifled and smooth-bore. — Webster, 1882

And every time they shoot it off, It takes a horn of powder. And makes a noise like father’s gun, Only a nation louder. — “Yankee Doodle”

noteThe two cannons that sit on Malone’s Arsenal Green today were donated to the town on December 23, 1896, by the Secretary of War, the Honorable Daniel S. Lamont. The large bore cannons had been used by the United States during the Civil War and were given to honor the J.W. Pangborn Post of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).

Rose Wilder Lane no doubt saw these cannons and heard stories about their firing, and for this reason they appear in the Fourth of July story. At the time of Farmer Boy, one six-pound brass howitzer stood on the Green opposite Clay Street on Main Street. A howitzer was a short-barreled gun that fired in a high trajectory, and this one had been purchased from the Malone Arsenal by private citizens of Malone at the time of the arsenal’s sale in 1852; it was fired at political rallies and and other patriotic celebrations. It was later confiscated by New York State officials who felt that its use wasn’t safe, an act which may have been prompted by an accident which occurred after the elections of 1872. The howitzer was loaded with not only grass but a large rock, and when the gun was fired after midnight, this rock came through the roof of a house nearby, no doubt rudely awakening its sleeping occupant!

note Arsenal Green. In Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about the parade grounds and cannons and the “three-cornered” Malone town square, it being a triangle because the railroad cut across the property. As the 1876 map shows, these are two separate areas. The Green is a trapezoid, part of a triangular area formed with the east side of the park as one side, Main Street to the south as one side, and Elm Street to the northwest as the third side. At the intersection of Main and Elm, a fountain and statue are on the small Town Square. There was once a cannon here, but it was not the one fired in Farmer Boy.

Arsenal Green is land deeded to Malone in 1812 for the express purpose as a public green space and parade ground. A stone arsenal (building housing weapons and military equipment) was built in 1812. By the time of Farmer Boy, the stone building had been abandoned as an arsenal and slated to be used as an armory but sold in 1852, and it sat unused until after the Wilders had left New York and moved to Spring Valley, Minnesota. The building was later torn down. The Green was beautified with shade trees and walking paths and is a popular tourist destination; the railroad no longer cuts through the park.


cannon (FB 15-16)