1869 Grand Haven /Muskegon Cannon War Remembered


Bird's-eye view of Grand Haven 1869



Reminiscence of the Bygones.


   The corner-stone of Muskegon countys court house was placed in position on July 5th, 1869. The work of clearing away the old ruins of the old court house is now progressing and Thursday afternoon, after the lapse of 22 years, the box containing the documents usually deposited in a corner stone was opened in the presence of about 100 people.    The occasion brings up several reminiscences of the laying of the stone that is of interest, since it came near being the cause of a great international (Muskegon vs. Grand Haven) conflict and the shedding of much (bad) blood.

   In its report of the laying of the stone, July 5th, 1869, the Muskegon Chronicle, of July 7th, 1869 said;

   "Nothing occurred to mar the festivities of the occasion except the stealing of the cannon by a party of guerillas from Grand Haven, and even this was no serious drawback, for the excitement in regard to the robbery and recovery of the gun kept the people in good order until the time came for forming the procession and until the gun was brought back by a party of volunteers who went over on the Laketon to capture it."

   The Chronicle of yesterday also gives the following account of the indignation meeting over the robbery:

   S. H. Stevens was chairman and D. D. Erwin, secretary of the citizens’ meeting held at the court house square, Tuesday evening, July 6th, 1869, to "give expression, in the same degree, to the feeling of the community relative to the cowardly and sneaking manner in which certain citizens, of the city of Grand Haven, seized and carried away the cannon which had been procured for the celebration on the 5th inst. On motion, Hon. Henry H. Holt was requested to state to the meeting how and from whom the cannon had been procured, etc. Which request was complied with in substance as follows: That the gun belongs to the state; that upon request of Governor Baldwin, the Quartermaster General ordered the gun to Muskegon from Kalamazoo; that the gun had been receipted for by the common council and is to be kept here until ordered away by the proper authorities. The following resolution was presented and read, and on motion unanimously adopted, viz : Whereas’, His Excellency, the governor of the state of Michigan, placed in the hands of the president and trustees of the village of Muskegon, one brass six-pounder field piece of artillery ; and whereas, on the 5th of July inst., at or about the hour of 3 o’clock a. m., some of the baser sort of the city of Grand Haven did by force wrest the said piece of artillery from Capt. Wells and two of his assistants, who had charge of the same at the time, as they were bringing it out to fire a national salute, therefore, Resolved, That the president and trustees of said village, be and are hereby requested to use every honorable and suitable means within their power to apprehend, and bring to punishment all persons engaged in the taking and carrying away said piece of artillery, also to prosecute the boat by which it was carried away. On motion a committee was formed by the chair consisting of Messrs. Samuel R. Sanford, Edwin G. Comstock and Joshua Davies, to present the forgoing resolution to the common council. On motion, the secretary was directed to furnish the proceedings of the meeting to the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Detroit papers for publication. On motion, fifty copies of the Muskegon paper, containing the proceedings of the meeting were ordered sent to Grand Haven, and after three hardy cheers for the party who were sent after and brought back the cannon, three cheers for the steamer Laketon and her crew for the valuable assistance towards its recovery, three cheers for His Excellency, Governor Baldwin, and three groans for the contemptible sneaks who seized and carried away the cannon, the meeting adjourned.

   The Grand Haven News of that date refers to the affair as follows: The gun squad got on board the tug Tempest, and early Monday morning commenced to search the city of Muskegon for the aforesaid "pop gun." It was found in possession of the Muskegon gun squad, they having just taken it from the warehouse to fire a salute. Quickly taking possession of the gun, our squad, in spite of opposition, conveyed it on board the tug and brought it to this city and fired the morning salute as per program. Immediately after their departure the little burg of Muskegon was thrown into the wildest excitement. Indignation meetings were held in every street, the entire police force was ordered to duty immediately. Under direction of the sheriff the entire population was placed under the lead of the sheriff, the said E. M. P. (entire male population) started for this city, completely armed with revolvers, bowie knives, etc. firmly resolved to do or die. They arrived in our city just as our gun squad were cleaning the gun and preparing to move it to the dock for transportation to Muskegon. Our squad good humouredly rolled the gun on board the Laketon, and also a keg of lager beer then bade them ‘good morning.’ When Muskegonites expect to get ahead of the Grand Haven boys, they will have ‘to get up a little earlier in the morning.’ For the benefit of our Muskegon friends, however, we would say although the matter was originated as a joke, and our side carried it out as such, yet had our friends of the saw dust village attempted to carry out their threats of ‘shoot every d— man that got in their way,’ or to make use of any of the large number of guns they brought with them, the result would have been that the gun would not have been returned to Muskegon, and its would be possessors would have returned with a large-sized flea in their several cars.

   The Chronicle says: "After the brass gun belonging to the state was stolen by the "forty thieves" from Grand Haven, on Monday morning a small iron gun, belonging to Alex Rodgers, Esq., was brought into use. It was fired near the engine house three or four times, and on the last discharge burst into a thousand pieces. Considerable damage was done to windows and fences in the vicinity—two pieces of the gun passing through the fence of Mr. Braisted, one piece striking Mr. Pingree’s fence, and others tearing holes generally in the neighborhood. John Hartigan, who was firing the gun, was hit by a piece in the knee, but not seriously injured.

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