The 1959 Sextant was provided by Connie Henry Walley
This is an article published The SEXTANT by the United Church of Rowayton in September, 1959.
Reminding of the Heroic Deeds of our Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Rebellion for the Preservation of the Union.”
So reads the principal inscription on the stone base of the cannon occupying the small triangle of land at the junction of Wilson and Rowayton Avenues. On the western side of the baseis a bronze plate that quietly records the names of 51 young citizens who never returned from World War I. This much of the cannon’s historyis obvious to the interested passer-by. But did you ever wonder where it came from and how it got there? We did.One of the least known and most unappreciated local landmarks is the great iron cannon that commands the northerly approach to our village center.
Establishment of the memorial dates back to 1900, when a group of Rowayton Civil War veterans, members of the Douglas Fowler Post of the G.A.R. in South Norwalk, prevailed upon their parent organization in Washington to provide the gun. As recalled by those familiar with the event, obtaining it was no great problem. Finding a suitable location and mounting the five-ton weapon, however, took a bit of doing.
A Gun Committee, which had been formed to accept and maintain the field-piece, held many meetings to work out these problems. The more serious one, obtaining a site, was solved when Elias Pennoyer, owner of the house at 168 Rowayton Ave., agreed to give the community a portion of his front lawn. According to the minutes of the original Gun Commity, know in the hands of Capt. Frank Stevens, the little park was deeded, without cost, “for the sole and only purpose of erecting thereon a memorial dedicated to the deceased soldiers and sailors of Rowayton.”
The deed specifies that the property shall be held by nine trustees, to be selected as required by those remaining or surviving. In addition to Captain Stevens, a member of the original group, the other trustees currently are Edgar L. Raymond, Edgar D. Lynch, and I. H. Kiggins. (Thus it is fitting that grand-daughter Kathy Kiggins is shown in the second picture below at about the time this Sextant article was published. CL).
The gun itself appears to be a coast artillery piece developed around 1860-63 by Robert Parrott, on of the nations first and most illustrious ordnance experts. With a bore of 6 1/2 inches and a barrel about 12 feet long, it fired a 100-pound prjectile a maximum of 8400 yards at a 5 degree elevation. Although there have been other less charitable explanations, its size seems to explain adequately why the gun points North, as that axis is the only one which permits a symmetrical placement and an attractive approach to the memorial.
The gun was originally mounted on the U.S.S. Tallapoosa, one of aclass of fifteen “double-enders” of 1175 tons, completed in 1863, apparently to enforce the highly effective Union blockade of Confederate commerce. The Tallapoosa carried two such guns, in addition to other lighter armament.
Little is recorded of the Tallapoosa’s naval career except that she did not have a climatic ending like her sister ship, the Otrego (this name is smugged so unsure about the “r”), which was set afire by Conferate guns in the Roanoke River in 1864. Her chief claim to recognition lies rather in the factthat she outlived her sisters, which were all retired by 1870, remaining in service until 1892. This explains the success of the Committee in obtaining the Parrott gun thirty five years after the end of the Civil War. How many other such cannon may still be found across the land is an interesting question.
They were, in any event, noted for their wonderful durability during the Civil War and added luster to the name of their inventor. A New Hamshireman, born in 1804, Parrott was a graduate of West Point in 1824, saw service aganinst the Creek Indians, and subsequently taught mathematics and physics at the Military Academy. In 1836 he resigned from the service to become superintendent of the West Point Iron & Cannon Foundry at nearby Cold Spring, New York.
In addition to his fame as an inventor and manufacturer, Parrott was noted – fittingly, in view of the destiny of the gun – for a rare lack of greed and evident unwillingness to take personal advantage of the needs of the Army. He severed his connection with the foundry in 1867 and died on Christmas Eve a decade later.
For all its notable history, the 97-year old gun (now 142 years old in 2014) has suffered a number of monumental indignities during its residence in Rowayton. Most especially it has been the target of youthful fun-seekers. On one occasion the gun was turned into a king-size teeter-totter when too many youngsters crowded onto the muzzle end. Another favorite halloween prank revolved around one William Huyler, an earlier occupant pf the white house on Bee Hive Corner.
Huyler had served in Hawkins’ Zouaves, a colorful Civil War regiment, and was something of a martinet. Although small in stature, he is remembered for his peppery personality, parade-ground voice, and distinguished shock of iron-gray hair. A military dandy, with a highly developed patriotism, he was prone to call to account anyone he observed showing the slightest disrespect to the flag or otherwise behaving in a manner which he did not approve. Every Halloween for years, the youngsters of the village painted “General Bill Huyler” in bold letters on both sides of the barrel.
In earlier days, pyramids of cannon balls (which incidently did not fit the gun) once graced each corner of the stone mounting. Youngsters have rolled many of them into the Five Mile River, and during World War II a junk man was caught trying to make off with some of them. Only a solitary sphere remains in place.
Interest in the gun and affection for it have been reviving recently, however. Following a report at the Civic Association meeting this Spring that it was in need of maintenance, an energetic feminine trio of Anne Henry, Otis Griffiths, and Grace Lichtenstein gave it a new coat of black paint, the latter together with brushes, donated by Jack Harding.
The top picture of the cannon was provided by Jane Smith Graham. The lower picture was provided by Kathy Wilmot Pinto. Here is Kathy Kiggins in 1959, granddaughter of I. H. Kiggins who was on the original committee which acquired the cannon. Kathy lived on Rowayton Avenue near the Darien line as a kid and married Tony Macri.