SOHO welcomes Independence Day with a find of historic proportions!
In 1876 San Diego was a town of 2,500 people. The small town had big aspirations and something as important as our country’s centennial was cause for a great celebration. As the Silver Cornet Band announced the celebration with National songs from the cupola of the Horton House, a little cannon boomed away with a National salute, which set off two hours of revelry, the cannon, small arms, and every description of firecracker and Chinese bomb being set off to bring in the great centennial event.
The cannon was a special part of the big day. Designed by William Augustus Begole in a simple and austere style, it was cast at the San Diego Foundry and embossed proudly with 1776 – San Diego – 1876. Begole, a tinsmith, hardware and plumbing man, as well as an active leader in the Masonic lodge, hailed from New York state, and had taken the overland route to California in 1849.
The San Diego cannon became the go-to item for most all-important affairs such as the occasion of when a new state constitution was approved in 1879. The San Diego Union reported as the ballot results came in, “Captain Ferris was on the plaza last night with the centennial gun and fired a salute in honor of the triumph of the new constitution. While the salute was being fired, the bells were rung and cheers were given for the people’s victory.”
The cannon had been lost to history, kept by the family of John Zink a freemason. No one knows when or how it actually came into being in the family. He recently passed away and his daughter who no longer lives in San Diego and is the last in the direct San Diego line of Zink’s called SOHO to see if we had any interest in having it as it had been relegated to a yard ornament over the years and weighing over 300 pounds the family had no further use or need of it.
The little cannon’s momentous history as the centennial gun had long since been lost, and we had no idea what we were digging up. Two strong men went out to pick it up and when they called to say it was heavier than they could handle, photos transmitted did not portray it to be anything special: rather short, stout and unattractive. As second thoughts were had about accepting the donation, SOHO Executive Director went to look at it in person. Upon examining the artifact he was impressed with its obvious age and decided we would take it. When it arrived at the SOHO offices and examined more closely he realized he had seen it before. Coons, an aficionado of early historic cannons, was unimpressed with the aesthetics of the plain little barrel, and said, “I believe I have seen this ugly mug before.” He then quickly realized what he thought it was, “It clicked all at once for me, this may just be the Horton Plaza cannon.” With some cursory research historic photos confirmed his memory.
SOHO is excited to have recovered such an important and early reminder of the city’s early years and the timing of this historic find just two days before the 4th of July is truly astounding. SOHO is seeking donations to restore the gun and carriage so that the 137-year-old San Diego symbol can once again be used to celebrate important San Diego events, like the 2015 centennial and of course the 4th of July!