To the editor:
The year 2019 has been a traumatic one for Howe, and we are really hoping to end the year on a positive note.
First we lost Howe Military Academy, which is what put Howe on the map, then came the news that our beloved Lima-Brighton Elementary School was closing. Just before our final class graduated from Howe Military we were hit by a tornado in May (or some called it straight-line winds). Whatever it was called, it caused some devastating damage.
On the heels of all the heavy equipment removing the storm devastation … here came the road closings and big machinery to totally rebuild S.R. 120 through Howe. In conjunction with our new road, the work also started on sewers finally coming to Howe. If you have tried to buy ice cream, eat at one of our wonderful restaurants,, or visit our Paws & Claws used book store this spring and summer … or do anything else in downtown Howe you can understand our pain. Our merchants are just hanging on by a thread waiting for everyone to “come back to Howe.” We are hoping the final results will be apparent by the end of 2019 and that 2020 will be a “new year in Howe.”
In the midst of all this disruption a new project evolved to turn our thoughts to a positive note. When he realized that the Howe Military campus was being sold for $4,000,000, Ralph Abston, a retired long-time teacher and coach at Howe Military, turned his thoughts to the Lima Cannon which has rested for years at the base of the huge flag pole on the Howe campus. He certainly didn’t want to see that piece of Howe/Lima history sold along with the school.
The cannon was given to the citizens of Howe and Lima Township by the Board of Directors of Howe Military Academy in June, with the understanding that it would be moved to another location. Originally it was thought that the ideal new home for the cannon would be at Riverside Cemetery where there is a veterans’ memorial. Riverside is the site of the annual Memorial Day service sponsored by the Howe Lions Club, and where 40 Civil War veterans are buried. But as more discussion ensued and people became aware of the actual “history” of the cannon, it was decided a better resting place will be in the Howe Town Square for everyone to enjoy. The Town Square is the center of life in Howe … home of ice cream socials, concerts, picnics and the Farmers’ Market, and in past years the annual Indian Summer Days two-day celebration.
Here is the history of the Lima Cannon: In the mid-1800’s the thriving Lima Foundry operated right next to what is how the Howe Methodist Church on 3rd Street in Howe (then called Lima). It was decided in 1861 that they would build two “celebratory cannons.” One for Lima and one for Ontario. These two little towns were great competitors — both had tried to get the county seat (Lima won) and the Collegiate Institute of higher learning (Ontario won that one). Each town tried to out-do the other. That is where the little cannons came in …. On holidays like July 4th, or any special occasion, the villages would fire their cannons and try to out-do the other with the blast. The concussion could be heard in the other village and the success was measured by how many windows were broken! They also took turns under the cover of darkness to steal each other’s cannons … to have them turn up in the Pigeon River or at the bottom of a grain silo. It was a game. Well ... Finally Ontario won (or lost) the game as they put too big a powder charge in their cannon and it blew up. At this point the game was over and Lima had the one and only cannon. So in 1864 (since there was no one to compete with) the cannon was taken out of service and dedicated to those who were serving in the Civil War at that time. After Howe Military came into existence the cannon found a home by the flag pole for all to see, right next to S.R. 9. Most people just believed it was a cannon of war, which it never was intended to be. It was just part of friendly neighborhood competition.
After the folks in Howe recently came to understand this story and the history of the cannon, they voted overwhelmingly that the cannon find its final home in the Town Square, just one block from where it was originally created as an experiment in local fun. This vote was taken at the Howe Community Association meeting on Sept. 10, 2019. Now the challenge is to try to raise the $4,000 it is going to take to remove, renovate and relocate the cannon from Howe Military to the Town Square (which, by the way, was once also the location of the original courthouse in LaGrange County.)
Howe is now trying to raise the money for this move. When our little community is put back together and ready for business again we hope everyone will stop by the Town Square to check it out. Lima 1861 is stamped right on the top of the cannon. We are very proud of this piece of history.
The Howe Community Association is trying to raise the money for the move from individual donations. Any amount would be greatly appreciated. Send checks payable to HCA (Howe Community Association) with the word “cannon” written on the memo line to: HCA, P.O. Box 300, Howe, IN 46746. Then when you visit Howe please look for this little cannon in the Town Square. Thank you.
Karen Yoder, Howe
Howe Community Association