Posted on

Digging our roots— Notes on Glen Ellen history

The Glen Ellen Cannon, 1862
Digging our roots—  Notes on Glen Ellen history

By BJ Blanchard, Glen Ellen Historical Society

According to an article in the April 15, 1905, Sonoma Index-Tribune, this happened: “Through the efforts of General Wagner, Glen Ellen now has a large government cannon which is being mounted on a brick foundation at the flagpole.” General Wagner was a Civil War veteran living here, who donated the cannon to the town in 1905 in commemoration of the war that had ended 40 years before. The cannon still stands at the corner of London Ranch Road and Arnold Drive.

It isn’t known what part this cannon played in the Civil War. What is known is that it’s an eight-inch Howitzer made of iron, of Civil War vintage, manufactured in 1862 at the Fort Pitt Foundry of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Its face is inscribed with: “ No. 37. 2583 lbs. J.R.E. (F)ORT-PITT. PA 1862.” “J.R.E.” stands for John Rufus Edie, the inspector of the cannon. It is recognized as an Official Civil War Monument by the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War organization of veterans of the Union Army. In February 1992, the cannon became a point of contention for Glen Ellen residents when, according to E Campus Vitas, Tim and Linda Richards purchased the Jack London Lodge, Wolf House, and Saloon, and inherited the cannon that sat rusting in their parking lot. They assumed ownership of the cannon and arranged to sell it to a collector in New Jersey for $6,000.

Local residents saw it differently, contending that the cannon belonged to the town because it had been a gift from General Wagner to the town and was on public property along the street edge, so it should remain in Glen Ellen. A sit-in type uprising occurred, with flowers placed in the cannon barrel, folks chaining themselves to it, etc. The cannon was saved, and remains at its present site by the flag pole at the foot of London Ranch Road to this day.

To further authenticate the cannon and its place in Glen Ellen history, on March 18, 1995, E Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization “dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West,” — sometimes thought of as an historical drinking society, though others claim it is a drinking historical society — placed an official plaque on the cannon’s brick pedestal. The Glen Ellen cannon remains a town marker and symbol of Glen Ellen’s unique history.