Young writers awarded in Bainbridge essay contest

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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The City of Bainbridge recently held an essay competition where students were asked to provide a brief history on the cannon located in Willis Park. The essays were then blindly submitted to a round of judges. Upon review, Grace Christian Academy 8th grader, Ben Faircloth; Jones Wheat Elementary 2nd grader, Corbin Keaton and GCA 6th grader, Walker Elrod were announced the winners.

The City has compiled the essays to share with readers, so they can learn the history behind the cannon as well.

Faircloth’s unique essay intertwines his personal connection to Bainbridge and the city’s cannon with its history and how he got to be a part of the unveiling in 2015.

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My name is Ben Faircloth, an 8th grader at Grace Christian Academy. Born and raised in Bainbridge, Ga, I have had the privilege to see Willis Park and the storefronts that surround its square become a cool place. My family and I have had lunches in the park. I have played hide and seek with my friends. I have watched some of my favorite movies in Willis Park and have gotten the best cinnamon rolls from the Farmers Market on the side streets of the park.

Not only is Willis Park a home for many holiday events and memories, its gardens are loaded with local history and respect for those who have fought for our country. In Willis Park, you will find a memorial wall to all of the brave men and women who have served in wars, a steam boat bell and other plaques and monuments that recognizes the people that served for our community hundreds of years ago.

My favorite piece of history in Willis Park is 888- pound bronze Civil War Cannon. The cannon was originally casted in 1850 by the M.P. Ames Manufacturing Company, Foundry #17 of Chicoppee, Massachusetts. While Decatur County was under the leadership of the Daughters of the Confederacy, on April 26, 1906 received the Civil War Cannon. Many people from the tri-state area gathered on the square to witness the unveiling and the ceremony introduced by many who honored the Confederate heroes. My favorite fact about the cannon is that it was immediately fired at the unveiling ceremony and on 4th of July in 1906.

In January of 2015 the cannon was restored with blood, sweat and tears by Mr. Carl A (Bullet) Rykard of Hahira, Ga. Many of its original parts were reused in the restoration. However, the big wheels that holds the cannon up were made in Pennsylvania and shipped to Bainbridge. My mom got me out of school so that I could witness the “unveiling” of its restoration. At the time I thought it was boring, but I am honored to have witnessed some of its history! The Civil War Cannon will always be my favorite place to gather in Willis Park.

I am thankful for this opportunity during “Shelter in Place” to be reminded of the history and memories I have in Willis Park. Thank you to The City of Bainbridge that continue to groom its grounds and salute our history.

Keaton’s essay explores the history, making note of what the stamp on the cannon means and even posing for a picture beside the cannon.

My name is Corbin Keaton. I am in 2nd grade at Jones Wheat Elementary. I am eight and two-thirds years old.

The cannon in Willis park was originally cast in 1850 in bronze. It was made by the Nathan Peabody Ames Manufacturing Company, Foundry #17 of Chicopee, Massachusetts. The cannon is Model #1841 6-pounder bronze cannon. The weight of the cannon is 888 pounds. This massive gun is one of a” family of weapons” designed by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department in 1841. The Model #1841 was used in the Mexican War. The cannon was reliable and easily moved.

The Bainbridge cannon was used by the Union Army during the Civil War. The cannon was inspected by a Union soldier named James Wolfe Ripley. Because Ripley inspected the cannon it was stamped with his initials JWR before they shipped it for the Union army to use in battle. An interesting fact about James Wolfe Ripley is that he was 14 when he joined the army.

The people of Bainbridge, Georgia received the cannon on Thursday

April 26, 1906. Willis park was called Monument square in 1906. The cannon was unveiled by Judge Campbell. It was fired on April 26th and July 4th. The 1st cannon restoration was by Mr. Carl A. “Bullet” Rykard. Mr.  Rykard is from Hahira, Georgia. He worked on the cannon from January to February,Friday the 13th. The wheels on the carriage are replicas of the originals and were hand-made in Pennsylvania and shipped to  Georgia for use with this cannon. Mr. Rykyrd hand-crafted the

reproduction carriage. On April 25, 2015 the City of Bainbridge recognized and showed him appreciation for the restoration.

The new cannon restoration was done by Mr. Hall.

Elrod’s essay shared facts about the Civil War history, while also sharing facts about the celebration surrounding the restoration of the cannon.

The Willis Park Cannon was cast from bronze in 1850 by the N.P. Ames Company, Foundry #17 in Chicopee, Massachusetts. According to Wikipedia, a foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. The cannon weighed 888 pounds and was a Model 1841 6-pounder. The 6-pounder guns would fire 6 pound projectiles at a range of 1523 yards.

The cannon was used by the Union Army during the Civil War. Historical Civil War facts indicate that at least ten soldiers were needed to roll and shoot the cannon during a battle. But in a pinch, you could get by with only two to man it.

The cannon was presented to the Daughters of the Confederate at Willis Park on April 26, 1906. The cannon was even fired at the unveiling that day and also fired on the 4th of July , 1906 celebration.

After the Civil War, the cannon was not cleaned nor taken care of. The citizens of Bainbridge wanted the cannon restored as a landmark in order to honor those who had fought in the Civil War. In 2015, they contacted restoration services and met with a very nice man named Mr. C.A. “Bullet” Rykard. Mr. Rykard offered to donate his time, labor, and materials in restoring the cannon at his hometown Hahira, GA. After being restored, the cannon was given a new carriage constructed by the Amish and shipped from Pennsylvania to Georgia where it was deeply cleaned.

When Mr. Rykard returned the cannon to Bainbridge on February 13th, 2015, a celebration was held with BHS Junior ROTC ‘s Presentation of Colors and GCA’s Strings Ensemble. Mr. Rykard was presented a key to the city in appreciation of his magnificent gift to Bainbridge. I invite you to come see the Willis Park Cannon.

These essays showcase what students learned about local history and also provided them an incentive to get out and explore Willis Park. The City recently hosted another essay competition for students to learn about De Soto.