GOSHEN — Like he was welcoming an old friend back home, World War II veteran Arthur Baer Sr.’s eyes lit up with excitement as he watched a trailer carrying a Civil War cannon pull up to the Elkhart County Courthouse.
Baer, 84, was among a group that gathered Thursday, Nov. 7, for the cannon’s return to the courthouse in Goshen after it had spent four-and-a-half months being repaired in Shipshewana.
“The spokes were rotted out, and it was just a terrible, terrible mess,” said Baer, a member of American Legion Post 210 in Middlebury and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 19 in Elkhart.
Baer was instrumental in rallying eight local veterans organizations to raise $1,175 to repair the cannon, affectionately named “Old Bullion.”
“Every time I see it, it reminds me of the veterans who fought for our country years ago, and they need honor as much as I need honor for World War II and the Iraqi veterans need honor,” Baer said. “It all boils down to our freedom in this country, and it means the world to me.”
Weighing 980 pounds, the cannon was taken to Wana Wheels in Shipshewana. There, Calvin Gingerich replaced the wooden wheels in addition to cleaning and repainting the cannon’s hardware. He finished the cannon with boiled linseed oil, which will help repel water and even extend the life of its wooden structure.
“It turned out great, I think,” Gingerich said, admiring his work after it had been returned to its spot on the courthouse lawn facing Third Street.
The cannon has called the courthouse home since 1924 when Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 985 in Goshen presented it to the county, according to Goshen Historical Society board member Wanda Hoffman.
“It was reportedly fished out of a river,” she said.
Through her research, Hoffman discovered that the framework of the cannon is not authentic. It’s a replica of a Civil War vintage muzzle-loader, she said.
“But the jury is still out on the actual cannon,” she added.
Authentic or not, American Legion Post 210 commander Jack Cook said it is important to remember veterans and the wars they served in.
“We’re just proud to be part of this,” he said.
Likewise, quartermaster George Morehouse said members of VFW Post 88 in Elkhart were more than happy to donate money for the cannon’s repairs.
“It’s a symbol that has been in Goshen for years and years and years,” he said.
The county is organizing a ceremony to thank the veterans for their donations.