Ghost Fires Cannon on Frankfort

Old Long Tom Wakes Residents After Midnight

Practical Joke of Two Young Men Give Frankfortians Scare

Mystery Cannon the Cause

Superstitious Thought That Ghost Had Fired Mexican War Trophy

Article from The State Journal, Frankfort, Kentucky, Sunday morning, April 3, 1927

During the Mexican War the Kentucky regiment commanded by Col. John S. Williams, of Mt. Sterling, captured a long Mexican cannon at the battle of Cero Gordo, which was dismounted and sent here as a present to the State. At that time the State had only a small building in the rear of the Old Capitol building to be used as an arsenal, consequently this trophy of the war with Mexico was left lying upon the ground outside the arsenal there being no room for it upon the inside. The barrel was some ten or twelve feet long and about midway of its length there were two large handholds, or loops, on each side, which were used as tackles to lift the gun with a hoisting machine.

At that time two young men who delighted in playing practical jokes, James W. Tate and John N. Crutcher were employed as clerks down on St. Clair street, in the Federal post office which was then located where the Frankfort Clothing Company now is, and the latter with William M. Todd, who occupied a business house which stood where the south half of the Five and Ten Cent Store is now located, both business places having the same common back yard, which enabled the young men to get together and hatch some scheme without going on the street.

They had designs upon that old gun, and went quietly work to carry them out. All the spare change they got hold of was invested in powder, which they purchased at different stores and secreted until enough had been accumulated to suit them, then it was placed in a sack made to fit the bore of the gun, then it was rammed in good and hard, and in order to make the report as loud as possible Crutcher took off his vest and rammed it into the cannon on top of the powder and wadding.

A section of blasting fuse of sufficient length to enable the plotters to get clear away from the scene before the fire would reach the charge, was run into the touch-hole and connected with the sack of powder. When all was ready the fuse was lighted and both young men hurried to their rooms so that when the explosion occurred they could swear that they were not there and were in bed when it all happened.

The fuse burned slowly but, the fire finally reached the powder and talk about your California earthquakes and other upheavals but when that "Old Long Tom" let go it waked the whole town and broke all the glass out of the windows along Broadway and Clinton streets, scared the timid half out of their wits, as the people imagined there was an uprising of the slaves and that all the whites were to be murdered in their beds.

In those days there was but one night watchman, or patterole as he was called, and he had only recently killed a man. As no one could explain how the cannon could shoot itself off without any help, the watchman worried over the matter until he began to believe that the ghost of his victim had shot the gun to warn him that a nemesis was upon his trail.

Years after Crutcher entertained a crowd upon the corner of St. Clair and Main streets one Sunday morning with a lengthy story of how it all happened and that is how the secret got out.

When the Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg retreated from the State and evacuated this city they carried that relic of the battle of Cero Gordo with them. Col. Williams, whose command captured it afterward became a General in the Confederate Army, and for years after the Mexican War was known to the politicians of the State as Cero Gordo Williams.

Article from The State Journal, Frankfort, Kentucky, Sunday morning, May 29, 1927

...It was there that the old long Mexican cannon which was fired by Dick Tate and John Crutcher, was mounted and stood just inside the door until it was carried away by the Confederates in the fall of 1862.

Ghost Fires Cannon on Frankfort