French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust unearthed four massive Revolutionary War cannons cast at the historic Warwick Furnace. According to historian and author Daniel Graham, “during the 1777 British advance on Philadelphia, cannon cast at Warwick were buried in the fields next to French Creek to keep them from falling into British hands”. The cannons were discovered after Ray Bentley, a neighbor and key supporter of French & Pickering’s Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve commissioned geophysical surveys that detected magnetic anomalies indicating the presence of large iron objects. A manual search for the cannons at these locations was then performed by a small crew led by Bentley, former Warwick Township Supervisor Jason Swinehart, and Jim Moore of the French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust.
Bentley indicated that discovering the first cannon was a thrilling moment: “These cannons were cast and buried at a critical time in our country’s history and rested unseen only a couple of feet below the soil for almost two and a half centuries. Their sheer size makes producing them at Warwick Furnace and even moving them to their final resting spot an amazing feat. We could barely move them with modern equipment.”
Dr. Martin Helmke, a geology professor at West Chester University, collaborated with GES of Exton, PA and White River Technologies of Lebanon, NH for this project, says: “This project was a great opportunity to use drones and state-of-the-art magnetometer technology to locate and preserve these important historic artifacts.”
The four nearly identical cannons are over 7 feet long, over 4,500 pounds, and were made to fire 18-pound balls. Two of the cannons were found with a cannonball in the barrel. One was stuck in the barrel and the other rolled out during the cleaning process.
Bill Gladden, Executive Director of French & Pickering, shared appreciation for all involved: “Thanks to Ray’s generous underwriting and his well-equipped and skilled crew, these important relics were carefully recovered. The location is a unique and wonderful synergy between the ecological and the archeological. We welcome support to help us display a cannon on site and further interpret the fascinating stories of French & Pickering’s Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve.”
This historic find promotes French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust’s mission of preserving, stewarding and connecting people to the land by amplifying the breadth and depth of our connection to the historic and environmental elements of our world. We invite you to visit the preserve, learn more about French & Pickering to support the pursuit of our mission for our enjoyment today as well as for future generations.