The cemeteries in Spokane are filled with ornate, detailed and beautiful architecture, mainly in the form of mausoleums, statuary and headstones – all of which reflect stories of people and the times in which they lived.
But at Greenwood Memorial Terrace along Government Way in West Spokane, there is also a piece of military ordnance. It is a cannon, one of three brought back to the United States after use during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
This particular one – No. 78GWB – was manufactured in 1897 at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, a facility with a history of ordnance manufacture and supply going back to 1862, and was used during the fighting in the Philippines. An organization known as the Spokane Veteran Soldiers Monument Association was able to secure it upon its return to the U.S. and in 1920 gave it to the cemetery as a memorial for all veterans.
For many years it languished out of sight against an embankment on the lower terrace of the cemetery. But in about 1965 it was moved to an area of greater prominence and given a facelift, according to Dale Clark, former superintendent of Fairmount Memorial Association, the parent company for five Spokane cemeteries.
The wheels were removed and rebuilt, and the cannon itself was sandblasted. The cannon was painted gray and the wheels red.
Cemetery officials decided that the right location would be lawn No. 19, the Grand Army of the Republic section, where many Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans are buried. They closed a small road that bisected the lawn and placed the cannon there, avoiding disturbing any graves.
Duane Broyles, president of the Fairmount Memorial Association, said they installed a flagpole behind the cannon and placed a small monument with plaque detailing the cannon’s history and purpose alongside it.
At first, the cannon was not anchored in place, and so, one morning when Clark arrived at work, he saw it out on Government Way. Apparently some would-be thieves had dragged it to the road with the intention to cart it off, but probably abandoned the effort because of the weight of the cannon, Clark said.
A concrete slab was then poured and the cannon returned and firmly bolted down.
There are 291 Spanish-American War veterans buried at Greenwood. Their military-issue marble headstones show their rank and military units. These men came from all across America – having served in units such as the 71st New York Infantry, 13th Minnesota Infantry, 2nd Nebraska Infantry, 6th California Infantry and the 1st Washington Infantry.