The Regrettable New Year’s Cannon Incident

1846 Fort

3942835753_9f9bc08dd5 (1)Even in 1827 caution should be taken when partying on New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s, as 1827 turned into 1828 in Edmonton, the blacksmith Mr. John Welch, imbibed a bit too much, as it turned out. He decided to fire off one of the Fort’s old signal cannons to celebrate the New Year. As they found him the next day splattered around the walls of the bastion with pieces of the misfired cannon, the lesson is clear: artillery and rum do not mix. (Some of you may have to change your Christmas plans accordingly.)  – Tom Long

Stay safe this festive season and Happy New Year’s from Fort Edmonton Park.

Cannon Incident at Fort Edmonton, 1827-28

From Brock Silversides – Fort Des Prairies:

From a story by William Bleasdell Cameron (1862-1951), a former HBC employee and later a journalist, wrote a short account of the sobering incident entitled “The Missing Blacksmith.” It involves the turning of 1827 into 1828, Mr. John Welch, and the profuse consumption of alcohol at this time in the Fort.

“One of the most marked of these annual festivals and one longest remembered occurred at Edmonton…The place at the time was a real fort, surrounded by a high log stockade with a bastion in each of the four corners (by the 1880s, Fort Edmonton V was in disrepair, and had no stockade). In each of these bastions was mounted a one-pounder gun. Most of these guns were ancient and rusty. They were seldom used except at times to impress the savages (generally, this means to greet incoming trading parties) and as the years went on it became a question of how much longer it would be safe to fire them. It had been the custom at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s forts that a big gun should be fired at midnight of New Year’s Even to welcome the birth of the New Year.

“On this particular occasion the firing of the big gun had been delegated to the fort blacksmith who happened to be in that happy condition when the greater the noise the better pleased he felt. At a few minutes before midnight the blacksmith left the white or yellow lights of the big hall where the fiddles were squeaking and dusky couples were whirling about in their mocassined feet and a moment later the big gun went off with a terrific boom and everybody cheered and took another drink. Then the dancing and the general hilarity proceeded and kept up until dawn was peeping in at the windows. The blacksmith had not returned but a small circumstance of this kind in the heat of the festivities passed unnoticed. About nine the next morning, when some of the early risers began to move about the fort square, it occurred to somebody to wonder what had become of the blacksmith. They mounted to the bastion and there they found him, or at least what remained of him.”