Lost Olivas cannon ball

Could this be the missing cannon ball?

by Richard Senate

In 1928, when Mayor Max Fleishmann was restoring the Olivas Adobe he had purchased, they found a small iron cannon ball stuck in the wall of the old kitchen thick adobe wall. It was seen as a curious artifact and presented to the mayor. He gave it to the Historical Museum in Santa Barbara, where he had a large residence and polo grounds.

The museum put it into a glass case with the story of its discovery and the mystery of how it ended up in the wall of the adobe. Some speculated it was fired by John C. Freemont’s troops in the Mexican War, but no reports tell of such an action. In 1988 a story was uncovered from an Olivas descendant in a nursing home that after the great robbery at the Olivas Adobe in 1855 Don Raymundo purchased a small cannon to defend the house from other attacks. His sons got to playing with the piece and accidentally set it off, firing a ball into the kitchen, where it went through two walls before coming to rest.

Don Raymundo then sold the cannon to saloon owner (and later Ventura mayor) Angel Escandon. An ardent supporter of President Abraham Lincoln (as was Raymundo) he would fire off the cannon to announce a Union victory in the Civil War. Today the County Museum of Art and History owns the “Escandon Cannon.” Is the story true that the small cannon was the one that fired the ball into the kitchen?

The Adobe contacted the Santa Barbara Museum to see if the item could be borrowed to see if it fit in the Escandon Cannon. They were told the cannon ball donated by Max Fleishmann was lost, along with all data on the item! After years of being displayed, the exhibit was taken down and the small cannon ball was simply tossed into a carboard box full of other small cannon balls found all over the state and at Civil War Battlefields and donated to the museum. If the piece had a label it had fallen off over the years.

No one had a record or photograph of the small iron ball. The mystery of its origins was just unimportant to them. Poor museum record keeping means we can never know which of the cannon balls in the box is the curious piece. Perhaps because it was from Ventura, it was not seen as important to the people of Santa Barbara?

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