Friday, March 10, 2017

Seth Genung and the Cannon of Lafayette Park, By Jack Kinsella

As mentioned in the previous blog about Postcards of Waterloo 

 the Genung Funeral Home was started by Seth Genung and he turned it into a very successful business. After several such years, he realized he could no longer keep up with day to day operations so he turned it over to his son, Charles, who earned enduring fame (at least in Waterloo) for embalming Bill Bailey.

It did not take Seth long to realize that retirement was not for him so he arranged to have the city fathers award him a volunteer job. He became the custodian of Lafayette Park, the beautiful area adjacent to Waterloo High School and conveniently, just across the street from the Genung Funeral Home. Below is a picture of Lafayette Park.

History is silent about what Seth did in this volunteer job to keep himself busy-- with one exception: He reported to his overseeing committee that upon examination of one of the two Civil War cannons in the park, he noted that one of them still contained a cannon ball.

It is a well known fact that in any small town when something unusual happens, almost immediately, two stories circulate—one, the official story and  two, the local version of what REALLY happened. So here are the two versions:

The Official Story:

Seth decided that it was not safe to have a cannon with a cannon ball in its barrel so he decided he would put a very tiny amount of gun powder into the cannon and then light a fuse to “puff” the ball out. When he did this, instead of one ball exiting the cannon mouth and falling harmlessly to the ground a few feet away, two cannon balls roared out and landed on a Main Street building a quarter of a mile away. There was damage to the building but fortunately, no one was hurt.

The Local Version

Everybody knew that Seth and his wife were not getting along. Everybody knew he would do anything to get rid of her.  And everybody knew that the cannon in question was 200 feet from the Genung Funeral Home and was aimed directly at the room that Seth’s wife always did her knitting every afternoon. To add credence to this version, the cannon balls did pass his wife’s knitting room within a few feet on their way down Main Street.

In addition to all the above, there is a direct connection to this story and the Taylor blog. Harold B. Taylor has his own version of what REALLY happened that fateful day when the Civil War cannon went off:

Harold always insisted there were really three balls in the cannon and the third ball traveled another mile south of the other two and struck his house. As proof, he would point to an eight inch diameter round hole on his kitchen wall. Whenever any of his grandkids or nieces or nephews asked what caused this large round hole, he couldn’t wait to tell them his cannon ball story. He did admit it only worked while they were still quite young. After they reached about five years old, they begin to doubt his story. They would say smarty things like “cannon balls weren’t that big” or “that hole looks like a stovepipe for a stove went there once.“ Harold would just laugh and say, “I have learned to only tell the story to the young kids.”


Pat Herdeg said...

Thanks, Pops! Great Story. And yes, I do remember Uncle Harold trying to tell us that the hole in his living room came from that cannon.

Anonymous said...

Mom/ CB Writes:

There are more stories about Waterloo and all TRUE?! Maybe there are also the same about every town but they are All hilarious! And believable! Enjoy!

Julie Riber said...

I believe it was in the aftermath of grandma Taylor's funeral that groups of us were taken down to the Genung Funeral home and there in a small back room was The one and only Bill Bailey laid out on a table with only a diaper to cover that part of his body. I wonder if it occurred to any of us take a peek under that diaper. The fascinating thing was the blackened hugh of his skin and straggly hair while sparse still clung to his head. To be reminded of the song and the man who sold his body to science to support his drinking habit, this was a rare opportunity, and one no one will ever have again as he's since been buried.