Groton cannon set for July 4 rededication


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
A Civil War-era  cannon is back home and set for rededication July 4 in the Groton Rural Cemetery.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Set amid hundreds of gravestones and miniature American flags, a Civil War-era naval cannon is back in its home in the Groton Rural Cemetery. The cannon was put back in the cemetery just prior to Memorial Day Weekend, officials said.
Groton town officials will hold a public rededication ceremony July 4 for the 150-year-old cannon at the Clark Street cemetery. The ceremony will honor fallen soldiers from World War I, World War II and the Civil War, town officials said.
“Everybody here felt very strongly about the return of the cannon and everybody wanted to do something,” said Groton Town Clerk April Scheffler. “I think everybody is very happy we have it back — they feel like this is where it belongs.”
Controversy arose last spring when it became known that the Groton Cemetery Association sold the 1,700-pound Naval Parrott rifle to an independent broker for $15,000 the previous September.
After the news broke that the cannon had been sold, Groton residents and Civil War veterans chastised the cemetery association, saying the cannon belonged to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War — not the cemetery.
The ownership of the cannon was determined through the town’s history records. Dewey Dawson, deputy Groton town historian, said the cannon was loaned by the U.S. government in 1880 to a group of Civil War veterans— the Grand Army of the Republic.
“Technically, it’s still property of the U.S. government,” Dawson said.
The cannon was later given to the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.
The cemetery had sold the cannon to a broker who worked for Ken Watterson, owner of the Civil War Artillery Museum in Pennsylvania.
In August, Watterson agreed to return the cannon, but with an additional fee — $5,000 for a replica cannon the cemetery had received and $3,000 for his broker.
Watterson did not want the replica cannon back, and Dawson said it is still in storage at the cemetery. Dawson said he is unsure what the cemetery will choose to do with the replica.
Former Groton residents David and Helen Brooks donated the $8,000 to the association to buy back the cannon, according to a press release issued by Scheffler. The association returned the $15,000 to Watterson.
Cemetery Association President Mary Flang could not be reached for comment.
Sheldon Clark, a member of the Cemetery Association, along with his wife, Barbara Clark, retrieved the cannon from Watterson’s museum on Sept. 10.
The cannon was put into storage until its release Memorial Day weekend and then placed in the cemetery on a resorted pedestal, Dawson said.
Barbara Clark, a member of the town Planning Board, said the news media attention the cannon has received has made the object a greater asset to the community.
“Up until the point they had to sell the cannon, no one noticed the cannon — people knew it was there, but no one paid attention to it,” she said.
The cannon’s shiny black exterior has been refurbished. Scheffler said the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War donated funds for the restoration of the pedestal. She was unsure how much the restoration cost.
Scheffler said Groton Town Supervisor Glenn Morey spearheaded the idea for a rededication ceremony. Morey was unavailable for comment.
The rededication will include speakers, a history of the cannon and placing a plaque near the cannon to commemorate the memory of the men and women who served during wars, Scheffler said.
Dick Crozier of Cortlandville, a Civil War reenactor and historian who had advocated for the return of the cannon since its sale, said he’s happy the cannon is back, but disappointed in the rededication.
“They’re rededicating it to all soldiers but it’s already been dedicated to the Civil War soldiers,” Crozier said. “It was dedicated by Civil War soldiers to Civil War soldiers.”
Scheffler said the plaque will honor all war veterans because there are soldiers from several wars buried in the cemetery.
“It really kind of covers everybody,” she said. “The soldiers memorial plot does have graves from all the wars and it was felt that it should be dedicated that way.”
Dawson said the original plaque was never dedicated solely to Civil War soldiers, and the wording left the dedication open to all soldiers.
“It was probably primarily meant to be a Civil War monument, but if they wanted to exclude other wars, they would have said so,” Dawson said.
Along with dedicating the cannon to all soldiers, Dawson said the new plaque will also include the phrase, “may the cannon remain in perpetuity.”
“Hopefully people who think about selling this cannon again, will read this and think about it,” he said.



Cortland hospital gets mixed results in report

Cortland Regional Medical Center officials say the figures in the study can be misleading

Staff Reporter

Mortality rates at Cortland Regional Medical Center for five of six common procedures are higher than the state average, according to a report card released Sunday by a health care coalition.
A mortality rate is the percentage of people who die as a result of a specific medical cause at a hospital.
CRMC has a higher mortality rate for patients suffering from congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, gastrointestinal hemorrhage and pneumonia, according to the fourth annual New York State Hospital Report Card, which looked at  more than 200 hospitals across the state.
The mortality rate for patients treated for hip fractures at CRMC fell within the state average, while eight other ailments were not included in the hospital’s report card because the hospital saw fewer than 30 such cases during 2004, the year from which data for the report was drawn.
The hospital had an especially high mortality rate for patients being treated for acute stroke, with a risk-adjusted mortality rate of 42.6 percent for 39 cases in 2004. The state average is 11.7 percent.
Hospital officials acknowledged that the Medical Center’s performance on the report card caused them to look at how they’re providing care, but they also noted that the numbers could be misleading.
“This information is great because it forces us to really look at what we do, to ask the hard questions about how we do things,” said Joan Skawski, director of quality improvement at CRMC.
The numbers do not lie, Skawski said, but part of the reason for the high mortality rates, especially for stroke victims, may be that the hospital in its reports to the state has not effectively been classifying just how sick its patients have been.
“Initially, of course, this set off some alarms, but once we looked at the individual cases, they didn’t set off alarms,” Skawski said. “I’m not sure the risk for mortality in these cases was captured accurately.”
The numbers may also have been skewed by a number of elderly patients who declined further care but who were included in the survey, according to Dr. Tyson Smith, senior vice president of medical affairs and strategic planning at the hospital.