Silver Tailings: Reclaiming the Cannon

Annually, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, square off for the rights to maintain a replica of the Frémont cannon, which was left by the expedition in a canyon back in 1844. It is arguably the most expensive cross-state trophy in the nation.

During a television interview, UNR football coach Chris Ault claimed the replica “is the cannon left by General John C. Frémont.” He’s wrong on both counts because, like many others, he doesn’t know is that it may have been found years ago.

Frémont was a Second Lieutenant when he passed through Northern Nevada on this, his second trip. What makes the Frémont Cannon trophy so much more than a trophy is lore surrounding the original cannon — which is supposedly still lost somewhere in the hills near Bridgeport, California.

All rivalry aside — there is some doubt to the story that the cannon remains lost. The metallic remains from the carriage are on display at the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Ranger Station in Bridgeport, where it has been since 2006.

In 1997, an iron tire from a wheel of a cannon carriage was found near Deep Creek, off Burcham Flat Road. Surveyor and historian Bud Uzes used the maps and descriptions left by the 1844 expedition to re-trace their route through the Walker River area to make the discovery.

However, he didn’t find the barrel before his passing in 2006. Yet there may be a reasonable explanation for this: it may already be in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. If not, then the story of two kids fishing in the area of Deep Creek having seen a brass tube shortly after a flood are correct.

While this goes back to the 1960s, it’s the same area where the artifacts displayed at the ranger station were found. Either way, the tube would be a venerated artifact for Nevadans who hold the Frémont Expedition as a watershed moment in the state’s history.

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