One of the benefits of living in a small town at the heart of a very popular tourist destination is all the visitors and snowbirds who flock on and off the island all year. Some have been either vacationing or living here part-time since they were children, some turn into full-timers. They stay; they go. No matter what, if you get out and about on any given day, our beach town is alive with people from all walks of life, quite a few who have been here many more years than most of us, all with their own stories to tell.
One of those folks, Terry Wysong, moved here with his family in 1960, when he was a young boy. “We got here right after Hurricane Donna,” Terry tells us with that I’ve-seen-what-a-hurricane-can-do” look many of the old-timers around here seem to have when there’s hurricane talk on the street.
When he was a young man, in 1973, Terry went back up to northern Indiana for five years, ostensibly to obtain a plumber’s license, but the Winter of ’78 sent him flying back to paradise. He says, with great emphasis and a chuckle, “It convinced me that that is no place for anybody who has ever lived any place that’s warm.” Amen, brother.
For the past nearly-forty years since his return, Terry has plied his plumbing trade on the island. In fact, a call about a plumbing problem at the Estero Island Historic Cottage is what brought one of his many stories to light. As he introduced himself to long-time EIHS volunteers A.J. Bassett and Ann Alsop, he held up a little black ball and offered it as yet another of his several donations to the society.
When asked what it was, Terry hefted the ball and said, “This is a one-pound cannonball.” While this in itself was interesting, there was a question as to the significance of the object in terms of the island’s history.
“A buddy of mine, Dave Wheeler, found this on Old San Carlos Boulevard, at the corner of Third Street. He and three other guys were digging a footer and it rolled out. The construction crew members with Dave asked him if he knew what it was. “He told them, ‘I don’t, but I know someone who does’, and then he called me,” which Terry explained made sense because of his interest in such things.
Cannonball a Mystery
But Terry says it’s still a bit of a mystery how the ball got to the island. He went on to explain that, according to his own understanding, the last time a one-pounder was used was in World War I. “There weren’t any skirmishes in this area in World War I, as far as I know. So this,” indicating the unearthed ammo, “could date from at least the Civil War, or maybe even clear back to the Spanish-American War.”
It is well documented that this area has been used for military training since WWI, so it is not inconceivable that this little treasure is left over from some military exercises. There could have been a practice salvo from a ship in the pass that landed on the island unnoticed. There may even be someone who comes and goes, or quietly lives here year-round, who could shed more light on this little ball of history.
If you have a chance, visit the Historic Cottage, where every picture and object on display has a story that ties it all back to our island’s history. Remember, if you have spent any time here, then you are part of that history. Don’t forget to share your stories, too.