The “John Paul Jones cannon” was one of the eleven iron guns at Fort Phoenix during the Revolution. It would have fired a cannonball weighing six pounds. During the British raid in September 1778, the gun’s trunnions were hammered off by the enemy, but the barrel remained sound. The rest of the fort’s cannons were damaged beyond repair.
The gun was remounted and set up in the village at Meeting House Hill, near the intersection of Main and Center streets during the War of 1812. Later it was kept at the unofficial “town green” on the property of Wilson Pope near Union and Middle streets.
In May of 1882, at the suggestion of Captain Alexander Winsor, the cannon was firmly planted muzzle-down into the sidewalk outside the drug store on the northeast corner of Main and Center streets. In 1885, a bronze plaque was attached to it by the Fairhaven Improvement Association. (The plaque incorrectly says “Placed Here 1883,“ when earlier newspaper accounts indicated the gun was mounted in the sidewalk a year earlier than that.) When center street was widened in 1950, the gun was moved to the Town Hall lawn. Later, it was moved back to Fort Phoenix.
The barrel of the “John Paul Jones Cannon” is said to have been cast in England in 1690. It bears “the King’s Arrow” and a Royal seal, indicating its British heritage. Since the 1970s the gun has been mounted on a traditional naval carriage, the latest one having been made by Fairhaven Shipyard in the 1990s.