On the grounds of the Pagoda, which houses the offices of the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau in Downtown Evansville, sits a four-pound cannon mounted on a limestone block. Evansville resident Captain Henry T. Dexter purchased it during the Civil War.
A steamboat captain piloting a route including the cities of Evansville, Cairo, and Paducah, Dexter purchased the cannon to protect his boat, the Charley Bowen, from Confederate guerrilla bands on the Kentucky shore. Dexter flew the American flag on his steamship causing Confederate forces to target him.
Dexter’s steamboat went to Shiloh, Tennessee, after the battle there. He delivered people to help the wounded soldiers as well as goods, and medical supplies. A native of West Virginia, Dexter moved to Evansville to start a steamship line. On the limestone monument is a quote the captain is rumored to have said when he arrived: “We have come to stay.”
After the war, Dexter planted the cannon in his yard and used it as a hitching post. When he died in 1872, his friends and acquaintances dug the cannon up and mounted it on the limestone block. In 1910, it was placed in the intersection of Main and Water streets with great fanfare. Before it was removed, the monument was used to record flood levels. The mark for Evansville’s 1884 flood level was added to the limestone block before its dedication and can still be seen today.
The cannon was placed into storage in the early 1930s after the Board of Parks & Recreation acquired it. It made its next appearance in front of the board’s machine shop in 1942 during World War II with a sign reading: “Bring on the Japs!”
The Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science acquired the cannon in 1969; it moved several times around the waterfront before finally settling in its current location in front of the Pagoda, next to the museum.