The Allegheny County bomb squad was called in last weekend when a South Pymatuning Township couple found a Civil War-era cannonball in their yard.

While gathering up sticks and rocks last Sunday before mowing the lawn in a section of their 14-acre Buckeye Drive property, Tully White found what he assumed was just a “really neat, round rock,” his wife Jodie said.

He tossed the ball into his wheelbarrow and brought it for Mrs. White to check out.

They’d found a cannonball on their property about 15 years ago, so Mrs. White said she looked at it and “immediately knew.”

“That’s not a rock, that’s a cannonball,” she said she told her husband.

Mrs. White said they’d just read about Sam White, the Virginia civil war relic collector killed in February when a cannonball he was restoring exploded, so they called the police.

 ”I didn’t realize that those things were packing explosives,” Mrs. White said. “At first, I was like ‘This is too funny. I can’t believe they called out the bomb squad for this thing. Then they show up in their big old truck and all the neighbors were like ‘What the heck’s going on over there?’”

Mercer County Historical Society Executive Director William Philson said there were solid shot balls used to knock things down and others were loaded with gun powder and timed to blow up at targets.

South Pymatuning Township police Chief Tom Kantner said the cannonball still had the wooden plug that holds in the gun powder. He said the bomb squad didn’t think it was live, but they weren’t sure so they took it for testing. As of Friday, Kantner said he hadn’t heard back from them.

Philson said it’s hard to say how the cannonball got on the White property. He said a lot of people brought things back from wars and that cannonballs were made in the Youngstown area.

He noted Commodore Oliver Perry came through the region during the War of 1812.

“I’m not even sure he came anywhere near there, but it’s something to think about,” Philson said.

Mrs. White said she wouldn’t be surprised if she found more cannonballs on the property.

“All the time stuff comes bubbling up out of the ground,” she said. “We’ve found dishes, bottles…”

If she found another, Mrs. White said she’d probably handle it the same way.

“I don’t care that we could sell it for big bucks,” she said. “They could be dangerous.”

Mrs. White was born and raised in Sharpsville. She and her husband moved here from Kentucky. His great-grandmother, Nancy Holsombach, came to Pennsylvania on the Erie Canal and stopped in what was then Sharpsburg. She told the pair stories about the farm that used to include their property.

Their home was built by Phineas Dunham, Mrs. White said, and though the Whites’ deed led them to believe he was a general in the Civil War, the historical society doesn’t have a record of him serving. But Philson said there are many reasons someone could be left out of the history books.

Dunham’s father Jonathan is listed in annals of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry and the History of Mercer County published in 1888 mentions that part of his homestead was sold to Gen. James Pierce. According to the book, Pierce “became the presiding genius and inspiration of the community” of Sharpsville.

If people find something that could be explosive, Kantner said to keep as far away as possible from it and to call authorities. Experts will be brought in to determine if it’s something to worry about, he said.

Philson said that just because someone finds a cannonball doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. But if it has a wooden plug, call the bomb squad, he said.

“You’ve got to be very careful – even experts get fooled,” he said.

A 16-year-old East Lackawannock Township boy found a World War II-era mortar April 26 in the woods near his home. A bomb squad from Harrisburg determined that it was inert.

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