Spring Grove couple harbors suspected cannonball


Ellen Shultz is hoping what may be a cannonball her husband found in the couple's barn isn't live.

"I was afraid to touch it for fear it would blow up," she said, holding the small and incredibly heavy cast-iron ball in her palm. "But my husband drove over it with our tractor once, and nothing happened."

Shortly after Shultz and her husband, Fred, moved into their Spring Grove house in 1978, she said, he found the object in the barn.

They didn't think much of the discovery but have kept it around, and when Ellen showed it to her neighbor, the neighbor posted about it on Facebook and a discussion ensued.

"I don't even remember finding it," Fred said. "It was probably on a rail (in the barn), on a wall."

The ball, 6.1 pounds and 3.8 inches in diameter, is not perfectly round. It's heavily pockmarked and has what looks like a seam around its wider side. Two indented circles mark central points on each side of the seam. White splotches cover some of the surface, and a heavy indent is visible at what may have been the ball's point of contact with Fred's mower.

Ellen, who has been doing some research on cannonballs, thinks the indented circles might represent openings that would have allowed the ball to be filled with ammunition.

The setting: From an early deed to their property, the Shultzes know they live of a plot of land that was bought in 1795. At some point between then and 1868, Ellen said, their house, a log cabin, was built.

The cabin, which has been added onto at various points over the years, has low door frames and is surrounded by outbuildings — a summer house, an outhouse, a smokehouse.

Ellen believes the object could be a tool used to crush rocks for cement, but through her research and the community's feedback, she thinks it is likely a cannonball.

York City Councilman Michael Helfrich was one of several local-history enthusiasts to chime in on the Facebook post by Ellen's neighbor, Annalisa Gojmerac.

"It sure looks like a cannonball (from the picture) ... I'd have to examine it, though," he said.

Helfrich said he thought it also could be a weight, but the fact that there was no hook coming out of it indicates otherwise.

Not unusual: Besides, it's not unusual for people in the area to find cannonballs, he said.

"There have been cannonballs made in that area since the Revolutionary War, and troops traveled through that area during the Civil War," he said.

There were two forges that made cannonballs within several miles of where the ball was found, he said.

Plus, he said, the area is rich with cannonballs because of its proximity to the Battle of Gettysburg.

"They fired so many rounds," he said. "We heard the cannon fire for hours and hours."

He said that many Yorkers went to the battle site to collect artifacts.

Ellen Shultz said she plans to send photos of the ball to The Gettysburg Museum to see if experts can determine whether or not her mysterious ball of iron is in fact a cannonball and, if so, whether it's from the Revolutionary War or the Civil War.