Tarleton State University celebrates gift of WWI-era cannon
STEPHENVILLE — A new cannon with an historically significant name was unveiled today in an afternoon ceremony on the Stephenville campus of Tarleton State University.
The fully operational artillery piece, donated by benefactors Mark and Suzie McKenzie, replaces a working cannon that had been on loan from Texas A&M University.
“This gift from our longtime friends celebrates the university’s rich military heritage and symbolizes our deep appreciation for veterans,” said Tarleton President James Hurley. “It embraces many of Tarleton’s longstanding traditions. I am extremely grateful to Mark and Suzie for their generosity.”
The 1905 three-inch field gun (the same model engraved on Tarleton’s official class ring) will be fired at Texan football games and on ceremonial occasions.
“We’re now going to have our own cannon and crew,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Kenny Weldon, Texan Corps of Cadets Commandant and Dean of the Leadership and Military College. “It’s a reflection of the excitement surrounding the Corps of Cadets and the military heritage of Tarleton.
“We owe gratitude to the McKenzies and to the entire Tarleton family rallying behind the idea.”
The McKenzies created the Focused Post-Acute Care Partners Scholarship to support Tarleton kinesiology students, and they were presenting sponsors of the university’s 2020 gala.
They are lifetime members of the Tarleton Alumni Association and Championship Level members of the Texan Club; they have financially supported a number of special university projects. Mark, an alumnus, is a Tarleton State University Foundation, Inc. board member.
Designed to be pulled by a team of horses, Tarleton’s latest cannon is a model of those used in World War I. Some saw duty with Gen. John J. Pershing in the Mexican expedition.
The artillery pieces eventually became training assets that the U.S. Army pushed all across the country. Only 441 were built, and Tarleton has No. 382.
“We were also able to purchase a caisson (the wagon that carries the ordnance), giving us a matched set,” Col. Weldon said. “The caisson is in pristine condition.”
Once the new cannon was located and bought by the McKenzies, another benefactor, Dave Shelton of Western Dairy Transport, donated the logistical support to bring it home.
The new gun’s suggested name, Doc’s Revival, honors Tarleton manual arts instructor E.A. “Doc” Blanchard, who had a hand in repairing the university’s original cannon after an infamous attempted theft.
Students at Tarleton’s arch rival, North Texas Agricultural College (now UT Arlington), stole it in 1928 and dumped it in the Bosque River just outside Stephenville. Doc Blanchard, the story goes, towed the submerged artillery piece back to campus and repaired its broken wheels.
Doc’s Revival will not supplant the World War I-era cannon, which sits in front of the E.J. Howell Education Building. Brought to campus in 1922, the latter, which is not operational, will remain one of Tarleton’s most cherished landmarks.
Recounting Tarleton’s wish for a fully operational cannon, Col. Weldon said the search ended with a collector in Montana telling him about someone in Michigan who had the desired model. When he mentioned his find to Mark McKenzie at a Texan football game, Mark said, “We’ve got to get that cannon.
And that they did.