NEW BEDFORD — More than 30 iron, Civil War-era cannons could be buried on the Fort Taber park site in the city’s South End, say backers of a proposal to conduct an archaeological study and potentially dig for the historical weaponry.

Ward 6 City Councilor Joseph P. Lopes submitted a letter and supporting documents from Ray L’Heureux, treasurer for the Fort Taber Military Museum, at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“There have been many rumors of artifacts being buried on the grounds of the Fort Rodman / Fort Taber park, for many years,” L’Heureux wrote. “What if these rumors were true? What if these artifacts could be recovered and displayed at the museum?”

L’Heureux said museum volunteer and donor Al Benson wrote a proposal for a cannon recovery project. The proposal is included in the documents presented Tuesday.

“The proposal is for the Fort Rodman / Fort Taber Historical Association to support the development of an archaeological study with the potential to lead to the identification of the location of the fort’s cannons,” Benson wrote. “This study will require obtaining both the support and permitting from the federal and state levels as well as the endorsement of the local community.”

City Council referred the proposal to its Appointments & Briefings Committee on Tuesday, with no discussion.

The discoveries could be extensive and significant, Benson said.

“Based on local knowledge, the cannons were removed and buried in the proximity of the fort coincident with the closing of the fort in 1872,” he wrote. “Assuming the fort was fully armed, there would be at least 38 iron cannons, likely 32- and 42-pound coastal defense guns.”

The first step could be securing permitting for a noninvasive, ground-penetrating radar survey, Benson wrote.

Benson added that the fort’s cannons were technologically obsolete when the fort closed in 1872, because newer cannons made of steel were stronger and lighter, and newer cannons also were breach-loading, rather than the muzzle-loading designs of the iron cannons used at the fort.

Based on that obsoleteness, Benson wrote, “It is not out of the question that the fort’s cannons were buried in the proximity of the fort versus being moved to another location or scrapped.

″(L’Heureux) was informed by an elderly New Bedford resident (who said) he was familiar with the disposal of the cannons and that they were buried about 6 to 8 feet deep in the proximity of the fort,” Benson added.

Lopes said supporters of the cannon recovery project aren’t asking for city funding, just support to move forward and raise awareness of the proposal to study and potentially dig on the site.

Lopes said recovered cannons could be powerful additions to the South End park.

“Fairhaven has them at Fort Phoenix, and it would be nice to have them at Fort Taber, as well,” Lopes said.

This article originally appeared in the Standard Times on November 26, 2015 – see original article