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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Highlands in Monmouth County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Twin Lights Mystery Cannon

 
 
Twin Lights Mystery Cannon Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
1. Twin Lights Mystery Cannon Marker
Inscription. During construction of the present lighthouse in 1861, a cannon was found buried on the grounds. It was placed in front of the keeper’s house and for a century was the “mystery” cannon of Twin Lights. There are still unanswered questions about the gun, but this is known.

The cannon is a twelve-pounder ship’s cannon of the third quarter, 17th century and of Dutch or Danish manufacture. A comparable specimen, although an eight-pounder, is in the Jøjhusmuseet Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark and was recovered from a 1679 Danish shipwreck.

A typical ship’s cannon of the era was a flat trajectory weapon with a point blank range of 300 yards, and accurate, effective range of one-half mile. Maximum range was one mile. The muzzle loading cannon used black powder, a mixture of approximately 75 parts potassium nitrate, 15 parts charcoal and 10 parts sulphur by weight. Projectiles fired included shot, hot shot, bombs, chain and bar shot.

The barrel is deeply incised with the markings “1756   xx     J * LOPEZ.” The date and name led to speculation the gun was a “pirate’s” cannon. Subsequent research disproved such fanciful visions of buccaneers raiding in Sandy Hook Bay.

Joseph Lopez was keeper of Twin Lights Lighthouse when the cannon was dug up. Obviously, he inscribed his name on the
Marker at Twin Lights Historic Site image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
2. Marker at Twin Lights Historic Site
barrel. In doing so, Lopez may have shed light on still another mystery. The first lighthouse at the Highlands was noted in Samuel Smith’s book The History of New Jersey published in 1765. He wrote “At the Highlands of Navesink, the New York Merchants have lately erected a commodious lighthouse for the security of navigation.” Did “lately erect” mean 1756, the date Keeper Lopez cut into the cannon?

During the Revolution War, Sandy Hook was occupied by British and Loyalist troops. Wartime reports mentioned the lighthouse at Highlands for in 1776 it was noted that two Loyalists “found means to pass the Guard at the Highlands near the lighthouse.” Was the Twin Lights mystery cannon part of the defenses at Highlands?

Or was it a signal cannon fired at regular intervals in foggy weather to warn ships that they were approaching the shore? In 1909, author Thomas Leonard was told the “old field piece was cast in Spain, and used by the colonists as a signal gun.”

Pirate gun. Signal cannon. Defense weapon. It’s purpose at Twin Lights is still unknown.
 
Location. 40° 23.779′ N, 73° 59.134′ W. Marker is in Highlands, New Jersey, in Monmouth County. Marker can be reached from Lighthouse Road. Touch for map. Marker is located at
Mystery Cannon at Twin Lights image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
3. Mystery Cannon at Twin Lights
the Twin Lights Historic Site. Marker is in this post office area: Highlands NJ 07732, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Navesink Highlands Light Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Navesink Light Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Powerhouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Telegraph and Radar at Twin Lights (within shouting distance of this marker); Marconi at Twin Lights (within shouting distance of this marker); The Old North Tower (within shouting distance of this marker); Spermaceti Cove Lifeboat Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Highlands Doughboy World War I Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Highlands.
 
Also see . . .  Twin Lights of Navesink website. (Submitted on September 23, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
 
Categories. Waterways & Vessels
 
Mystery Cannon image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
4. Mystery Cannon
Inscription on Mystery Cannon image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
5. Inscription on Mystery Cannon
The inscription mentioned on the marker, probably done by Twin Lights Lighthouse keeper Joseph Lopez, can be seen in this photo.
Twin Lights Cannon image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, September 20, 2009
6. Twin Lights Cannon
The North Tower of the Twin Lights at Navesink can be seen beyond the cannon, on the right in the photo.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 23, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,053 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on September 23, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.
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