Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Elijah Jones was a 36-year-old cabinet maker (furniture maker or woodworker) living in South Dedham with his wife, Louisa, and three daughters, Maria, Marietta, and baby, Hannah, when the Civil War began. On June 9, 1861, the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, which had begun forming in April, and trained in Readville, arrived in South Dedham for a review before heading off to war. At the time, there was a large cannon in the village which townspeople brought to a high sand bank at the juncture of Railroad Avenue and Hill Street (later, the site of the Fales Grain Mill, near today’s Senior Housing complex). Once they had the cannon in place, the men began to fire it off to salute the soldiers. But the cannon became overheated from the rapid firing. As Elijah Jones was ramming the powder into the cannon with a wooden ramrod borrowed from a nearby foundry, the cannon exploded, blew the ramrod out of his hands and his fingers with it. Despite the best efforts of the assembled crowd and Lewis Hartshorn, who sped to Dedham to find a doctor, Jones died from the effects of his injuries. The ramrod was later found nearly one-half mile away on Vernon Street. Note: This story was told to local historian Win Everett by John Gillooly and Patrick Pendergast. Since the South Dedham death records give as the cause of Jones’ death: “gunshot wound, accidental discharge of cannon,” it is probably true.