Geneva man creates mini Civil War cannons
HOLDING HISTORY — Scott Stohr of Geneva holds one of the many model cannons he has created. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)
By KATHY PAULSEN
Following the news and some of the miserable and unacceptable things some people do, it helps to pause and think about all the good people in the world.
Even better, a good share of them live right next door. We may know them as a good neighbor, helpful and friendly, but often we don't know of the interesting things that make them tick.
Scott Stohr is one of those people.
Stohr moved to Geneva in 1991 and enjoys living there because small towns don't have traffic signals. He has a fascinating hobby concerning knowledge of the Civil War, guns, ammunition and a lot of other things — and we mean a lot — things we won't go into right now.
At 56, it seems he has been there and done that, and has a lot of love and respect for his friends.
Growing up in an era when kids were seen, not heard, he was very close to his mother, most often accompanying her when she went to work cleaning houses. He learned as a child there were times it was important to just sit still.
Stohr, born in Osage, Iowa, is the middle child in his family and remembers when his mother died at the young age of 42, when he was 21. He has an older brother, Brad, who lives in Thompson, Iowa; a sister, Carol, who lives in Ellendale; and a favorite niece, Amber. One of the things Stohr is most proud of is that Amber asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got married.
Stohr attended and graduated from school at LeRoy and later attended the vo-tech in Austin to study machining. He was hired by Marion Mast and he worked for Mast Machining in Bixby for 18 years. He also worked for Diversified Machine Fabrication in Blooming Prairie for seven years.
He took a night course hoping to conquer the ins and outs of computers, but admits that though his computer is old, he also lacks the knowledge of making maximum use of it.
While talking with Stohr, it’s clear he’s an expert and a whirlwind of information on small engines and antiques. He and his friend, Dan Bell, share a common love of antiques and many times he helped set up displays at events. Bell was in an accident recently and Stohr has tried to be there for his friend, helping when he can.
Stohr’s favorite and most interesting hobby is making model cannons. He seems to know more about cannons than they did during the Civil War.
"The hobby I started was to try and build a scaled version of a U.S. Field Carriage cannon, Model 1840, 6-Pounder,” said Stohr. “This was a widely used field carriage of the Civil War period by both the North and South armies."
Stohr first had to acquire a set of blueprints of the cannon he wanted to build. He scaled the blueprint down to one-fifth the original size. Then he went to work finding the wood and steel he would need to "fit the bill," as he says.
Stohr worked on it in his spare time over a three-month period and completed his first cannon about five years ago.
It wasn’t always easy.
"When you scale down some things, it can be much harder to make,” said Stohr. “Being an ‘old school machinist’ with 36 years experience, you have to be creative." He went on to make several more cannons and has taken them to many gun shows.
The cannon Stohr is holding in the attached picture is a 1768 Naval cannon. The carriage on this cannon is made of hard maple, and it sports a barrel of .52 caliber smoothbore, which comes to life with a 50-grain charge of black powder.
Stohr talked a great deal about his experiences with a Gatling Gun, an early kind of machine gun which has a rotating cluster of barrels on the axis.
Stohr helped with a demonstration of the Gattling Gun at the "Shooters Roundup" at Morristown, an assignment sought by many gun enthusiasts.
Because of his height and lean body, it is no surprise basketball was Stohr’s favorite sport and activity in school. It is something few people know about. On January 12, 1973, he was named to the WCCO Radio Prep Parade Team of the Week as he scored 36 points in a game as his LeRoy team won a holiday tournament.
The Rochester Post Bulletin ran an article about Stohr and WCCO presented him with a certificate, which was signed by Bill Musselman and Ray Christensen.
On the “neighborly” side, Waylon Jennings is Stohr’s favorite musical artist and his favorite pastimes are reading books, watching television and movies. "Helter Skelter" is the last good book Scott read; "Crime Story" is a TV favorite and "Carbine Williams," a Jimmy Stewart film of the ‘50s, is a favorite movie.
The best advice Stohr ever received or gave to anyone else was to, "Live one day at a time."
Also interesting to note is Stohr’s account of the funeral of his dear friend and "Cannon Companion," Leo Priem of New Richland. As an honor to Leo, at his funeral Stohr helped provide a three-shot cannon salute — which surprised everybody — followed by the 21-gun salute from the military escort.