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Cannonball safely removed by bomb squad in downtown Houston

The HCSO bomb took the 80-pound cannonball to a county gun range to detonate it in a safe environment, a Precinct 1 spokesman said.

HOUSTON — The Harris County bomb squad was called downtown Thursday afternoon when construction workers made an unexpected discovery.

Crews working underground replacing steam lines found what appears to be a Civil War era cannonball.

A spokesman said it appeared to have some sort of charge, so a bomb detection crew and bomb-sniffing dog were brought in.

“They first noticed sort of a brick wall -- as I understand it -- and then a wooden pylon. When they broke through that, that’s when they apparently hit what we now believe to be this cannonball," said Kevin Quinn, Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office Director of Communications.

The bomb squad was able to remove the piece of history safely. But how did it get there?

The 80-pound cannonball was 18 feet below ground on Caroline Street near Preston.

Matt Clavin, a history professor at the University of Houston, said it’s a rare find but not unheard of in this part of Houston.

“Well, it’s not a modern cannonball in any way, shape or form,” Clavin said. “It is old, and it is massive.”

Clavin believes the cannonball dates back to the Civil War. He said these types of things have been found in Houston and along Buffalo Bayou since the war ended in 1865.

“Union troops advanced up Buffalo Bayou from Galveston Island and Confederate sympathizers, Confederate forces dumped things, dumped all sorts of live ammunition and weapons into Buffalo Bayou and retreated," he said.

Clavin thinks it may have been moved around on land.

“This cannonball they found is so heavy, I don’t see it being moved in a century and half of flooding. I think someone just dumped it on the earth and it just sunk deeper and deeper over the decades,” Clavin said.

Clavin added this latest discovery ties Houston to the Civil War which people often forget.

“The Civil War was very relevant to all Texans and Houstonian sin the 19th century, and this is a concrete or lead example if you will of how this really mattered to Texans,” Clavin said.

On Thursday, the bomb squad couldn't tell if it's active with an X-ray machine so they decided to get it out of there.

"Out of an abundance of caution, they're going to take it to a county gun range and they're going to detonate it in a safe environment," the spokesman said. 

Caroline at Preston was closed until they removed the device. Two floors at the nearby Juvenile Justice Center were briefly evacuated.

Once it's detonated, the device will be turned over to the local historical society so they can take a look. They said other cannonballs were found in the area about 30 years ago. 

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