The Maryland Natural Resource Police (NRP) is turning 145 on March 30. In celebration, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has partnered with Visit Baltimore to exhibit its historic cannon from March 19 through late April 2013 at the Baltimore Inner Harbor Visitor’s Center. A relic of the Oyster Police of the 1800s, the cannon was used to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters during the “oyster wars” of the 19th century.
“I want to congratulate the Maryland Natural Resources Police on nearly a century and half of outstanding service to our State’s citizens and natural world,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “The men and women of NRP work day in and day out, risking their lives, to ensure that we are safe, and our lands and waterways are protected.”
“The cannon represents our commitment to protecting Maryland’s natural resources,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “DNR is proud to preserve this piece of history for future generations of citizens and visitors to enjoy.”
DNR obtained the cannon in December 2010 from the American Legion Post 116, which owned it since the1950s. The legion regularly loaned it to a group of Civil War re-enactors who took part in North-South Skirmish Association competitions. DNR has also displayed the cannon at the Delmarva Discovery Center, the Annapolis Maritime Museum and the Calvert Marine Museum.
Hunter Davidson, the first Commander of the State Oyster Police Force, DNR’s earliest predecessor, acquired the cannon in 1868. It was installed on the original steam-powered patrol boat of Maryland’s “Oyster Navy,” the Leila. In 1884, this ship was replaced by the Governor R. M. McLane, which fought many spectacular battles against oyster pirates. The McLane was equipped with a 12-pound Dahlgren boat howitzer in 1888. While accounts are not definitive, authorities believe that this gun may have been the original cannon from the Leila.
NRP is a descendant of both the State Oyster Police, created in 1868 and the Office of the State Game Warden, created in 1896. Additionally, in 2005, law enforcement duties on DNR Public Lands were transferred from the State Forest and Park Service to NRP. A total of 91 former law enforcement Rangers were added to the ranks of the NRP bringing the total sworn force to 244.