When you arrive in Pittsburg, Texas, think chickens. It was here in 1946, that Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim and his pet chicken “Henrietta” started Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. And now, there is the annual Chick Fest that features a kids’ rooster crowing contest and chicken scratch bingo. But there is more to Pittsburg than poultry.
Pittsburg is about 130 miles east of Dallas, and is the Camp County seat. A large portion of the townsfolk are known for their strong Christian beliefs. Places of worship are abundant, including such historic churches as Reeves Chapel (1879), First Methodist (1857), and Saint Beulah CME (1896).
The Witness Park Prayer Tower is on the corner of Jefferson & Lafayette streets. It features “a chapel that never closes,” beautiful stained glass, a bell tower with a clock, and a life-sized statue of Jesus washing the feet of Peter the Apostle. A true testimony of humility and love for people of all faith traditions.
From this inspiring atmosphere, came Baptist pastor Burrell Cannon. In the late 1880s Rev. Cannon started an exhaustive Bible study of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. He was captivated by the flying object found in Ezekiel 1:16 KJV, “The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.”
Cannon thought that the Bible had provided the secret to flight. After much prayer and research, he began to form an early version of an airplane. To help fund this venture, he sold stock in his business and raised enough funds to produce “The Ezekiel Airship.” But would it fly?
It was reported that a co-worker took the machine for a flight in the autumn of 1902. They said that it flew about 15 feet in the air for over 50 yards. If true, Cannon’s contraption of complicated levers, illogical wheels, and a 30-foot wingspan predated the flight of the Wright brothers by over a year. Whatever happened then, it all ended a short time later when a storm demolished “The Ezekiel Airship” beyond repair.
But if you visit Pittsburg today, you will find that the citizens have erected a full-sized replica of “The Ezekiel Airship” in a downtown museum for all to see. In June 1989, the Texas Legislature officially certified the Ezekiel Airship as “the state’s first successful self-powered aircraft.”
We commend the Rev. Cannon for his love of Scripture and desire to bring the Word to life. While the Ezekiel Airship ultimately failed, the Word of God never fails. Though Rev. Cannon's contraption did not prove air-worthy, the Bible guarantees that one day, those who know Christ as Savior, will “fly” away into Heaven, ever to be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)