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At the south end of the bridge which spans the Rogue River sits the remains of a once proud vessel called the Mary D Hume.
The story begins in right here in Gold Beach in 1876. A businessman named R.D. Hume moved his salmon cannery from Astoria to Gold Beach (then called Ellensburg), and four years later his small steamer ship sank in the Rogue River. Not one to be defeated, he salvaged the engine and various other parts, and decided to build a ship himself. He found a single huge spruce tree for the keel, and in 1881 the Mary D Hume was launched. She was named after his wife Mary and was just under 100 feet long.
The Mary D Hume spent ten years hauling cargo between Gold Beach and San Francisco, and was then sold as a whaling ship. She made history as the ship on the longest recorded whaling voyage - six years at sea, and also held the record for the greatest baleen whale cargo ever. After years of whaling service in Alaska, she became an ocean tugboat, then briefly was a tender for halibut fishing ships. She returned to ocean tugboat duty in 1918, and served 60 years.
In 1978, the Mary D Hume was retired and returned to her home port of Gold Beach. She had been in active service longer than any other vessel on the Pacific Coast, nearly 100 years!
There was much fanfare when the sturdy old ship arrived, and plans were to set her in permanent dry dock as a museum. In 1979 she was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places as #79002052.
However, it took more years than anybody had expected to lift the Mary D Hume out of the water, and when it was finally attempted, the sling broke and she fell back into the water. An unrelated lawsuit over actual ownership drained the resources of the Curry County Historical society, so nothing more has been done.
The little ship, now over 130 years old, sits in the mud alongside the bank of the river, just a few hundred yards from where she was built. Each year more wood rots away, more rust creeps over the metal, and she seems to sink ever deeper into the river bank mud. Her wheelhouse is now gone, and at high tide what remains of her main deck is under water.
Soon she'll be completely gone. It is a sad ending to a long life at sea.
The Mary D Hume at high tide, 2014:
The Mary D Hume in 2010: