By BRICE STUMP
The Daily Times of Salisbury
BETHEL, Md. (AP) — A bit of maritime history will be chugging its way up Broad Creek when the tugboat Delaware comes back to the spot where she was built in 1912.
The Bethel Shipyard is gone, save for a few timbers of the railway that can be seen at low tide. All hands who worked on the Delaware are also gone, and now the tugboat is one of just two remaining vessels built here.
The other is the famous sailing ram, the Edwin and Maude, constructed in 1900. Renamed the Victory Chimes, the vessel is the believed to be the last sailing Chesapeake Bay ram-style schooner in the world.
There is a bit of historical trivia surrounding Bethel’s most famous vessel. She had been owned by Thomas Monaghan, owner of Domino’s Pizza, who renamed her the Domino Effect. He sold the windjammer to two investors who, in turn, renamed the 132-foot-long icon the Victory Chimes. Her home port is Rockland, Maine, and is featured on Maine’s 2003 state quarter. She is currently for sale for $1.2 million.
Hopefully, said Bethel Historical Society museum trustee Dave Hillegas, the arrival of the tug will generate interest in Bethel’s past and gain support for the museum. The Delaware, which measures 40 feet long and 11 feet wide, was used in marine construction for much of her commercial life until it was given to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1998.
The Delaware, which will be in the village Sept. 15-16 for tours, is owned and operated by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. The tug will be tied up at a private dock on property just behind the museum, and visitors will park at the museum and walk to the Delaware.
“We thought it was a great idea to have the Delaware return to Bethel on her 100th anniversary and, in conjunction with that celebration, host the reopening of our new maritime exhibit,” he said.
Of special interest to visitors, Hillegas said, may be several items acquired by the museum that came from the Victory Chimes, including its hefty wheel.
A photo of Capt. R.E. Riggen, and his wife, along with their family Bible and his ship’s logbook, add a human element to the artifact collection of wood, steel and glass. Riggen was the first captain of the Edwin and Maud. The ram was named after the Riggen’s two children. Of all the captains that called Bethel home throughout the decades, it is Riggen who may remain the most remembered for his connection to the only remaining ram built here.
While fewer and fewer of the 190 folks living here trace their families to the community that started out in 1795 as Lewes’ Wharf, then Lewisville, before becoming Bethel in 1880, residents take pride in their community’s place in maritime history.
“We have about 45 museum members,” said Dave Hillegas.
“But not all of them are residents of Bethel,” said his wife, Yancey, “and we need more volunteers from the community. It’s a sign of the times. Everybody is very busy and the economy isn’t so good. We’d love to have more board members and more volunteers. I think one of the factors that draws new people here is our heritage, and once here, they get involved.”
“I grew up here, and maybe like some of the others here whose families go way back, we might have taken things for granted,” she said. “When my husband came here, he just jumped into all this because he wanted to live in a small town with a slower pace of life that had such a rich heritage.”
The museum has struggled to stay open, though.
“There was a time here, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that this place was basically shut down. The museum couldn’t get enough people to keep the place going,” Dave said.
But the celebration tour of the Delaware and the display of Victory Chimes artifacts will hopefully entice others to join and support the museum.
The just-completed exhibit and renovated museum is designed to generate appeal and excitement. Even the window “curtains” are unique.
“They are sheer, and will let light in, but they also serve as storyboards, detailing the history of shipbuilding here from the Native American Indians to the last days of the Bethel shipyard,” Yancey Hillegas explained. “We could have never pulled this off without input from the Delaware division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. They provided the graphics, construction, storyboards and exhibit displays.”
There will be video programs, traditional storyboards and information on the Victory Chimes and the tugboat Delaware.
Guests will be able to see a number of ship carpenter tools that were used in the heyday of shipbuilding here and donated by families of the workmen. They are basic tools that helped build a Chesapeake Bay economy. Also on display are a number of accurate models of vessels built here from the 1840s until 1918, including a model of the Delaware. Vintage photos of Bethel, when the village boasted a population of about 200, will also be on display.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)