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As It Was: Old Bell Rescued from Smith River Disappears Again

In 1962, a century-old tower bell was spotted at the bottom of a deep part of the Smith River, 24 miles east of Crescent City, Calif.
The bell lay half-buried in gravel, under 10 feet of water.  A trio of hobbyist skin divers attached an inflated truck-tire inner tube and proceeded to drag the heavy object along the river’s bottom.  It took two days to move it 600 yards for removal ashore.

The bell, 25 inches high and 27 inches in diameter, weighed nearly 350 pounds.  Partially obliterated raised letters imprinted along the bottom of the bell revealed it was cast in 1858 in Sheffield, England, by Cast Steel, Maylor, Vickers & Co.

There’s speculation the bell was stolen for scrap metal during World War II from Redwood No. 1, the oldest schoolhouse in Del Norte County.  But how it ended up in the river remains a mystery.

For a time, the rescued bell rested in front of Symn’s Auto Camp in the river town of

Gasquet [GAS-kee], but the camp closed years ago, and the bell’s current whereabouts is unknown.

Maybe someone finally melted it down this time?

Sources: "The California-Oregon Roundup: Old Bell Found by Skindivers in Smith River." Humboldt Times, 21 June 1962, p. 17; "Naylor Vickers in North America." Tower Bells, www.towerbells.org/NVinNA.html; Bruin, Cornelia. "Old Redwood Schoolhouse." Del Norte Triplicate, 28 July 2007, www.triplicate.com/news/4347937-151/old-redwood-schoolhouse.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.