(credit Tom Leach, 2014)

The Herring River, Harwich, Massachusetts

The Herring River was named for the fish which was a rich natural resouce that both the native Americans and later the English settlers of this area counted upon for sustenance.

The village of West Harwich was settled in 1723, which was located in the southwestern part of the town on both sides of the Herring River. The west part of the west village was most thickly settled with residents engaged in fishing and other seafaring pursuits. The first person to settle within the village the town line west of the river, was William Chase who settled at the mouth of theRiver. He was soon followed by Samuel Smith, who erected a house near Amos Smiths residence. A bridge was built over the river near Job Chaseís house in 1804 and a public way from Dennis to the bridge was opened in 1808 by Job Chase, Sr., through his property. Vessels were built at this location near or at the mouth of the river from the beginning of the 19th century and did not end until 1848.

Along the banks of the Herring River from the Bellís Neck area south to the area of Route 28, there was a large section of meadow from which in this both salt and fresh hay have been taken in large quantities for many years. This area has had many historic names such as Boremanís Meadow, Berryís Meadow, Gageís Meadow, Hallís Meadow, Pogís Meadow, Paineís Meadow, and Boggy Meadow. For further information on ownership and history about the properties surrounding the Herring River please refer to Paineís History of Harwich, pages 46-351.

The Herring River marked the boundary between the Town of Yarmouth on the west side and Harwich on the east side from 1641 until 1692, when the Town of Dennis came into being. The river than marked the boundary between Dennis and Harwich.

The alewife fishery appears to have been as plentiful in the past as it is at present.Early twentieth century postcard of Johnson Flume at West Harwich "Comparing recent with past years only two natural streams have maintained a high standard of production, Agawam River, Wareham, and Herring River, Harwich." (Report Upon the Alewife Fisheries of Massachusetts, page 29). Management and preservation of the river for the fishery have seemed to be a concern since the 1780ís. There have been numerous laws and regulations put in place since that time which have provided a successful fishery over the years. "The Herring River is one of the few streams which show a prosperous fishery as a result of proper care" (Report Upon the Alewife Fisheries of Massachusetts, page 98) The alewife fishery on the Herring River has been controlled by the Town of Harwich since 1787 when an act was setup to appointment a Herring Committee to provide provisions for passageways around obstructions, and a limitation of the fishing season. The town created special laws to regulate the herring fishery. There have been additional acts passed since 1787: one in 1813 for a provision to sell herring to the public; another in 1824 covering fishing restrictions on where fish could be caught; and another in 1844 (See Chart 1). The Town of Harwich adopted a 3 year lease on the herring fishery in the Herring River in 1884 and a five year lease in 1914 through 1919. In 1762 Hallís Mill prevented the alewives from traveling further north up the river into the spawning ponds. The path upstream was soon corrected.

Caleb Chase's Belmont
This is a late postcard of the posh Belmont along Nantucket Sound, long before it fell to the wrecking ball. The Belmont was 83 years old when it was torn down, built in 1894 on a 22 acre site between the mouth of Herring River and the Dennis /Harwich town line. The land had been owned by Caleb Chase (the coffee magnate and Harwich benefactor), he is thought to have helped ctreate the Belmont. In it's heyday, the lobby of the hotel once boasted of Cape Cod's first stock market ticker tape machine. In fact the ritzy wooden resort was often referred to as the "Summer Wall Street". The Belmont was last open in 1969, suffered a major fire in 1974, and was finally demolished in the summer of 1977. In it's place, a modern complex condominium was erected which assumed the name "Belmont".

Deyo's History of Barnstable County gives an incite to the Herring river as a somewhat active "ship" building area. "Vessel building on the river and near its mouth commenced early after the beginning of the present century, and was continued at times until 1848. Among the number built, of which mention has been made, were the Hope and Polly, built for Job Chase, sr., in 1805; the Dorcas, built on the east side of Herring river, by Patrick Kelley, in 1817; the Superb Hope, for Job Chase, jr., and Sears Chase, in 1824; the Experiment, for Isaac Bee, in 1830, near his house, and also the schooner Triumph, and the Job Chase, in 1848. The latter was a schooner of about seventy tons. It was built by Anthony Thacher for Job Chase, at a place on the west side of the river, south of Erastus Chase's house, called the "Snake Hole." This was the last vessel built in Harwich. Mr. Chase was actively engaged in the fishery during most of his life. as was his father, bearing the same name. He had a store for many years, near the river, a little to the eastward of Erastus Chase's store."

More history of Herring River

This webpage developed by
Tom Leach, Harwich, MA