TOWN PIER, WYCHMERE HARBOR
The Town of Harwich maintains the Wychmere Harbor Pier at Harbor Road, Harwich Port as a Landing Area for Commercial Fishing Vessels. This is a controlled Offloading Area and requires a special permit from the Town by the associated fishing vessels and passenger vessels conducting business to use this area. The pier serves as an important anchor point for a fleet of more than 60 vessels in four categories that use Harwich Port for most or part of the year. Mostly groundfish vessels they depend upon the Town facility to offload fish, and take on ice, fresh water and most importantly diesel fuel (at favorable rates).
The Town Dock and the adjacent Pogie's Wharf were raized and replaced with the existing single concrete pier that we see today in 1978. This at a project cost of $158,000 of which $100K was paid by the Farmers Home Administration as a betterment for the fishing community. The pier is managed through the Harbormasters Office at Saquatucket Municipal Marina next door. Harbormasters Tom Leach and assistant Heinz Proft also serve as Wharfingers. The Town operates a shellfish laboratory (managed by Heinz Proft) from a barn built at the pier site and this makes overseeing the general pier operations convenient.
Fish Pier History
Wychmere Harbor was given its name in the mid 1920's and was named by a group of business tycoons who purchased most of the surrounding shore land and on toward South Harwich. The land investors calling themselves the Wychmere Syndicate, saw the need to give the harbor a better nom de pen beyond its common name Salt Pond as it was being called by the locals. The name Wychmere was coined which the Syndicate used for the first time in their of a real estate advertising. We believe it comes from the British "wich" given to places where salt can be found (as Sandwich, Greenwich, Harwich) and "mere" from the Scotish name for lake. So we have "Wych-mere" or salt lake!
A horse racetrack once circled the Salt Pond and sulky racing took place for just more than three years until 1887 when fifty men with shovels trenched a channel into the harbor from Nantucket Sound where it exists today. The new harbor provided a safe anchorage for catboats and later fishing vessels and yachts.
The land at Harbor Road on Wychmere Harbor was given to the Town as a site for the pier in 1927 by the Gray Family (of Detroit, Michigan) who lived next to what was then the Town Dock off Snow Inn Road. The story goes that Mrs. Francis Noble Gray was upset with the noise of the fishermen using the dock next to her house on the west side of the harbor. In an effort to resolve differences and at the same time spread good will, the heir to the Gray Marine Engine fortune bought the land directly across the salt pond and donated it to the Town as a permanent landing for the commercial fishermen. The property also supplemented another T-wharf once located in the north end of Wychmere coming off the land which is now known as the overlook from Rte 28 known as Larson Park.
Waldo Brown graduated Andover in 1916 and attended MIT in the Class of 1920 when the Great War broke out. He joined the service and became air commander Waldo Brown. Later he married Francis Gray Brown daughter of Mrs. Francis Noble Gray. After the War, Waldo Brown is known to have helped his father-and-law John Simpson Gray the president of Ford Motor Co. in the development of the Gray Marine Engine. Waldo worked for months on the project and brought it to a successful end when he decided he had enough of Detroit and wanted to head back to Harwich Port and his beloved Wychmere Harbor. Long after Waldo died in the plane crash at the commissioning of the WASP Francis Gray Brown with her five kids remarried Dr. Charles Merkle from Michigan. Dr. Merkle reportedly hated spending his time in Harwich Port in the shadow of hero Waldo Brown and talked his Francis into leaving the Cape permanently after only two years. Some close to the family wonder if Merkle Beach which was donated by Francis Gray Brown Merkle should really have been called Gray's Beach.
Waldo Brown: The Man Behind The Wychmere Jetty and Harbor Development
Harbormaster Joe Ellis was the son of Seth Ellis of the Monomoy Disaster and was raised in Harwich Port. Harbormaster Joe was rarely seen not wearing his rubber boots because he was either going hunting or going to the harbor.
Fish shanties used as bait shacks for the hook and line fishery ringing the northeast corner of the Harbor as early as 1900 were eventually relocated to the new land donated by the Grays where they still rest today and are still actively used by hook fishermen.
In 1933 Rueben Kendrick, a weir trap fishermen had been operating his businesss from one of two docks at Harbor Road, bought part of the Railroad Depot in South Chatham, the Mail barn, and moved the building to the Town Pier site. This building was used to pack and ice fish being caught and brought in from the weirs off Harwich Port. The ice later came from the Red River Ice Plant which burned in 1972, the boxes and barrels came from the John Kendrick barrel factory also on Rte 28 near Skinequit Pond. This burned in 1947 and the cooperage was relocated to its present site in East Harwich on Queen Anne Road.
The operations and the building were later taken over by George "Pogey" Johnson who operated until about 1970. The building and its foundation pilings were put back in shape in 1983 after it was determined the Town owned the property. The barn still serves today as the Harwich Shellfish Laboratory since 1994.
Bill Lee owned Harwich Port Boat Works and sold the business to Watson Small after he realized he could do much better selling ice from the Red River Ice Plant, South Harwich practically gave the business the Wat Small for payments. Lee who developed and ran the Boat Yard for years was from a Tory family with connections of course back to England. Bill Lee had two other brothers Derek and Jolly. At the outbreak of WWII Jolly Lee showed up in Harwich Port in a British Naval Officers uniform after joining the Queens Navy to fight Hitler. First generation, Bill Lee is reported to have held onto a British accent owing to Lee's doctor telling him if he caught a cold it would kill him. From then on he spent as much time at his winter home in Man-of-War, Bahamas as he did in Harwich Port. Bill Lee raised two son's Tod (no extra d) and Lance onboard their motor yacht in Wychmere Harbor.