The name Alewife Cove derives from the past proliferation of the species in the Cove. The alewife herring was a fundamental source of nutrition for indigenous people and early colonists. Legend has it that during the spawning season, one could walk across streams on the backs of the fish. To this day, the species is an important food source for people around the world. In 1623 in Plymouth Colony, the alewife herring were protected by the first known fishery regulations.
In “The Stubborn Staying Power of the Alewife Herring” by Dave Taft of the New York Times (03-16-17) that [the alewife] “were noted by the earliest French Jesuits, Dutch trappers, and English settlers, and caught and consumed by Native Americans and colonists alike.”
Alewife Cove: Memory, Tidbits and Trivia
The lore and legend of the Alewife Cove is important today as a local attraction. It had a role in the War of 1812. Author Eugene O’Neill was seen rowing lady friends around the Cove in 1930s. Since 2007, neighbors and friends host an annual 4th of July Flotilla. The New England Science & Sailing (NESS) in partnership with the New London Public Schools brings hundreds of area students to the Cove to study marine science
The History of Alewife Cove
During the War of 1812, the British Royal Navy blockaded and harassed the community along the Connecticut shoreline for most of the war. One skirmish off of Goshen Point (present day Harkness State Park) involved 1,500 cannon balls being exchanged between the two sides. But that is another story…
Shared by ACC Board Member, Steve Alligood:
A skirmish took place on Sunday, November 28th, 1813, a half mile west of New London Light--that would put it near the mouth of Alewife Cove and Ocean Beach Park. A copy of an engraved map that Amos Doolittle of New Haven produced in 1813 supports this assumption. The following account of the skirmish is taken from a book written by Glenn S. Gordinier and published by the New London Historical Society in 2012 called, The Rockets’ Red Glare: The War of 1812 and Connecticut.
Here is the account of that skirmish:
Then, on Sunday, November 28th, 1813, a significant action took place between the Royal Navy vessels and approximately 200 local defenders. The incident was triggered when the coasting sloop Roxana, bound from New York to Providence, was run ashore about a half mile west of New London Light to escape three barges that were in hot pursuit. The alarm was sounded immediately as the crew rowed ashore, and local residents grabbed their arms and rushed to defend the vessel. The Gazette reported that, “a few inhabitants immediately assembled and from an adjacent wall so annoyed the marauders that they abandoned the vessel as soon as they could put fire to her.” According to the journal of Sylvanus Griswold, 10 men left the church service in New London, ran to Fort Trumbull, and “took 2 smart field pieces & hastened to the scene of Action & drove the three barges off.” A half-hour of steady firing from both sides ensued as American reinforcements arrived. Some of the locals boarded the vessel to try and retrieve what they could, but were driven off when the frigate Statira approached and fired two or three broadsides at the burning vessel. The affair carried on for much of the day, and local commanders General Burbeck, Commodore Decatur, and Captain Jones came to observe. It was estimated that, between the frigate Statira and the sloop of war Loup Cervier, 20 broadsides were fired at the defenders on the beach, who were fully exposed to the fire but miraculously sustained no casualties. The Gazette mocked that, “ the plowing Stackpole (Captain Hassard Stackpole of HMS Statira) gave to Roger’s land is a fair offset to the holes he made in his barn, crib and back-house.
On September 21, 1938, one of the most destructive and powerful hurricanes in recorded history struck Long Island and Southern New England. The hurricane produced a destructive storm surge flooding coastal communities and changed the landscape of our coast. Below is a "then and now" of the Alewife Cove and Ocean Beach area.