29. Just Rye Harbor: An Appreciation and History

by Thomas and Rosemary Clarie; edited by Peter E. Randall

Just Rye Harbor, Portsmouth Marine Society

Although only 43 acres in size, Rye Harbor has a fascinating history and its story, in microcosm, might well be compared to much larger bodies of water.

Here are stories of dredging and jetties, of millers and lobstermen, and of industrious individuals who were willing to dig out the harbor to make room for coastal vessels. The harvesting of Irish moss was a early harbor business and its first building became Saunders restaurant.

For more than two hundred years, Rye Harbor has been a focal point of the community, first with its tide mills and later because of its hardy fishermen who have harvested from the sea lobsters, shrimp, cod, haddock, pollock, and tuna. Stories of ocean disasters, shipwrecks and storms, the 200-mile limit and fishing restrictions are testimony to the rugged individuals who have made their home port in Rye. Among those featured are several of Rye’s long time fishermen: Herbert Drake, Lloyd Hughes, John Widen, and Boies family.

Beginning in the twentieth century, the harbor’s fishermen began to share the waters and the shores with summer businesses and dwellings. Restaurants, seasonal homes, and dozens of pleasure boats accent the unique environment that is Rye Harbor. Many of the more than 100 photographs have never been published before.

As the authors, Thomas and Rosemary Clarie write in their preface:

Our main purpose in writing this work is to preserve yellowed newspaper articles, handwritten notes, mentions in old or forgotten books, and pictures from personal photo albums inside the covers of one handy volume that looks at Rye Harbor with fresh, eager eyes from the twenty-first century. If information about a geographical location is not resurrected anew each generation, it risks becoming lost. The tales and incidents we recount should never be forgotten.

Studying the fishermen and lobstermen of Rye Harbor has given us new, intense insight into the concepts of courage and dedication. When we began what was to be a twenty-page book of fishing tips, we had a notion that the harbor had a very sparse history before the Army Corps of Engineering’s dredging in 1962. But as we looked at a map of 1851, and heard of cannon, shipwrecks, periscopes, sea moss, and old houses built well, we came to realize the reverse is true: Rye Harbor has a long, rich and vibrant history that its silent shores can choose not to tell. The old stories often speak only to a friend, a kindred spirit who devotedly spends time growing to love and respect this place on earth.

7×10, Hardcover, 280 pages, 100+ B&W photographs, 2005. ISBN: 0-915819-35-x $30.00

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