A little silver fish we have to blame
For how our town got its name.
We’ve heard of towns from East to West
With names that seem to suit them best.
Bean Town - Big Apple - The Windy City
Now most folk think that’s pretty witty
To name a town for a thing unique
But to name a town for a fish? That’s cheek!
Wondering how it came to be?
Come back to long-ago with me.
When the bay and river produced the wealth
And added to the people’s health.
Long ago in a different clime
We can watch the scenes flash through our mind.
Up in the north in the cold and deep
In the days of March when the wind is raw,
When the ice in the river begins to thaw
Something stirs within their heart,
And like their fathers before- off they start.
They take the long and ancient trail
Every season without fail.
This silver fish with streamline frame.
It never gained the sport man’s fame.
Cared not a wit about its fate.
Called it worthless, call it bait.
But how could they know of a time and place
And this lowly fish in the watery trace?
How could they know of the native here,
About the folk that counted this fish so dear?
They packed the fish in a barrel of brine.
Kept it in the cellar til winter time.
When breakfast came at early morn,
Wood stove burning to keep them warm.
Smoke from chimneys hangs over town
And smell of pancakes turning brown.
Salt fish poached and served up hot
With plenty gravy poured on top.
Think it strange fare as well you may
But this was the start of the bayman’s day
Let’s turn back now to a scene in the bay
The wind picked up since break of day
Nor-wester’s blowing cold and clear
A sail in the river is drawing near.
The boatman leans out over the side
Shouts “Let ‘em know far and wide.
The shoal of fish came through the bight.”
To him it was an old familiar sight.
The silver sides flashing in the sun.
The multitudes in the migration run.
It was Sunday morn this day in the Spring.
The Presbyterians were gathered and had started to sing.
The lad that was spreading the news all around
Had turned the corner and headed up
He knew the baymen, all but a few
Would be there in church in their usual pew
He pushed on the door. It flew open wide.
“Boys you better put churching aside.”
He shouted so loud his voice in a quiver.
“Hurry up boys...
‘HERRIN’ UP RIVER!”
The meeting broke up to the preacher’s dismay
How could a fish lure them away?
I’ll leave you with your thoughts on this.
Here in the town that was named for a fish.