Owned By: Private
A footbridge across the Third Herring Brook was once located here. Workers in the shipbuilding industry used it as a shortcut from the Hanover Yards to Fox Hill. Named for its bowed shape, it has long since disappeared. Historical site only – no public access from the land.
Third Herring Brook flows for about five miles and forms the boundary line between Hanover and Norwell. Its source is Valley Swamp, in Norwell, near the Hingham line.
Assinippi Brook, also known as Rocky Water Brook, flows into Third Herring Brook near Jacobs Pond. In 1829 there were quite a number of mills there — 3 grist mills, 3 sawmills, and a shingle mill, as well as a brick factory. Farther downstream, near the present-day Hanover YMCA, was a sawmill owned by John Clapp, and even farther downstream, T.J. Gardner’s saw and grist mills. Silver Brook, and Margaret’s Brook (also known as Wildcat Brook) are the next tributaries to Third Herring Brook. The stream then passes through Old Pond Swamp, the site of one of the first sawmills in the colony (1656), which was operated by Cornet Robert Stetson, Timothy Hatherly and Joseph Tilden.
Farther below is the former location of the Tolman Tack Factory (1837), as well as a box/shingle mill. Even farther downstream is the site of Tack Factory Pond (also known as Tiffany Pond). Charles Stockbridge erected a grist mill there in 1674, later owned by Jonah Stetson. Talbot and Salmond’s tack factory was erected there around 1830. It was eventually taken over by Edmund Sylvester. The old mill dam was removed in 2016 to encourage the return of herring to Third Herring Brook.
From there Third Herring Brook flows under River Street, where a log bridge was erected in 1660, later replaced by a bridge made of stone. The final tributary to Third Herring Brook is the Copeland Tannery Brook. The Rainbow Bridge was located close to the mouth of Third Herring Brook, where it empties into the North River.
Habitats and Wildlife
For centuries, herring have held important position in the web of life on the South Shore. They are a keystone species: birds such as heron and osprey, and other fish like striped bass and bluefish, rely on them for nourishment. Herring may not make up much of our diet now, but in Colonial days, and for centuries prior, residents of our area looked forward to the annual herring migration and the sustenance that came along with it. Back then, herring were abundant. In his 1634 book, New England’s Prospect, William Wood described alewives, a type of river herring, “in such multitudes as is almost incredible; pressing up in such shallow waters as will scarce permit them to swim.”
Industry on the South Shore began in the 17th century, first with small grist mills, and later with larger mills and factories. The same dams that created the water power to fuel these enterprises also prevented fish like herring from getting upstream. The result: a significant drop in the herring population. On many of our local streams, where once there were thousands of fish, now just a handful of herring return each spring.
For decades now, NSRWA has been actively working to restore local herring runs. There were originally 4 dams on Third Herring Brook. So far, NSRWA has been able to collaborate with various partners remove two of them. The first dam removal took place in 2014, at the YMCA’s Mill Pond. The next dam removal was in 2017 at Tack Factory Dam, farther downstream. We have worked closely with numerous federal, state and local agencies, plus private landowners, to ensure the success of these projects. A third dam removal on Third Herring Brook is now in the works at the Hanover Mall.
Our ultimate goal is to get the fish back into Jacobs Pond. The two completed dam removals have opened up 8.4 miles of stream for spawning fish! We are most eager to see their populations rebound. Even before the dams were removed, however, one could see hundreds of blueback herring as they returned just below where River and Broadwater Street cross the brook, at the town line between Norwell and Hanover. There is a pull-off at this location where you can park and then carefully cross the street, to see the fish congregate before passing under the road. It is best to visit this site in May, as this is largely a blueback herring run.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: No
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: No public parking.
Trail Difficulty: No trails.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes