Holcombe Island
Lambert Street, Lambertville, Hunterdon County, NJ


Route 29 south to Lambertville; turn right onto Bridge Street; turn right just before the bridge over the Delaware River onto Lambert Street; there are a few parking spaces on the left near the intersection of Lambert Street and Coryell Street.  Walk toward the Delaware River and walk over the small wooden pedestrian bridge over the canal onto Holcombe Island.   You probably will pass some people fishing and a small shack (home of the Swan Creek Rowing Club).  


On the island itself there is a sign: 

"Lewis Shad Fishery; Holcombe Island, Lambertville, NJ; Richard Holcombe began this historical American shad fishery c. 1771; in 1888, William Lewis assumed the responsibility of the fishery and after his passing his son Fred Lewis and crew, have continued the tradition."

1705 – John Holcombe of Abington, Pennsylvania, purchased 340 acres in Amwell Township bordering the Delaware River from Richard Wilson of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

1733-1743 – John Holcombe built a stone house at the north of today’s Lambertville

1743 – Holcombe dies. His property passed down to his son Richard and then to grandson John.

1771 – Richard Holcombe begins his American shad fishery.

Revolutionary War – in the Holcombe stone house, General Washington and his officers were frequent guests and Washington even at times used it as his headquarters.

1834   -- opening of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. 

1848  --  boats from Pennsylvania's Delaware Canal crossed the Delaware River via a cable ferry and entered New Jersey's Delaware & Raritan Canal at Lambertville's outlet lock.  The Lambertville lock had a lift of 10.5 feet.  The Perseverance Paper Mill in Lambertville used a gasoline-powered boom to load and unload the canal boats. 

1851 – John Holcombe dies.

1888 – William Lewis assumes the responsibility for the fishery on Holcombe Island.

1898 – there is a photo of William "Boy Willie" Smith and his crew shad fishing from Holcombe Island.

1903 – during floods, the island becomes completely submerged. The flood of 1903 washed an early frame house from Holcombe Island.

1918 – William P. Lewis bought 8.5 acres (about half the island) from the Holcombe family. He also purchased one of the five fisheries in the area; his fishery was known as the "Point." He worked at the Union Mills in New Hope.

1933 – William and his son Fred built the present house on the island. Like his father, Fred would work at the Union Mills in New Hope, while seasonally taking off 10 weeks for his shad fishing.

The Lewis family has traditionally allowed townspeople and guests to come onto Holcombe Island. The Island has also served as a site for picnicking, holding swimming parties and watching 4th of July fireworks.

1970 – the mills closed down. Fred continued the shad fishing.

1981 – the largest shad catch in Lambertville since 1896.

the early 1990s -- the traditional fireworks displays for the 4th of July were canceled for fear that traffic congestion would prevent fire fighting vehicles from accessing the area.

Fred Lewis has now retired from his lifelong job at the Union Mills in New Hope. He turned the fishery over to his grandson, Steve Meserve.

(Information from: Edward Cohen, 1999, Lambertville’s Legacy: The Coryells, Ashbel Welch and Fred Lewis. Lambertville, NJ: Edward Cohen.)

(Linda J. Barth 2002. Images of America: The Delaware and Raritan Canal. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.)


5/08/04.  There is one informal path that goes along the river bank past a private residence; the other path goes past the private residence on the other side of the house.  The second path merges into the first path north of the house by a small, fenced-in garden.  The first path continues along the bank, but it peters out before reaching the north end of the island.  We stopped at the point where there is a water-filled connector between the canal and the Delaware River.

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney
* = date plants found in bloom, 5/08/04

Acer negundo (ash leaf maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Acer sp. (Japanese maple) planted
Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Celtis occidentalis (hackberry)
Betula nigra (river birch)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Ilex opaca (American holly) planted
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus sp. (pine) two needled, 4 inches long
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Pyrus sp. (crabapple)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Salix sp. ( willow)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Ulmus americana (American elm)

Shrub and sub-shrubs:
Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Hibiscus syriacus ? (rose of Sharon)? planted
Ligustrum sp. (privet) long hedge of it
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Pachysandra terminalis (pachysandra)
Ribes sp. (currant)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rubus sp. (black berry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) planted *
Taxus sp. (yew)

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata? (porcelainberry)?
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Menispermum canadense (Canada moonseed)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax herbacea (carrion flower)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) *
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Anthriscus sylvestris (wild chervil) * lots of it
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)
Arisaema triphyllum (jack in the pulpit)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse) *
Chelidonium majus (celandine poppy) *
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) *
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)
Duchesnea indica (Indian strawberry) *
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane ) * soon
Erythronium americanum (trout lily)
Galium aparine (cleavers)
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium) *
Glechoma hederacea (gill over the ground) *
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily)
Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket) *
Hosta sp. (hosta)
Hydrophyllum (Virginia waterleaf) *I
Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)
Lamium purpureum (dead nettle) *
Lysimachia ciliata (fringed loosestrife)
Lysimachia  nummularia (moneywort loosestrife)
Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil)
Ornithogalum umbellatum (star of Bethlehem)
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel)
Podophyllum peltatum (may apple) *
Polygonatum biflorum (smooth true Solomon's seal) * soon
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Polygonum lapathifolium (nodding smartweed) *
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved crowfoot) *
Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine)
Ranunculus recurvatus (hooked buttercup) *
Rorippa sp. (yellow cress)
Rumex crispus (curled dock)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad leaved dock)
Stellaria media (common chickweed) *
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) *
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)
Urtica dioica v. dioica (stinging nettle)
Urtica dioica v. procera (tall stinging nettle)
Veronica hederifolia (ivy-leaved speedwell) three lobed, prostrate
Viola cucullata (marsh blue violet) *
Viola sororia (common blue violet) *
Viola striata (pale violet) *
Zizia aurea (golden alexanders) *

Carex laxiflora type (sedge)
Carex rosea type (sedge)

Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) planted in the garden