There is a place in the sun for everyone and New London is one. May eases toward June like ripples in the surf. The Thames River sparkles, dappled with sunshine whiter than the clouds. When tide comes in from Long Island Sound, the breast of the river takes on the slate blue of the Atlantic. When the tide recedes, the river turns as clean and pure as the rivers that feed it.
Connecticut’s Thames River starts where the Yantic and the Shetucket Rivers meet. These two are fed by the Mount Hope, the Willimantic, the Quinnebaug, and myriad streams that flow through forest and farmland. The Thames collects the effluviant from far upstate, in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner where life has changed little since the Civil War.
The Thames River is New London’s life blood. It was once called the Pequot River, and then the Mohegan River. New London was called Pequot Plantation. After the Pequot War, the legislature found the name distasteful and suggested the lands Indian name, Nameaug. It is a Mohegan-Pequot word that means “Good Fishing Place.”
The inhabitants of Pequot Plantation had a different idea. They had found their place in the sun and they wanted to bask in it. An Algonquin name didn’t sit well with former Englishmen who knew they sat on the best port in the world. They petitioned to name themselves as they saw fit. As the home of two governors, the city had its way, setting a precedent that has stood the test of time.
The citizens of Pequot Plantation knew what they should be called. They stood tall and declared across the Atlantic that their city would be called New London, and one day it would change to New and Improved London. They intended this as a toss of the gauntlet and set to work making an improved New London, Conn.
After three hundred fifty years, New London has become a place full of civilization’s amenities. There is a place in the sun for everyone. The Whaling City is one.