1866 – Oil Found in Mahwah
This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in February 1979.
The scene of operations was in Mahwah near the Ramapo River 676 yards south of the Bear Swamp bridge almost directly across the river from the house of Abraham Garrison (see diary). He performed most of the field work with assistance from others. The company was incorporated for 500,000 shares listed at $5 each. They had 25 leases of land for operations totaling 3500 acres..
The big day in the Ramapo Valley was March 1, 1866, for that was the date of the incorporation of the Ramapo Valley Mining and Petroleum Co. under the laws of the· State of New York. The office of the company was 49 Exchange Place, New York.
I remember when I was a youngster seeing very peculiar objects of cast iron in our back yard when we lived on Maple St., Ramsey. My dad told me they were connected with the old oil well of which he did not know a great deal since it had happened before he was born.
When they stopped drilling in the well as set forth in the Garrison diary, the company folded. The 25 leases apparently just lapsed. They did not go deep enough to find paying oil or gas; yet there is evidence that more drilling might be productive.
Referring to the list of trustees on the centerfold – There were three Peter Ramseys involved in this area. The first one completed the purchase of the Ramsey homestead lot in 1806 on Darlington Ave. where William had established a home in 1740 and also acted as an agent of the Proprietors of East Jersey. The second Peter at his demise set aside 60 acres in the center of Ramsey for development. The third Peter is the one who was a trustee of the oil company. Both he and the first one are listed on the 1806 deed purchased from William Penn of the proprietors. Coming from New York they all apparently had plenty of money.
It was Ramsey land (60 acres and 200 feet of right-of-way) that led the Paterson & Ramapo R. R. Company in the 1840’s to call the station Ramsey’s. There is also a family legend that one of the family made very good beer. People who enjoyed this beer used to say “They were going to Ramsey’s”.
Two other locals who were trustees of the oil company were former New Jersey Governor Rodman M. Price and former State Senator John Y. Dater. Mr. Price was governor from 1854-57, the only resident of Bergen County to hold this office. His administration was very progressive. He established schools for training school teachers, and otherwise improved the public school system. He also instituted a geological survey of the state. He was previously elected to Congress in 1850 and when he failed to be reelected he was made Governor.
Born in 1818 in Vernon Twp. in Sussex Co., a member of an old pre-Revolutionary family of this county, he came to Bergen at an early age to pursue his education. He entered Princeton but ill health caused him to leave. He then secured an appointment as a Purser in the Navy and eventually arrived in one of the ships which was taking over California from the Mexicans in 1846. Price was put ashore and was very active in establishing the state government in that area. In l850 he returned east to be elected to Congress. After his term as Governor Price started the New York-Weehawken ferry which he operated for a number of years. In 1862 he settled at Hazlewood in the Ramapo Valley. This property is now owned by Fred L. Wehran.
Price still remained active in public affairs. J.Y. Dater and he were very close friends and they had a lot to do in securing the commission of the Ramsey Post Office in 1855. It is the 5th oldest in the County.
A point of interest by Price in the oil project was his insistence at the time of the geological survey while Governor that the various rock formations should be analyzed, as it was called in that period. He personally knew the people who made the survey which attracted widespread interest. It is thus very possible that it was the knowledge from this survey which sparked the idea of the oil well.
John Y. Dater (the writer’s great grandfather) was the treasurer of the Ramapo Valley Mining and Petroleum Co. He was born in Mahwah in 1815 in what used to be part of the old Island Road very near the Ramsey line. It was all part of Hohokus Township from 1848. He operated the family grist mill which stood on Masonicus Brook near the Ramsey pump station. One of the mill stones is in the front of the building. His grandfather Abraham started the mill in the l790‘s and his father Adam was also in the business.
Dater and Price had persuaded the Paterson and Ramapo R. R. to pursue its route through Ramsey and not up the Ramapo Valley. When the first train came through in 1848 Dater shifted his interests south to Ramsey. He solicited farmers to help on the right-of-way, sold ties and afterwards cord wood to fuel the locomotives.
As mentioned before Dater and Price got the Post Office started in Ramsey. According to the records in Washington the Office was opened in John Y. Dater’s general store March 31, 1855. This is also the date of the deed by which Dater purchased 22 acres from William J. Pulis who had acquired the land after Peter Ramsey’s death in 1854. Dater apparently had some agreement with Ramsey that enabled him to build the brick store and the right to stack ties and cordwood on the land. After purchase Dater erected a store building, started a lumber and coal yard and also a wagon and carriage and sleigh factory. In 1866 Dater owned a house and considerable land around the Cleveland Bridge (Bear Swamp) which he had a hand in building. The house on the east side of the Valley Road is now in a burned out condition and by the records is one of the oldest houses in the Valley. The Abraham Garrison who worked on the well was a relative by marriage to the Dater family.