The Railroad Comes to Mahwah

This article, written by Dick Greene, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1984.

When the trees are bare and the wind is right, the blare of diesel horns from the Conrail mainline through Mahwah can be heard all the way to Fardale and into the Ramapo Valley.

For over 100 years, until the mid-1950s, the sound people heard was the mournful wail of the steam whistle, immortalized in Country and Western song and story.

Sparsely settled since the 1700s, Mahwah had its first real growth “boom” with the arrival of the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad in 1848, after the line pushed north from Ridgewood to Suffern. Why Suffern? Simple – because there the P&R could connect with the Erie Railroad Company which was building a line linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The Erie was the culmination of a grand design by W. C. Redford for a railroad system from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River. Chartered by the State of New York in 1832, the Erie was an INTRAstate railroad and was not permitted to cross over the State’s boundaries as did the INTERstate New York Central.

The 446-mile Erie line was completed May 14, 1851, and ran from Piermont (on the Hudson) to Dunkirk (on Lake Erie). It was the longest railroad in the United States. The main drawback to the Erie was its eastern terminus at Piermont, where passengers and freight were shuttled on steamboats for 26 miles on the Hudson River to and from New York City.

To capitalize on this “inconvenience”, the operators of the Paterson and Hudson Railroad sought permission from the N.J. Legislature to extend their Jersey City to Paterson line from Paterson to the New York State border at New Antrim. New Antrim had a large and impressive station built by the Erie, which they called “Suffern Station”, after John Suffern. The hamlet, as well, soon changed its name to Suffern.

On October 19, 1848, the Paterson and Ramapo subsidiary of the Paterson and Hudson opened its service to the State line on a single track railroad surveyed and designed by John Allen, after whom Allendale is named.

There were only a few stations on the line: Suffern (actually in Mahwah, at the State line), Ramsey’s Station, Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Godwinville and Paterson. Later, the Bergen County Railroad would connect the Paterson and Ramapo tracks at Ridgewood Junction to Hoboken.

With no real standards in use, railroad designers used various gauges- the width between the railheads. The Erie was built with a 6′-0″ gauge and the P&R with 4′-10″. At the time of construction, this mattered not, as no physical connection existed due to the INTRAstate nature of both lines.

Passengers and freight were transported by carriage and wagon for a mile between the two stations in the two states.

 

 

The North Jersey Rapid Transit Line

This article, by

Charles Anderson, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1984.

Although the North Jersey Rapid Transit Company had trolleys running from East Paterson to Ridgewood in 1910, it was not until June, 1911 that tracks were completed through Mahwah to Suffern. After leaving Ramsey, the route continued to parallel the Erie Railroad to present day Wanamaker Avenue, then it curved eastward to cross the Franklin Turnpike, turned north in a straight line across Miller Road to Christie Avenue in Suffern, N.Y., and then went on to Main Street.

At that time, most of the area was wooded with a few residences ‘in the Cragmere Park section. At the east end of the Henrietta Building on Miller Road, waiting passengers had a shelter of sorts, but the other crossings were “flag stops.” Most people used the line to get to Ridgewood for shopping or to Ramsey to attend the High School, although there were also regular commuters to towns along the route.

With the exception of parts of Ridgewood, it is possible to’ follow the right of way from its southern end in today’s Elmwood Park all the way north to the Mahwah line. From there on, time and real estate development have almost obliterated the route. Having taken over the original line, the Public Service sold some parts of the Mahwah area to the Rockland Electric Company, which resold two large sections. Present occupants of these sections are the Short Line Bus Company, the Ford Display, A & P, and the Rockland Electric Company.

The route south to Miller Road is impassable, but as the right of way passes across the road and in back of the Police Station, it is clearly defined (although local residents have preempted it for gardens and a swimming pool). At Franklin Turnpike it can be followed on the south side of the apartment buildings, and then it is lost entirely as it begins to parallel the railroad. The last trolley left Suffern on December 31, 1929. It is to be expected that 55 years of urban development would tend to wipe out all signs of the trolley right of way, but only in Mahwah and Ridgewood is this so frustratingly apparent. In towns further south, it has become a bike-path as in Ramsey, and a pleasant walking path as in Waldwick, Hohokus and Allendale.

We put up historical markers for old houses and vanished grist mills. It might be a reasonable move to mark a section of the old trolley route while there is still some of it left in Mahwah.

 

 

Roads of Yore

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1983.

In 1848 the NJ Legislature created Hohokus Township which included Mahwah, Ramsey, Allendale, Waldwick and Hohokus. The town committee met in Ramsey in a wing of an old hotel on Main St. People came here to vote also. Hence the roads that came through these towns had a common interest.

Such a road was the Franklin Turnpike which ran through Ramsey to Hohokus. It was the main road to New York City by way of Glen Ave. from the turnpike on Paramus Road, through Hackensack and over the meadows on the Plank Road to Jersey City and thence by ferry to New York.

In Ramsey, the Turnpike stopped at Arch St. which connected with the Island Road. This road was the main road through Ramsey and Mahwah and thence through the Clove to Orange County, NY. Before the railroad, transportation was by this route. In 1797 Dobbins and Tuston were given a franchise to run from Goshen, NY to New York City, by the route as aforementioned.

The Paterson & Ramapo R.R. came through in 1848. At first it stopped at the state line in Mahwah and people took a horse and wagon to the Suffern station of the Erie R.R. In 1850 the Erie tied in and you could go to Jersey City by train. Stations were at Ramsey, Hohokus, Glen Rock, Paterson and Passaic.

In the old days most of the roads ran north and south. Ramsey became a railroad station because there was an east-west road there from Saddle River west to Wyckoff. All good farm country. In the season a trainload of strawberries went to the city from Ramsey.

A very important north-south road was the Ramapo Valley Road, now Rte. 202. Originally an Indian trail it has seen many route changes. On the 1781 French map it is east of the river. At one time there was a road along the mountains. I remember walking with a friend along this and he picked up two copper, 18th Century English pennies.

This section ran from Yaw-pough (now Oakland) north to Suffern just beyond the railroad to Washington Ave., also connected with Island Rd. and thus went up through Suffern, through the Clove and upstate NY. At Suffern, there was a road which wandered east to the Hudson River and which was very important in Revolutionary days.

The old roads were gravel covered and it was not until the late 19th Century that crushed stone became the surface. This was called “macadam” and the Turnpike was the first in this part of the state. There was natural crushed stone where the Valley Road ran along Campgaw Mt. Theodore Havemeyer bought a stone crusher when he improved the Valley Rd. from Darlington Ave. north to W. Ramapo Ave. in Mahwah. About this time, there was a stone crushing business northeast of Suffern. The old steel wagon tires helped keep the gravel roads in shape. The towns also had team-drawn road scrapers which kept the roads in shape especially after the thaw at the end of the winter.

In winter the roads were kept snow covered. “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.” I remember doing this more than once. There used to be races on Main Street Ramsey. We had a one-horse sleigh, often called a “cutter,” and a larger one holding four and the driver. I have sleigh bells which the book says are 18th Century. Rich people even had silver-plated bells. We had a pair of chimes (three each) which fastened on the harness over the horse’s back. Snow weather also helped in bringing timber out of the mountains. The sleighs they used were made with two sets of runners. Wagons and sleighs were also made in Ramsey on Mechanic Street by my great-grandfather, John Y. Dater, who was born in Mahwah.

 

 

Mahwah Cemeteries of the Past

This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in the “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1983.

For the most part churchyard cemeteries were the last resting places for the early farmers of the Ramapo Valley. Ordinarily they would attend the nearest church. The state line was no barrier to the people who lived at Suffern or in the Clove. The Ramapo Reformed churchyard holds many of the workers from Pierson’s Iron Works, and the miners and woodcutters who labored for the various local iron mines.

The choices were few. Those in the Masonicus area took their families to the Reformed Church in Saddle River. Those living in the Fardale section attended the Wyckoff Reformed Church or the Ponds Church in Oakland. Farmers in the upper Ramapo Valley went to the Reformed Church on Island Road in Mahwah. In each of these old cemeteries can be found grave markers inscribed with the names of oldtime landowners – at Wyckoff, Van Gelder, Ackerman and Terhune; at Saddle River, Doremus and Van Blarcom and De Baun; in Mahwah, the Wanamaker, Hennion and Hopper; and names from north of the line, Pierson, Suffern and Townsend.

Predating the Reformed churches was the Lutheran Church started by early incomers about 1724. It was a log, then wooden structure located on Island Road near Moffatt Road. It served the local families until 1785 when the Ramapo Reformed Church was formed. On Moffatt Road there is a very old cemetery. Since it is located in the old church area and there is a deed for a cemetery given to the Lutheran Church by a Maysinger, this is probably the old Lutheran Church burying ground and certainly many of the graves hold people who attended that church.

The earliest decipherable burial is 1770, only initials being given. Much earlier are the rough field stones with no inscriptions serving the purpose of marking before any gravestone worker appeared. There were over seventy burials and probably more. Many belong to the Wanamaker, Maysineer, Carlough, Bevans and Fox families. A notable stone marks the grave of John Suffern, infant son of John and Mary Suffern. Until Route 17 pushed through Mahwah, this was a pleasant rural countryside. The site of the cemetery on a sandy hill overlooked farms and pastures, a quiet, serene resting place.

The highway cut into the hillside almost to the graves at the edge. Moffatt Road was lined with new homes. Brush grew into trees, vandalism wreaked havoc among the stones, erosion wore down the steep gouged-out slope, threatening a final destruction of hundred year old graves. Today, this is a neglected place, reflecting the callous indifference of the town. A site that should be a monument to pioneer ancestors is a testimonial to historic insensibility.

The Ramapo mountain people did not come down into the valley for burials. We know about two small hidden cemeteries marked with field stones up in the hills. One was obliterated when the pipeline gouged through the mountains, the other is recognized as a burial place only by those who have hunted it out. The population was never very large and there may be more lonely forgotten unmarked graves scattered through the hills.

Throughout the valley some small plots of ground were set aside on the farms for a family cemetery where the graves were marked, kept in good condition and probably visited often. There are only a few under the bulldozer. A few were spared, known t6 town planners, with builders forbidden to disturb them. What is left of the family plot of the Youngs who farmed along Youngs Road lies between two houses in the Fawn Hill development. Anna and James and two of their children lie here with Pulis neighbors.

The new Apple Ridge townhouses on Airmount Ave. are being built around a small fenced family plot. Protected for years by its obscure location, it may be the last unprotected family cemetery in Mahwah.

Two local family cemeteries have survived in good condition because they have not been entirely neglected. The best known is the Hopper plot which is located on the grounds of the historic Hopper house on Valley Road. Because it is so near the road, it is an easy target for vandals, but for the same reason there is a measure of protection. Here are found graves marked with early names in the valley and the earliest known grave of a Bartholf. It may be that of the very first Bartholf to locate here.

Even more fortunate is the Bogert family cemetery on Chapel Road. Here an unknown number of Bogerts, Hoppers and Pulises are buried. The earliest date known is 1799, but there are a number of simple fieldstones which may predate that. The original plot is well cared for and this is a fair sample of what the Lutheran cemetery on Moffatt Road should look like. An additional area is the property of the Lutheran Redeemer Church of Ramsey.

There may be other small private burial sites hidden in brush covered field and not yet ploughed under. All of these early cemeteries provide us with a continuity with the past; a reminder of those early settlers who cleared the land, endured the rigors of pioneer life, lived through the raids and alarms of the Revolution, and left their names to many of the present inhabitants of Mahwah.

 

Island Road

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1982.

The Island Rd. through Ramsey and Mahwah (once known as the King’s Highway) was part of the road that came up from New Barbadoes (Hackensack) and was a link to the ferry to New Amsterdam until it became New York in 1664. It passed through Paramus, through Hoppertown (Hohokus) to Mt. Prospect (Ramsey) and then along the Franklin Turnpike which stopped just beyond Arch St., down Arch St., to Island Rd., (there was no Main St.), which then ran north towards the state line. It originally passed just west of the 1785 Ramapo Reformed Church and then down the hill to the old Valley Rd., or Route 202. It then joined Washington Ave. in Suffern (NY); from there up through the Clove to Tuxedo (NY) and Goshen (NY). In 1797 a franchise was given to Dobbins and Tustin of Goshen to run a stagecoach from there to New York City, which they did until the railroad came through in 1848.

As before stated Island Rd. started in Ramsey at Franklin Turnpike. It came down Arch St., which was the only east-west road. There was no Main St. in those days. At the first corner it became Island Rd.

The Island Rd. which we know may have been an Indian trail the way it wanders and curves. The name first appears in the records in 1713 when Pieter Wanamaker was baptized in New Amsterdam. He was one of the Palatinates of the Lutheran faith who came over from Germany. His house was east of the road just before Airmont Rd. The house was torn down in the 1960’s. Diagonally across the road lived Dederick Wanamaker who operated a gristmill and cider mill on the Stony Brook which flows into the Masonicus Brook. This area was always considered an island by the Wanamakers and Maysingers. On some of the old deeds it is called the “llan.” It was also part of John Barberies’ 600 acre tract; acquired in 1709 at the Romopok Tract deal and which ran from Myrtle Ave., Ramsey, to north of the Ramapo Church. It was also called the Road to New York and was so named by Berthier when he drew his 1781 map for the French army to Yorktown. Its route is also shown on the 1762 map of the Romopoke Tract.

The people in the Wanamaker area were very religious and met in their homes until 1724 when they built the log church just before the double bend. Maysinger gave the land for it and also the Lutheran Cemetery on Moffat Rd. This next church was built of sawed lumber about 1745 with the help of the Dutch Reform people who used the church on alternate Sundays. In 1785 the two groups cooperated in the Ramapo Church, and about 1800 the Lutherans moved to Airmont (NY). John Suffern helped in the formation of the Ramapo Church; and he and his wife are buried there along with many of the early settlers. Maysinger built a house near the end of the Airmont Rd. and another in 1740 further north. In 1786 the Christie house was built and with additions is now occupied by Karl Bierley.

Abraham Dater, the second in this area, acquired land on the bend, now Constantine. Dr., in 1797. The deed takes in land down to Dater’s mill lot, a gristmill which stood just west of N. Central Ave. and on Masonicus Brook which flows into Wanamaker’s long-ago pond. Adam Dater lived here and operated the mill until he died in 1823. when his son John Y. took over until he came to Ramsey about 1850 and in 1855 bought 22 acres in the center of the new town. Abraham Dater also had a house in Sloatsburg from where he operated the iron works. Here Adam was born in 1766, and in 1805 Abraham Adam, who fathered the Mahwah Dators. The latter, who married Mary Ward of Sloatsburg, took over the ironwork’s from his father.

 

Farming in the Fardale Section of Mahwah

This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.

Originally, as in all parts of Mahwah, the Fardale area was made up of subsistence farms. Animals and crops were raised to feed and clothe families, and supplemental activities carried out to secure cash to buy the things that could not be produced at home, like coffee, utensils and dishes. This type of farming predominated well into the 1800’s. Large tracts of land were held by the Bartholf, Bogert, Winter, Van Gelder, Ackerman and Young families.

With the extension of the railroads, improvement of roads and growth of nearby markets in Paterson, Newark and New York City, the amount of land devoted to cash crops increased. By the 1900’s, a commercial pattern of farming was fully established. Strawberries’ and other fruit in season were delivered to the freight depot at Ramsey, or were delivered by the wagon load to nearby local markets.

The Bartholfs, on the south side of Fardale Avenue, cut oak trees for dock pilings on the Hudson River, as well as chestnut, hickory, ash and walnut trees for other uses. The extensive swamp lands on the north side of the road were owned by Hyland, who picked enough high bush blueberries each year to pay his annual taxes.

Three commercial poultry products operations were carried on by Myers on Campgaw Road, Van Brookhoven on Fardale Avenue and Dobrat on Bartholf Lane.

Truck farms (devoted to the production of vegetables for market) were the most common. The Bogert farm extended along both sides of Chapel Road and partway along Pulis Avenue. The old Bogert homestead was located on the eastern corner of Chapel Road and Pulis Avenue, but it has since burned. A neighborhood schoolhouse was located further west on Pulis Avenue towards Campgaw Road. When Spurglon Bogert died (1930), he divided his land among his three sons, William, Ike and Jim. They mismanaged their farms and were bailed out by an uncle, Luther Bogert during the depression (1939). Part of the Bogert land (about 40 acres) was eventually sold to Peter Bartholf, who raised pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables. The Bartholf farm continued in operation until about 1965. The house and barn were torn down and the land is now occupied by the Chapel Greens condominium project.

The Myers family farmed on Campgaw Road, the Carloughs on land purchased from Ward (who acquired it at a sale of confiscated Tory land after the Revolutionary War–now the defunct “Campgaw Farms”) and the Young family on land north of Youngs Road. The DeBauns had orchards and raised poultry on a subdivided section of the Young farm in the latter half of the 1800’s; the farm, products and stock line of which were carried on into the mid-1960’s by Morris and Helen Plevan on their “Fardale Farm”. North of the Plevan farm. The MacDonald’s’ had an extensive chicken-raising operating in the 1940s, the last coops surviving until the development of Glenmere Park in 1965.

The north end of Chapel Road was known as St. Moritz Avenue because of the San Moritz farm that extended from the Fardale Community Chapel to Youngs Road.

An example of how these formerly large farms were broken up time after time can be found in a typical deed to property on Fardale Avenue, which lists parts of land formerly held by Bartholf, Bogert, Holdrum and Hopper.

The era of agriculture in the Fardale area effectively ended in the mid-1970s with the death of George Orthman who operated his farm on Campgaw Road and rented land on Chapel Road.

 

A Growing Town

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable”  in May 1982.

In 1892 John Y. Dater started the Ramsey Journal  in what was then the principal town of HoHoKus Township. It was started in the two story frame house which he built on what was then the corner of Dater Avenue (now W. Main Street) and Maple Street. He used a hot air engine to operate his presses. This engine was very noisy and offended the neighbors. The building was afterwards moved down Maple Street.

In 1896 he started the old brick Journal Building at 2-10 Main Street. He already had two tenants: William Henry Pulis for grocery and hardware and John Garrison of Darlington for a butcher shop. The first was where Electrolux now is, and the second where the Deli is now. A deli and candy store opened between the two which was run by John Guatelli. The second floor was partly rented to the Ramsey Building & Loan. Other offices housed insurance and real estate and later borough clerk and the library. One of the two big rooms was rented by the Improved Order of Oddfellows and the Jr. Order of American Mechanics. Later a basketball and sports club occupied it. The big room next to the railroad had a stage in it which traveling shows rented and movies (silent) were shown. I remember my 1910 grammar school graduation there. A frequent tenant was Claude Rouclere of Ridgewood who put on magic shows.

John Y. Dater installed a coal-fired steam engine in his shop next to the track to run a newspaper cylinder press and smaller job presses. There were two type-setting aisles by the windows. Emerson McMillan, who bought the Crocker mansion, used to take the railroad to New York. While waiting for the train, and he saw me setting type, he would come over and chat with me. He made his money running several electric trolley lines across the state. I also folded papers and helped with job work.

This growth in the town was certainly influenced by the newspaper with its local news and advertising. Mahwah, Allendale and Waldwick all came here to shop. The post office was in the Pulis store and about 1904 the Vanderbeek Drug Company opened in the front of the Journal area. This was also the telephone switchboard until 1906 serving local phones, Havemeyer in Darlington and Mahwah. All of these facts had a hand in the local development. Of course there were two liquor saloons on Main Street, which were very popular on election days. The Township Committee met in a part of one on the corner of Church Street. Up where Spruce Street is now, William Slack built a store where he made furniture, sold hardware and ran funerals (he made the coffins).

In 1909 the First National Bank (now Citizens First) opened in the old Valentine house which stood where the bank is now. E.F. Carpenter, who managed the Crocker estate, was its first president. In 1908 Ramsey became a borough and there was a new phase of development. About this time an electric trolley was built from Suffern to Paterson with the Ramsey station on Main St. where the high tension electric line crosses. Ramsey was a complete town with lawyers, doctors and vet, also a dry goods store and clothing store. The first ice cream and soda fountain was in the drug store with ice cream coming on the railroad from Paterson where it was made. There was also a lunch room on Main Street, a shoemaker, plumber, hay grain and feed store. As mentioned movies were also shown upstairs in the Journal building.

The Journal did all forms of job printing, even books. The operation of the newspaper and the print shop were all in the age old tradition of printing. That in itself, is a long story going back to the Middle Ages. With handset metal type hand-fed presses and hand-powered paper cutters.

The railroad was growing in those days with its fine old steam locomotives, and at least 800 daily commuters and lots of freight. When the rich people in Darlington went off or came back from Newport, or the seashore, in the summer there would be a big load of 6 to 10 trunks to be shipped on the railroad.

John Y. Dater switched to a typesetting machine for use on the newspaper. It deposited a line of type, set in words, which another operator justified into a column for the paper. Later on he bought one of the first Lino-types which cast metal slugs to be assembled in a column on the paper.

Now it is all different. Newspapers are produced by offset printing in which a typewriter-like machine produces type in a column. If handset ads are used, they are reproduced on paper for insertion. When the sheet is pasted up, it is made ready for the press by a photo-electric process. I learned offset printing on board ship in the Navy and installed it in the Journal. Advertising was the reason the old Journal was sold and the Store-News started in its stead. The shopper generated a circulation 10 times greater and carried a greater and more varied advertising service.

 

 

 

Mahwah Man Worked 50 Years for Abex

This article, by Jane Vilmar, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in February 1981.

Ralph Frederick of Mahwah, who was 91 years young on November 15th of last year, started to work for The American Brake Shoe & Foundry Co. back in 1903, a year after the firm began operation in the township.

His job was to tag freight for the railroad on the shipping platform. He was promoted to shipping clerk by the late James A. Davidson, and later became production manager – a job he retained until his retirement December 1, 1954 a total of 50 years with the same company!

When asked what his wages w.re back in those early days, he said, “we got $3.75 a week, worked six days a week, 12 hours a day -and I have some pay envelopes to prove it. In fact, when I received a raise to $6.00 a week, I thought I was richl”

He was born in Suffern, N. Y. in a house along Hemion Road. He attended Airmont School (2 classrooms divided by a partition), and it was after that he went to work at The American Brake Shoe -walking through all kinds of weather, hardly missing a day of work in all those years.

Ralph moved to Mahwah in 1932. He is married to the former Bessie Mabie. Asked what he did now that he is retired, he explained that his lawn and garden keep him active. The couple celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary last November.

Early History of Abex

The foundry built in 1902 was started by William Wait Snow who produced the car wheel, brake shoe and other railroad devices. He was assisted by R.J. Davidson, superintendent; F.W. Sargent, chief engineer; H. Winger, purchasing agent, and G.C. Ames, comptroller. There were about 100 employees in 1903, mostly from Mahwah, Ramsey, Suffern and Tallman. Those living east of the railroad walked dirt roads and crossed the Mahwah River on a wooden plank bridge, under the railroad tracks and through the swamps on a wooden foot bridge. Those who commuted by horse/ and wagon or carriage were fortunate enough to stable their horses for the day in a big stable on the right side of the present gate house at the entrance of the plant on Route 202.

About 1904, there were five double houses located where the research lab is today. Outside the homes were oval shaped brick ovens used by women to bake bread.

Between 1905 and 1910,-there were two additions on the south end of the foundry. Everything came in by rail and out” the same way. John Rafferty was. the engineer of locomotive #242 that handled the yard freight. Old #242 was retired to the plant in Canada.

In ‘1908 when Ho-Ho-Kus Township (now Mahwah) was formed, A.L. Clark (his family ran a grocery store in Tallman, N.Y.) was the first township clerk. It was also the year the Mahwah Building & Loan Association was formed at the urging of Clark and officers of The American Brake Shoe Company.

Abex Corporation

(Formerly The American Brake Shoe and Foundry Co.)

The Abex iron foundry began operations in 1902 in the township casting brake shoes for railroad cars. The group of far-sighted men who built the foundry and started what was to become a successful business venture was headed by William Wait Snow, R.J. Davidson and Otis H. Cutler. In that same year, the Mahwah plant was joined with four other brake shoe foundries to form The American Brake Shoe & Foundry Co.

During the past 79 years, the Company has expanded its operations and diversified its products until today Abex operates 62 plants around the world. Today the Mahwah complex employs between 600 and 700 people of which 350 work in the iron foundry.

On its 33.5 acre tract bounded by N. Railroad Avenue, Rt. 202 and Conrail tracks, are located in addition to the iron foundry, the Corporation’s Research Center, the Railroad products headquarters and Engineering Depts., and the Corporate facilities Engineering Dept. Abex became a subsidiary of the parent company, Illinois Central Industries, in 1968.

The local foundry is the oldest operating plant in the Abex Corp. It is a member of the Abex cast Products Group producing castings of gray iron and ductile iron for most branches of industry, including G. E., Caterpillar Tractor Co., and US Steel co. Railroad and railroad car builders buy roller bearing adapters also produced in the foundry.

Many of the Abex manufacturing processes and new products were developed in Mahwah’s Research center. Several manufacturing processes developed by the center are licensed to companies throughout the world.

The most recent addition to the Abex Research center is the Engineering Test center which houses several large computerized dynamometer testing machines used in research and development of improved railroad car wheels, brake shoes and auto brake linings

The Railroad Products Group with headquarters and engineering offices in the local complex operates 15 plants. They manufacture railroad equipment for industry.

The newest and largest steel wheel plant in the-world opened last year near Johnstown, Pa. Designed and built under directions of Abex Facilities Group in Mahwah, it produces car wheels of a new and improved design using manufacturing techniques developed in a joint effort by-research, engineering and facilities personnel right here in Mahwah.

 

Saw Mills and Old Saws

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in February 1981.

The saw mill has an interesting history, dating back at least 2000 years in Roman days and even earlier in Egypt, Greece and China. (The early ones were the narrow blade, up and down saws (when they were run by power), and then earlier by pit and also scaffold on ground operated by two men. I have seen them doing pit sawing in Mandeville, Jamaica in 1941 and Mercer* saw them there in 1910. Circular saws arrived 1825-40 and were made in England and Europe.

The earliest iron saw blades were made by blacksmiths, forged and hammered out on an anvil, and then had the teeth filed in. Roman made files dating from first century A.D. have been dug up in Germany; also sets or wrests to slightly offset the teeth so that they would cut better.

The word saw is related to many medieval words meaning cut, also related to section and scythe according to the Oxford Dictionary.

The early uses of wood stem from the branch and bark houses before lumber was sawed; also to religious purposes, chairs and tables and devices to make them, looms to make cloth and devices to fashion fabrics, tool handles, boats and ships, carts and wagons.

The earliest sawing device came in about 8000 B.C. and was, of course, stone. Then it progressed to the bronze. age and finally to the age of iron about 500 B.C.

Large timbers were cut from the tree trunk by a broad ax and then we come to smaller frame units. In early days boards were scarce, confined to flooring, inside paneling and partition parts. Finish siding was made, but no sheathing or roof boards. Wood shingles were split by a chisel device called a free. I have seen that done also in Jamaica.

Up and down saws were also made with multiple blades for sawing more than one piece at a time. The earliest hand saws were frame saws and were used in various ways. Most saws used here from the 17th to early 19th century were made in England and Germany. I have one of the earliest Saws made by Disston in Philadelphia.

There are many saw mills shown on early maps such as Baldwin’s on Ramapo Valley Road, built about 1775 next to the Hopper grist mill. Also Sloat’s on the Mahwah River near Island Rd. And there were others along the Ramapo River. One of the earliest mills in this area was near Hackensack. The sawed timber in the Hopper-Van Horn house came from here about 1720; also the Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus. Another very early mill was Conklin’s built about 1740 where the county park pond now is on Darlington Avenue. I remember the old building and the dam. I also have walnut: boards that were cut there for my great grandfather. He used them for counter tops in his general store built in 1855 and later moved to the 1876 building. You can easily see the saw marks on the back of the boards and this is true of any up and down saw lumber.

The early power saw mill was a frame saw with one or more vertical blades and was worked by a crank revolving at the end of a horizontal axle of a water wheel. The log was moved against the saw in several ways, and not the saw against the log as in a pit saw. Most of the devices to move the leg were hand operated.

*The early history on this topic came from Mercer’s Ancient Carpenter’s Tools, 1960. It is a wonderfully researched book. Bucks County Historical Society.

Cragmere Park Landmark Razed

 

This article, by Jane Vilmar, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in October 1980.

By the time this appears in our newsletter, the Education Center that majestically graced the higher elevation at 40 Malcolm Road for so many years will probably have been torn down.

The 3-story structure, one of the landmarks in Cragmere Park, was built about 1914 by the Theusen family. It was a boarding house for many years, and a number of Brooklyn families stayed there during the summer and later moved to the township.

On the grounds back in the early days were a ice house, once part of the Ezra Miller estate; a small pond known as Oweno Lake and a summer house at the edge of the north end of the pond. This was a popular gathering place for many different events, such as firework displays, ice skating and Sunday afternoon tea parties.

In later years, the Theusen brothers, Fred, Chris and George, lived in the cellar of the family homestead.

Eventually the Board of Education purchased the house, and it was renovated in 1957 for the school administrative offices. Last month the school personnel was moved to the Joyce Kilmer School, after it was decided to demolish the house.

Robert Brown, assistant superintendent, recently said “there is no discussion of construction or selling the tract of land at this time. plans are to grade and seed the land for the time being.”

 

 

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