Cemetery of the Old Ramapo Lutheran Church, Moffatt Road, Mahwah – Chapter I

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

 in February 1980. For a continuation of the article, click here.

The congregation of the Ramapo Lutheran Church chose a sandy hill west of the church on what is now Moffatt Road for its burial ground. It overlooked the valley up to the Ramapo hills. Never did they envision the bustle of a crowded highway, nor the encroachment that today puts the hill in danger of gradually sliding, grave by grave, onto the border of Route 17.

It is a neglected plot of ground in imminent danger of total destruction as land values ‘increase and this’ irreplaceable part of Mahwah’s historic past becomes a burden on its present owner.

The first log church of the early German Lutheran inhabitants was built on Island Road near Moffatt Road in 1720. It was abandoned in 1789, but burials continued into the middle 1800’s. The early group was probably partly absorbed by the Dutch Reformed Church which was formed in 1785. That building was built in 1795.

There are probably many unmarked graves from that early time. Certainly there are many that are marked by a simple field stone without inscriptions. Others bear only initials chiseled in by some survivor, their family names a matter of guesswork. Among these are probably members of the families of the oldest settlers of the valley, men and women who came north from the Paramus and Hackensack area and west from settlements along the Hudson. The earliest legible date is 1758, with about 45 other stones in the 1700’s. After 1867, the cemetery seems to have been abandoned.

Derick Wanamaker was an original lessee in the Ramapo tract in 1740. A few legible stones may be his descendants, M., 1729; Richard, 1750; James, 1752. A young boy, Josiah, buried in 1839 is noted as the tenth son of John (no daughters are mentioned). Henry and Peter W.-10t #155 on the Ramapo Tract map had Airmount Road on its northern border. Susannah W.-#139 had land between Island Road the the railroad tracks. Derick’s family had been a potent force in the development of this area.

The Hemions too have imprinted their name on the community, since Stephen Hemion (Hemmion) on the stone selected lot #150. He was buried here with his wife, Ellen, in 1791 with many of his descendants nearby. The family name was variously spelled Hemmion and Hemion, each different from the spelling on the early 1787 survey.

David Fox 1755-1800 and his wife, Catherine Hemion – 1831 farmed lot #120 on the east side Frederick (lot #72) which was east of the Ramapo River on both sides of the present state line. Their children and grandchildren lie with them, the last being David D. Fox 1793-1869. Some of the Fox family still living in the area can probably trace their ancestry to this early settler, whose grave lies uncared for in the little cemetery. (continued)


Hohokus Township

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

From the late 18th century this area of Bergen County was part of Franklin Township, named for the last royal governor of New Jersey. He was a son of Benjamin Franklin., February 5. 1849, the New Jersey Legislature established HoHoKus Township running north from the Ridgewood line to the state line at Mahwah. It ran from the Ramapo Mtns. East to the Saddle River and embraced the towns of HoHoKus, Waldwick, Saddle River, Allendale, Upper Saddle River, Ramsey and Mahwah. The bill mentions crossing the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad at HoHoKus.

The name HoHoKus comes from the Lenape Indians. It means “cleft in the rock” and was their name for the 100 ft. deep cleft where the railroad crosses HoHoKus Brook near HoHoKus. Ramsey was the chief town. The new Township Committee first held meetings in the old Mt. Prospect Inn on Franklin Turnpike. Later it went to a building part of the Ramsey Hotel at the corner of E. Main Street and Church Street. Here township elections were held using locally printed slip of paper and a box with a slot in the top. Here were the Township offices where you paid your taxes and collected the 50¢ bounty for killing hawks.

In the 1890’s the State passed the borough act and as a result Waldwick withdrew, also Saddle River and HoHoKus. In 1908 Ramsey became a borough and in 1910 Mahwah became HoHoKus Township. From 1792 there was a stage line on the Franklin Turnpike running from Jersey City and New York to Goshen, N.Y. and then to Albany. The first train on the Paterson and Ramapo railroad came through in 1848 running to the state line. To get to Suffern and the Erie station you had to take a horse and wagon. The Erie then ran over the Piermont branch to the Hudson and then by boat to New York. ‘In 1852 the Erie acquired the Paterson and Ramapo and the Passaic and Hudson from Paterson so that you could get to Jersey City and New York by Ferry in about an hour instead of the previous4 hour trip. Ramsey and HoHoKus and Glen Rock were the only stations before Paterson.




Historic Sites

This article, by Elaine Rod, was first published in  “The Old Station Timetable” in June 1979.

OldStationLogoThe Historic Sites Committee is finishing its research of 18th and 19th century historical houses and landmarks in Mahwah. The Committee, appointed by the Township Committee, began its work more than a year ago by selecting all those homes built in the 1700’s, those having representative Victorian architecture, and any 20th century houses having significant features, such as the Joyce Kilmer home on Airmount Road.

To date, about 50 sites have been surveyed, and it is anticipated that another 40-50 will be researched in the coming year.

Later this summer, upon completion of this first phase, a historic site marker featuring, the Old Station logo, will be presented to each site owner.

The biggest single undertaking of the Committee has been to prepare the Hopper Gristmill-Sawmill site for inclusion on the National Register. Initial research on the site was done by Edward Rutsch and Joanne Cotz for the Northwest Bergen County Sewer Authority. Since then, Eagle Scout candidate, Steve Elich, Mahwah Troop 50, has assumed the responsibility of cleaning and landscaping the site located on the banks of the Ramapo River behind the United Auto Workers Union building on Ramapo Valley Road.

A Bergen County Historic Marker will be installed at the gristmill site using funds provided by a State grant and the Mahwah Historical Society.

Future projects of the Committee include the establishment of historic districts in the Fardale and Cragmere/Masonicus areas, Ramapo Valley Road and Island Road, entering as many sites on the National Register as may qualify. Also, the Committee will provide assistance to local residents interested in preserving an historic site.



The Dater Iron Works

This article, by John Y. Dater was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in April 1979.

Abraham was the first Dater in this area. His dates are 1755-1830. He married Hannah Suffern about 1787. She was a sister of John Suffern and her dates are 1766-1823. Mr. Dater was much involved with John Suffern’s activities in the period before and after the Revolution. Mr.Suffern built his tavern before 1775 at the head of Washington Rd. and furnished camping space for Gen. Washington. It was not until after Mr. Suffern’s death that the town was called Suffern. He preferred the name Antrim after the county in the north of Ireland where he was born. Both men were very active in the early days of forming the Ramapo Reformed Church in Mahwah where they are both buried with their wives.

Another fact that helps date Mr. Dater was his membership in the turnpike company which was responsible for the road through the Clove from the Black Bridge over the Ramapo. He was associated with Aaron Burr in this venture.

Somewhere along the line Mr. Dater learned the iron business. He located in Sloatsburg, NY largely because two Sloats and two Daters were married into the Hollenbake family of Dutchess County, NY. On the Ramapo River just north of Sloatsburg, Mr. Dater built an open hearth furnace, several forges and a saw mill, all of which used water power. On what is now Rt. 17, he built a brick house which later became a general store. I remember visiting with its owner, a later Abraham. It was recently demolished, hit by a crazy truck driver.

In addition to the iron works, Mr. Dater had a very fine iron mine on Dater’s Mountain just east of Tuxedo. The mine was near the top in the southern area of the mountain and a bit west of Horse Table Rock, a hangout of Claudius Smith in the Revolution. I have been in the mine, and there still looks like ore there. He also constructed a well-designed mountain road from the mine down to the main highway. Mr. Dater produced all kinds of merchant iron, some of which he sold to the Piersons who were just starting their iron business. Other items he made went by pack horse over to the Hudson and down to New York by boat.

Cole, in his History of Rockland County, gives very few dates on the Daters. He does mention an 1812 tax roll which says that Abraham had a house, farm and mountain which was valued at $4,750, (the acreage was said to be 3,000) also three forges and a grist mill on which he paid taxes of $17.50. He does not mention the furnace which I remember before it was destroyed by the Park people. Mr. Dater was listed as the third largest taxpayer in the district. He also employed over 200 people. It took 40 men to operate an iron furnace. I was told this by a man who worked on one.

There is also another angle to the Dater story. In 1797 he bought a house site in Mahwah on what was then Island Rd., and built a house which is still standing. The deed gives one of the boundaries as Dater’s mill lot. The pond and dam are still there as is one of the mill stones in the front of the Ramsey pump house. His land ran all the way down to Myrtle Ave. in Ramsey, part of the Barberies Tract.

Mr. Dater had three sons and a daughter. His eldest son, born in 1793, was Adam and who later lived In Mahwah, operated the grist mill and married Mary Young. He was my great, great grandfather. He lived only 32 years and his widow married Hassel Doremus who helped raise the six Dater children.

Mr. Dater’s third son was Abraham Adam, born in 1805, married Mary Ward of Sloatsburg. They were very active in the area; one of them ran the iron railroad that operated out of Sterlington, N.Y. (now Southfields) late in the 19th century. Abraham Adam stayed with the iron business and his father made him a partner. He lived until 1877. He bought 29 acres on what is now the Piermont branch of the railroad and this became Dater’s Crossing. This was part of the main line since the state charter made them stay in the state. My great grandfather, John Y., helped build the Paterson and Ramapo R.R. which later gave the Erie a route to New York.

Abraham Adam was the immediate ancestor of the Mahwah Dators. He had a son, Francis Z. (1849-1933) who was the father of Raymond F., and he of Frank. The family lived at Dater’s Crossing and then built a house on the Turnpike in Mahwah.




A Story of the Andrew Hopper House

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in September 1977.

The late H. O. Havemeyer showed me a letter written to him by Erskine Hewitt, of the famous Hewitts of Ringwood and vicinity, stating that Henry B. Hagerman as an  innkeeper on the Valley Road had saved George Washington in 1779 from being captured by the British.

The statement did not sound right to me because the historical records had stated that George Washington had stayed at Andrew Hopper’s at least 5 times. Hopper also secured intelligence from the British in New York which he passed on to Washington. Also Benjamin Lossing in his Field Book of the American Revolution said a lot about the Hopper house and even drew a picture of it which he published in the book. He also quotes Mrs. E. O. Smith’s visit with Mrs. Hopper in 1849.

As a result I went to the old Hopper cemetery on the Valley Road where Andrew and his wife Maria LaReau are buried. Henry Hagerman rests there too – born 1790, died 1858. I asked Mr. Havemeyer if he believed the Hewitt story? His answer, “Why not? He got it from his father Abram.” My reply was, “How could Hagerman help Gen. Washington when he wasn’t born until 1790?” and I quoted the old gravestone.

The above story is published in full in Dater’s (my father) history of Mahwah and Ramsey which was not too well researched by the young man who helped him. Their facts on the Havemeyer estate are far better. The book is out of print but a few libraries have copies.

I do not know if the British raid is true with the hero as Andrew Hopper. But there are two unnamed gravestones in the cemetery with the date 1779. The story says two were killed by the gun taken down from the mantel.

Mrs. Andrew Hopper cherished the memory of George Washington and is quoted in Mrs. Smith’s book “Salamander”. The visit was in 1849. “We were shown the bed and furniture, remaining as when he (Washington) used them; for the room is kept carefully locked. Here were the.dark chintz hangings beneath which he had slept; •the quaint furniture, old walnut cabinets, dark, massive and richly carved, a Dutch Bible mounted with silver clamps and a chain of the same material…paintings upon glass of cherished members of the Orange family. These and other objects of interest remain as at that day.” (Note. I have a beautifully carved bedroom mantel which came from the Hopper house when it was torn down in 1890.).

The Romopock Deed of 1709

This article, by John A. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in December 1977.

This is a brief description of the facts concerning the deed along with a copy of its text. The deed of 1709 was instigated by Peter Sonmans, who in 1709 was authorized by the English segment of the Proprietors to come to America and acquire title to land in the area of the Royal Grant. This act was resented by the American board which was inactive at the time. Before they could act, the damage was done and legal action took place. Eventually they acquired title and the deed was filed Lib. 1, p. 411.

It was to the credit of the Proprietors of East Jersey that they bought the land from the Indians instead of seizing it, as happened in many places. This is the reason for the recent suits in New England where the Indians are trying to secure their rights.

According to the N. J. Historical Society Proceedings for 1932, Vol. 50, p. 370, we have the following information from the original deed: “Grantors: Sherikam, Memereskum, Manawagrum, Sipham, Mais Kanaipung, Waparent, Rawantagwaywohny, Magowaycum, Apiwamouhg, Touwischwitch, Ragotia, Toraum.”

“Grantees: John Amboyneau, Elias Boudinot, Peter Fauconnier (Merchants and Inhabitants), Lucas Kiersted, Yeoman of New York. For themselves and as agents for: John Barberie, Thomas Bayeaux, Andreas Fresneau, Peter Byard.”

“Native owners of a tract of land about 30 mi. back from ‘New-Ark’,conveyed, granted and gave title for consideration of  135 (about $715).”

The deed was signed and sealed by the Indians “being all entirely sober” on Nov. 18, 1709. at Romopock and later acknowledged before Cornelius Haring, a justice of peace of the County of Orange, at Tappan on Dec. 5. 1709. The sale price was conveyed in trade goods brought up the Hudson to a point near Tappan.

This Is the deed description:

“Beginning at a spring called Assenmaykepahaka, being the northeastern most head spring of a river called in the Indian language Peramsepus and the Christians Saddle River; thence running southerly down the east side of said river, including the same, to a place called Raighkamack (Hohokus Brook) where a small creek or river coming from the northward falls into said Saddle River, about 16 miles distant from the above head spring, let it be more or less, thence Northwesterly just by a great rock called Pammaekaputa (Glen Rock), distant from the above said river about two miles, and so on the same course to that river known by the name Romopock, Punto and Pissaick.  Just by a small body of water above the plantation of Major Brockhulst (Pompton, at now the steel works) and from thence crossing the said river about a mile above a place where another river coming from Northwestward called Pamamaquancy, Pequaneck and Maysaghkin, now Pequanack River, falls into said river, thence to the top of the opposite mountain, thence along the top of the said mountain, and up the said Romopock River, and about one mile up every creek that falls into said river, crossing said creeks to the top of every opposite hill, and so along the said mountain and hills and creeks to a place about two miles above an Indian Field called Mahway – say (Mahwah), just over 1 thence the North side of a small red hill called Mamaitung (the little hill where the Torne Brook falls into the Ramapo River), thence along the northeasterly side of said hill Easterly to the above spring where the first course began.”Containing 42,500 acres, part of which was N.Y. State.”

This Romopock Deed was the first legal deed to the area, and it was so recorded. There were, however, various discrepancies in title which generated numerous suits which flit many pages in the Minutes of the Proprietors.



Early Skylands

This article by Charles Anderson was first published in “The Old Station Timetable,” of January 1978.

The area in which Skylands is now located was a prime source of wood for the smelting operations at Ringwood during the 1700’s. Small farms were carved out of the stony hills where some level ground could be found. These were mostly along the Eagle Valley Road out of Sloatsburg (NY) and along the Wanaque Valley Road. The Ramapo Mountains were gradually cut up among small owners.

Around 1880, Stetson, a counsel for J.P. Morgan, with several associates bought up 1200 acres of these small holdings and established several large estates. Part of the Stetson property is now Skylands. His mansion was baronial and impressive. Sheep were grazed on the front lawn. A nine-hole golf course was laid out on land laboriously leveled. His wife was a paraplegic but could drive a buggy. Each year he cut additional miles of wood road through the estate so that she could travel about the property. Eventually, over 20 miles of road were cleared. Most of them are still available for hiking. They are easily distinguished from old wood roads used for lumbering by their easy grades, uniform width and solidly built stone bridges.

In the 1900’s Clarence Lewis bought property In Mahwah and lived here. He was a lawyer for the multi-million dollar firm owned by the Solomons of New York. Retiring a very wealthy man in 1933, aged 53, he was to live 30 years more. He owned a large piece of land east of the Birch property on the north side of the Ramapo River extending to a piece of Pierson property which extended west from the Glove and north to Pierson Ridge. Another large acreage owned by Lewis lay on both sides of the easterly third of Bear Swamp Pond, separated from the Stetson estate by a small piece of property owned by one Hines. When the Stetson property was up for sale, he bought it intending to join it with the Bear Swamp acreage. It is believed that Hines refused to sell, and he was not able to do this.

However, Skylands was his. He tore the house down. There are two stories giving a reason why, neither of which may be true. One states that his mother did not like the Stetson house, the other, that being a tallish man he bumped his head in several places while going through the house. At, any rate, the present building was put up in Jacobean style from stone quarried locally and embellished with interiors purchased from old castles in Europe. His mother died a year before the house was completed.

In the many years that he lived at Skylands, being an ardent horticulturist and well able to afford 60 gardeners, he developed an English style series of plantings complete with statuary and vistas, most of which are being restored today. Late in life he offered his estate to the New York Botanical Gardens. They insisted on a large endowment which he was unwilling to provide. The deal fell through. Later, he offered the property to Shelton College at a very reasonable price on condition that they follow his advice on management. They would not listen, he discontinued his help, and the college soon went bankrupt.

Developers were ready to purchase and carve the estate when Robert Roe purchased for the state 250 acres, the first acquisition of land under the Green Acres Program. House and grounds had been sadly neglected during the college ownership. Some restoration work was done on the house, and work was started In reclaiming the neglected gardens. However, with only ten gardeners, reclamation Is progressing slowly. The dedicated staff had made it possible for us to visualize the beauty of the gardens.’ Each year new discoveries of hidden beauties are made. Lewis’s dream of an estate extending from Skylands to the Ramapo has been realized. The boundaries of Ramapo Park have been extended past Bear Swamp Pond and now join with the wooded acreage of Skylands.