This article, by Dick Greene, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.
Blandina Bayard, Mahwah’s first recorded non-Indian settler, the Hoppers, and the Dutch and English farmers that followed, had a very local market for their harvested crops, livestock and dairy products. After satisfying their family’s need for sustenance, residual products were traded or bartered with other settlers or at local trading and general stores. Erskine’s “Belgrove Store”, near the original Lutheran church on Moffat Road, did a brisk business with local farmers.
Farm products were hard to transport over rutted, muddy roads, and markets were often over a day away. Settlements along the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers had the advantage of water transport, but the scenic Ramapo offered inadequate depth for anything larger than a canoe.
The coming of the NEW YORK AND ERIE RAILWAY to New Antrim (Suffern) and “Ramapo (Iron) Works” gave a new method of transport to New York City via the railroad’s boat dock and steamship line at Piermont on the Hudson River, south of Nyack. Local farmers began to expand their production for shipment of cash crops over the tracks of the new Iron Horse.
The young PATERSON AND HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD commissioned George Allen as its chief engineer and surveyor with. the task of charting and building a railroad line from the company’s terminus in bustling Paterson to the New York State line in the Mahwah section of the then Hohokus Township, just one mile short of a connection with the NY&E (ERIE) at Suffern’s Tavern in New Antrim. Service began in 1848, connecting Mahwah with Jersey City over the tracks of several railroads.
The New York State Charter of the NY&E prohibited its leaving the boundary of the Empire State. An exception was made along the Delaware River west of Port Jervis where terrain mandated use of the opposite bank, but no station-stops were allowed. The NY&E terminals were at Piermont- on the Hudson, and Dunkirk- on Lake Erie, where the line connected with steamboats which provided regularly scheduled shipping of freight and passengers.
These water connections allowed great flexibility of distribution up and down the Hudson River, over the Great Lakes and throughout the extensive barge canal system which the railroads were to doom to oblivion. Dependence upon water routes slowed travel to a point of placing the NY&E at a competitive disadvantage when parallel railroad lines were constructed by the PENNSYLVANIA RR and Vanderbilt’s amalgamation of small upstate lines into his NEW YORK AND HARLEM RIVER RR, to form the gigantic NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM.
Passengers traveling east or west soon earned that connections by stage coach could be made between Mahwah and Suffern’s that could cut several hours off the longer boat ride on the Hudson.
Giving in to public pressure, the New York Legislature approved a mile-long line to connect “Suffern’s Tavern” to “Mahwah” — THE UNION RAILROAD COMPANY. By 1852, the NY&E had reduced traffic to Piermont to but one train each day, and the passenger steamboat was abandoned. Mahwah was now on the main line of a major railroad system connecting New York with Buffalo, then Chicago and the west.
September 10, 1852, saw the inception of the ERIE Lease of the PATERSON AND HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD (P&H) and its wholly owned subsidiary, the PATERSON AND RAMAPO RAILROAD (P&R). Things were not easy, as the ERIE had heretofore steadfastly clung to its broad gauge of 6′-0″ (the distance measured between the rail heads) while other roads, including the P&H (which had already converted from their original 4′-0″ gauge) and the P&R, utilized the accepted standard of 4′ 8-1/2″ — the width established by the Romans a millennium before as the gauge for all the carts used by their Legions, in order that they could follow in each others ruts.
A third rail was laid alongside the P&R tracks to accommodate the wider ERIE engines and rolling stock, while the acquired P&R and P&H cars and those of other railroads using “standard gauge” would use the original rails. The three rails remained from 1878 to 1881, when the conversion of the ERIE to “standard” was completed.
In 1854, the first “through train” from Jersey City to Buffalo steamed up P&H Chief Engineer George Allen’s track route without so much as a toot for Mahwah. Mahwah had no regularly scheduled “station stop” for passengers on the newly reorganized ERIE RAILWAY COMPANY timetables until 1874 — three years after the station was built, which obviously only handled traffic as a “flag stop” the train stopped when the stationmaster hung out a flag indicating a revenue pickup of either passengers or freight.
Local shipments of farm produce were handled at “Ramsey’s” and “Suffern’s” on the ERIE, with some Valley farmers finding it easier to go to Oakland and Fardale farmers to “Campgaw” on the NEW JERSEY MIDLAND RAILROAD. This line was incorporated in 1866 by the Wortendykes of Midland Park and promoted by Rodman Price of “Hazelwood on the Ramapo” (see accompanying article, this issue).
When an enterprising ERIE conductor from Goshen began bringing fresh milk to Jersey City in the baggage car to be sold across the River by a ferry boat captain, the milk industry all along the ERIE grew to tremendous proportions within a matter of years. The milk sold in New York had been “local” milk from tethered cows fed slops and washed fermented grain from breweries. The taste was reported as being “like drinking bad, white beer”. Fresh Jersey and Orange County (NY) milk tank cars were familiar sights on ERIE passenger trains into the mid-1950s.
The famous Sheffield Farms had their beginnings in Mahwah on Route 202 at what is now the Devonshire School. The Darling and Havermeyer farms delivered daily loads of milk to the depot in Mahwah, built in 1871 (now the Museum at 1871 Old Station Lane, across from Winter’s pond).
It wasn’t only outgoing shipments that improved life in Mahwah; but coal, lumber, kerosene, and goods from all over the country were brought right to, the front door of the Township at Winter’s Coalyard and Store, where the present Post Office now stands.
At the other end of the Valley, railroading was flouNew York and Orishing, also. New Jersey residents subscribed $100,000 to have the NJ MIDLAND pass through Hackensack which was accomplished in 1972. Within one year, interconnected trackage went as far as Ellenville, NY.
In 1880, the NJMRR combined with the NEW YORK & OSWEGO MIDLAND RR to provide owned-trackage to the north, into the rich blackdirt farmlands of Sussex (NJ) and Orange (NY) Counties. In 1881, the name was changed as a reelection of more grandiose plans, to the NEW YORK, SUSQUEHANNA AND WESTERN RR. The trains never went to New York, ending at Edgewater and Jersey City; nor did the trackage ever reach the waters of the Susquehanna River, much less anything western.
The Scranton area (Gravel Place) became the western extent of the NYS8.W tracks as coal from the mines of northeastern Pennsylvania quickly became the mainstay of the line’s revenue, but milk and fresh produce from New Jersey and Orange County dominated the fast trains that sped the goods to New York markets. The siding at Campgaw received produce in cars that were connected to passing milk trains and fast freights headed for interchange at Jersey City.
The NYS&W passed through many economic cycles over the years, being operated by the ERIE from 1898 onward, until spun off in the 1940s when coal and Jersey produce traffic waned. This began a downhill slide to near oblivion for the NYS&W, only to be revived in the past few years by its new owner, the DELAWARE & OTSWEGO RR, of Cooperstown, NY — those masters of operation of the short line. Container trains are now running the restored roadbed on a regular basis. “Peddler” freights deliver freight cars to a few industries along the line, but no longer are farm produce and dairy products loaded from the valley of the Ramapo.
It was the railroad that brought prosperity and improved standards of living to Mahwah’s farmers; and, eventually, it brought the commuter and the developer who bought up the farms, built homes and transformed the rural landscape of the 1880s into a suburb by 1950. ABEX, long Mahwah’s major industrial complex, was originally the “Ramapo Wheel and Iron Works”, building railway equipment parts. It later became “The American Brake Shoe Company”.
The single-track P&R line of George Allen (for whom Allendale is named) grew to the 4 track mainline of the “high and wide ERIE” by the turn of the century.
The ERIE, like most of the great iron roads of the east, fell into hard times at the hands of government regulation, taxation, union strife, and competition from highway trucking and airlines. The CONSOLIDATED RAIL SYSTEM — “ConRail” — has preserved most of the routes in New Jersey of the ERIE, the P&R and P&H, as its main line. Modern equipment, electronic signaling, long-welded rail, and renewed emphasis on speedy, efficient service has given the railroad industry new life. Renovation of trackage through Mahwah has been underway for three years. NEW JERSEY TRANSIT — RAIL OPERATIONS now operates the passenger service from Port Jervis through Suffern and Mahwah to Hoboken, and continues the tradition of the commuter that started over 100 years ago.
Those scenic farms in summer and the lonesome wail of the steam whistle on a still, cold night are now gone, but they will remain a wonderful memory and integral part of the history of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable”
in February 1980.
The occupation of Bergen County by the early settlers is most interesting. Bergen and most of Hudson were settled by the Holland Dutch. In 1664, when the British seized the land, it was deeded to the Board of Proprietors of East Jersey. Much of the area was available along very old Indian trails which usually followed the streams and other water areas. This was true of the Ramapo Turnpike, Paramus Road and the Plank Road over the meadows. It possibly started as an Indian trail. It was the stage coach route from up country to the city. Dobbins and Tuston of Middletown, N.Y. were given a coach franchise back in 1790. Much the same path was followed by the Erie Railroad when it came through in 1848.
The purchase of the Ramapough Tract from the Lenni Lenape in 1709 was a big event. It opened up 42,500 acres for purchase or lease. It ran from Torne Brook in Rockland County to the rock at Glen Rock, from the Ramapo Mountains east to Saddle River. The original transaction was promoted by Peter Sonmans, who claimed jurisdiction from the British branch of the Proprietors. This occasioned disputes with the American group and especially when his friend Fauconnier was authorized to sell land. He kept the money, lost his records and caused numerous suits by the Proprietors, who finally took over about 1720. His daughter was Mrs. M. Valleau, who claimed many areas. She gave Valleau Cemetery to the Paramus Church. The Minutes of the Proprietors is filled with Ramapough problems. Kierstead and the La Reaus were continually on the docket. Kierstead was a signer of the deed and built the Hopper-VanHorn house in 1720 and by 1760 was heavily in debt to the Proprietors. He had married a La Reau girl and they bailed him out. Because of litigation, the La Reau boundaries as shown on the 1762 map are extremely inaccurate and only became accurate as the area was settled.
I have a copy of the deed to the Ramapough Tract. Kierstad had a lot to do with getting the La Reaus to John Edsall of New York became owner by sheriff’s sale. In 1865 Edsall sold to John Petry of New York for $16,000, along with 138 acres. Petry was in the liquor business in New York. He borrowed $20,000 on the place and then assigned the mortgage to John Y. Dater. About 1870 Mr. Dater foreclosed on the property and thus became the owner. In 1876 Mr. Dater sold to DeCastro and Donner Sugar Refining Company.
In November 1877 Theodore A. Havemeyer rented the property and a little later bought the place and paid off all the various mortgages. He also bought the Bockee place, where his son Henry O. went to live after making extensive alterations. I have a picture of it and was in it many times. This beautiful house fell prey to arson. In 1965 Henry Havemeyer died, and in April the contents were sold at auction. R. O. Havemeyer was a member of the Yale class of 1900, was interested in the Brooklyn District Terminal Railway, which served all the pierheads of south Brooklyn. He was also one of the firm of Havemeyer and Elder which refined sugar in Brooklyn. There is still a Havemeyer Street in that area. He was a member of a sporting club which owned an island off the Carolina coast and used to summer in Newport, Rhode Island. Mr. Havemeyer build extensive buildings and operated Mountainside Farm for a number of years and which his son, Henry, kept up. He also built for his daughter the brick and stone mans; on where the Birchs used to live and is now owned by Ramapo College.
Going a bit south, there was Alfred B. Darling, who owned and operated the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, who built in 1866 a very fine frame house and farm where the Reservation is now. Mr. Darling brought with him from Vermont, E. F. Carpenter, who became his superintendent and later became prominent in Ramsey. It was his daughter who married Allie Winters and established the Mahwah Library. When Darling died in the 90’s, the land was bought by George Crocker, whose family owned the Crocker National Bank in San Francisco. Mr. Crocker had moved to New York in connection with the banking business. He spent one million in building the brick Elizabethan-style mansion, finished in 1903. When he saw the site where he built, he said “it was the most beautiful building spot from Maine to California.” Mr. Crocker also built St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ramsey in memory of his wife, Emma. Mr. Carpenter gave the land for the building. Emerson MacMillin next owned the property, having made his money operating electric powered suburban railways across New Jersey.
The last and present owner of the property is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark, who established there the Seminary and Church of the Immaculate Conception.
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)
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.