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.


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.




Mahwah Historical Society History: Second Installment

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in October 1978. For the first installment, click here.

A synopsis of the first installment tells the story of the formation of the Society back in 1966. The first major project was the moving of the old 1871 Railroad Station and its restoration work started in 1967. It is located opposite Winter’s Pond and serves as a museum open to the public from 3 to 5 p.m. Sundays through October.

After the roof there were a great many details to be accomplished such as special moulding for the outside, window glass Installed, doors repaired and the chimney. The partition separating the agent’s office from the waiting room had to be replaced as well as some of the flooring. A lot of the Interior work was done by the author. One day he was visited by one of the vice presidents of the Erie and the general superintendent who had heard what we were doing.

At last all was ready for the ceremony of dedication which took place Sept. 22, 1968. Of course, all the local officials were present. The principal speaker was Gov. Richard  J. Hughes, now Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. Also present were Vice President M. F. Coffman of the Erie, R. J. Downing, General Superintendent, and George Eastland, their publicity man. It was a fine ceremony and well attended. Congressman William B. Widnail was also a guest.

Already In the station on exhibit was the 1 1/2 scale working model of a Pacific steam locomotive. This was made by apprentices of the Dunmore shops of the Erie about 1918. It was given to the Society by Stephen J. Birch, Jr., and it had been given to his father, S. J. Birch by the Erie. Mr. Birch was an active stockholder of the Erie and also an official of Kennecott Copper. The locomotive was operated on the Birch estate for young Steve. It is a very finely built model. In the museum are other railroad items, documents and exhibits which are changed periodically.

The Society itself meets monthly except during the summer in one of the school auditoriums. At first, meetings were held in the 1890 school in Darlington. While it had a lot of historical flavor, the acoustics were bad and so was the parking.

In 1970 plans were made to procure an old Erie caboose and locate it on trackage near the station. One was purchased that had been used as a club car In one of the western freight yards. The Erie brought It East, and it was stored on a siding of Abex in Mahwah. Ground was leveled off for the track, and Mr. Downing of the Erie donated ties and rails If we would pay the track crew to lay them. This was done, and the caboose moved over one Saturday. It was necessary to bring the trucks separately. These were the heaviest part of the car, and it was practical for the crane to handle in the half mile from Abex along local roads in two trips.

The history of the caboose was researched. It was built in Hoboken about 1910 according to the experts. Blueprints were secured for the Interior fittings, most of which had been removed. But it was finally painted up to use as additional museum display area. One of the main items is a topographical model of the main line of the Erie Lackawanna from Jersey City to Chicago showing all the major cities traversed ‘by the route. This was previously on display in the railroad president’s office, but it was given to us about the time they moved to Cleveland.

The Society co-sponsored an archaeological dig with the Board of Education of an 18th century house on Ridge Rd. Roland Robbins, a professional archaeologist of Lexington, Mass. had charge.



The History of the New Jersey Rapid Transit – Part II

This article, by Bernard Discini, was first published in The Old Station Timetable” in January 1978. For part I, click here.

Construction crews began the line in Paterson and worked their way north. At Glen Rock construction came to a halt. The Erie R. R. Bergen County cut-off line was In the way, so the N.J.R.T. began to build a viaduct which at completion ran 1,155 feet. Main span — the largest span on the line.

Hohokus was chosen to be N.J.R.T. headquarters. The facility was quite impressive for Its time. There was a car barn, machine shop, work equipment storage, tracks, paint shop, carpenter shop, and a power station. At Waldwick a 282 foot span was built to cross a small river. Further up the line, the N.J.R.T. began to go up hill from Waldwick to Suffern. At Mahwah a bridge was built going up grade at the Mahwah River. It was 60 feet long, with two 60 foot deck girder spans, and one concrete pier. The pier can still be seen today. Directions: follow Franklin Turnpike to the Short Line Bus Company. The Mahwah River runs in between the bus company and Suffern Distributors. Walk 160 feet from the road east – then you will see the pier in the center of the river.

At Suffern there are six pieces of rail. Directions: go north on Orange Avenue until you come to the Texaco gas station on the right, just across the Chestnut Street overpass. Park your car, cross the street and walk along the Erie R. R. tracks about 100 feet south. The rails will be in the ground vertically and are painted silver.