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)