Strawberries Were the Cash Crop

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

 in December 1979.

Masonicus, like most of Mahwah back in those days, was an area of farms, pastures and orchards. There were wood lots, but open fields allowed views east to the Palisades and north to the Ramapo ridges. Strawberries were the cash crop that paid taxes like the $8 that Ed Smith paid, whose strawberry acreage is now covered by the IBM building. He brought wagon loads of the berries to the railroad siding at Tallmans to be shipped to market in New York.

Carlough’s dairy farm raised acres of hay and corn. One of his pastures was taken by the Mahwah Water Works. No orchards required extensive spraying, if any at all, and still produced perfect fruit. His pond, Carlough’s Pond, where local boys could swim in the few hours theyhad from farm chores, has become Silver Creek, a name that is neither historical nor descriptive.

Pelz’s cider mill is gone too. The family that provided apples and cider to generations at last had to bow to change, although the family is still part of Mahwah’s people.

There was a one-room school in Masonicus, where the old fire house was, down in the hollow by the brook; thirty pupils to one teacher; grades one to eight. Miss Reed is remembered as one of the dedicated breed.

No great sprawling shopping centers then. One by one the peddlers came, welcome visitors and purveyors of the needs that could not be provided by the home farm. The meat man, the baker, the dry goods van, and the tea and coffee wagon all traveled the dirt roads from crossroad to crossroad. The roads had no fancy names, but each corner was identified by the nearest inhabitant.

Fred Grant cut ice on Carlough’s Pond and kept the ice boxes filled. Jimmy Hopper was a well-patronized blacksmith and so was Shuart’s forge, where wheels were made and much of the other iron hardware so much needed.

In 1902 and until Mahwah was formed, taxes were paid to Ho-Ho-Kus Township at an office kept by James Shuart and later John Ackerman.

Thanks to Mr. Everett Shuart of Airmont Avenue who also showed me his family tree where the first Shuart back in the 1700’s spelled his name, Adolphus Sjoert.

 

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