Roads of Yore

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.

 

 

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 ironworks. Here Adam was born in141766, and in 1805 Abraham Adam, who fathered the Mahwah Dators. The latter, who married Mary Ward of Sloatsburg, took over the ironworks from his father.

 

A Growing Town

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 drygood store and clothing store. The first ice cream and soda fountain was in the drug store with ice cream corning 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.

 

 

 

Saw Mills and Old Saws

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.

The Ramapo Valley

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 s tone 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 Ca1ifornia.” 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 Romain 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.

 

Former Governor Rodman Price

This article by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in October 1981.

The following account of the life of Rodman M. Price was taken from the 1882 History of Bergen and Passaic Counties by Clayton and Nelson (3 1/2 pages) and partly from the research of former Freeholder Chester A. Smeltzer and John Y. Dater II, “Birth and Growth of Ramsey and Mahwah”.

Rodman Price is the only Governor who came from Bergen County and he spent the last years of his life in the Ramapo Valley in Mahwah, the place now owned by Fred Wehran.

Mr. Price was born in Union Township, Sussex County, Nov. 5, 1818, when his father moved to New York City. He attended high school there, then Lawrenceville Academy and finally Princeton in 1834. Ill health cut his college short, and he then studied law with a New York lawyer. At an early age he married Matilda Sands, the daughter of a Navy captain. This gave him contacts with the Navy and in 1840 he was made a Purser. Price had a very interesting career in the Navy including very active participation in the seizure of California during the Mexican War. He lived in San Francisco for a while and then came east to New Jersey. In 1850 he was elected to Congress, but was defeated the next term. His friends said “we will make him Governor” and he was inaugurated in 1854. He was a very successful governor. He put New Jersey on the map by starting normal schools and teachers colleges. He organized the first geological survey of the State and had a very good topographical map drawn of the State. As a result of these· efforts it is claimed that the Ramapo oil well was instigated.

After his governorship, Price started a ferry line from Weehawken to New York which he ran for many years. In 1862, he came to live in the Ramapo Valley. He called the house; Hazlewood and the site is now Sun Valley Farm of Mr. Wehran. On Jan. 8, 1894, he died here, and services were held in the Ramapo Reformed Church and his granite monument still stands there.

During his campaign for Congress in and prior to 1850, Price and John Y. Dater I and Al Lydecker became close friends. It was through their joint efforts that the Ramsey Post Office was opened in 1855, the fifth one in the County. It was opened in John Y. Dater’s general store that stood on Station Square. Previous to that they had persuaded J.W. Allen, the civil engineer of the railroad, (then the Paterson and Ramapo) to adopt the present route of the line instead of up through the Ramapo Valley to Suffern. The first train came through Nov. 1, 1848. In 1852, the Erie took over the line.

My great-grandmother, Mrs. John Y. Dater, was a frequent visitor to the Price estate. I have been told that on occasion they were stuck there due to the bridge over the river being flooded. My mother and I later visited Matt Price at her home on Island Road in Mahwah. There was a son, Governeur, who lived of Franklin Turnpike, Mahwah.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

1866 – Oil Found in Mahwah

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

The scene of operations was in Mahwah near the Ramapo River 676 yards south of the Bear Swamp bridge almost directly across the river from the house of Abraham Garrison (see diary). He performed most of the field work with assistance from others. The company was incorporated for 500,000 shares listed at $5 each. They had 25 leases of land for operations totaling 3500 acres..

The big day in the Ramapo Valley was March 1, 1866, for that was the date of the incorporation of the Ramapo Valley Mining and Petroleum Co. under the laws of the· State of New York. The office of the company was 49 Exchange Place, New York.

I remember when I was a youngster seeing very peculiar objects of cast iron in our back yard when we lived on Maple St., Ramsey. My dad told me they were connected with the old oil well of which he did not know a great deal since it had happened before he was born.

When they stopped drilling in the well as set forth in the Garrison diary, the company folded. The 25 leases apparently just lapsed. They did not go deep enough to find paying oil or gas; yet there is evidence that more drilling might be productive.

Referring to the list of trustees on the centerfold – There were three Peter Ramseys involved in this area. The first one completed the purchase of the Ramsey homestead lot in 1806 on Darlington Ave. where William had established a home in 1740 and also acted as an agent of the Proprietors of East Jersey. The second Peter at his demise set aside 60 acres in the center of Ramsey for development. The third Peter is the one who was a trustee of the oil company. Both he and the first one are listed on the 1806 deed purchased from William Penn of the proprietors. Coming from New York they all apparently had plenty of money.

It was Ramsey land (60 acres and 200 feet of right-of-way) that led the Paterson & Ramapo R. R. Company in the 1840’s to call the station Ramsey’s. There is also a family legend that one of the family made very good beer. People who enjoyed this beer used to say “They were going to Ramsey’s”.

Two other locals who were trustees of the oil company were former New Jersey Governor Rodman M. Price and former State Senator John Y. Dater. Mr. Price was governor from 1854-57, the only resident of Bergen County to hold this office. His administration was very progressive. He established schools for training school teachers, and otherwise improved the public school system. He also instituted a geological survey of the state. He was previously elected to Congress in 1850 and when he failed to be reelected he was made Governor.

Born in 1818 in Vernon Twp. in Sussex Co., a member of an old pre-Revolutionary family of this county, he came to Bergen at an early age to pursue his education. He entered Princeton but ill health caused him to leave. He then secured an appointment as a Purser in the Navy and eventually arrived in one of the ships which was taking over California from the Mexicans in 1846. Price was put ashore and was very active in establishing the state government in that area. In l850 he returned east to be elected to Congress. After his term as Governor Price started the New York-Weehawken ferry which he operated for a number of years. In 1862 he settled at Hazlewood in the Ramapo Valley. This property is now owned by Fred L. Wehran.

Price still remained active in public affairs. J.Y. Dater and he were very close friends and they had a lot to do in securing the commission of the Ramsey Post Office in 1855. It is the 5th oldest in the County.

A point of interest by Price in the oil project was his insistence at the time of the geological survey while Governor that the various rock formations should be analyzed, as it was called in that period. He personally knew the people who made the survey which attracted widespread interest. It is thus very possible that it was the knowledge from this survey which sparked the idea of the oil well.

John Y. Dater (the writer’s great grandfather) was the treasurer of the Ramapo Valley Mining and Petroleum Co. He was born in Mahwah in 1815 in what used to be part of the old Island Road very near the Ramsey line. It was all part of Hohokus Township from 1848. He operated the family grist mill which stood on Masonicus Brook near the Ramsey pump station. One of the mill stones is in the front of the building. His grandfather Abraham started the mill in the l790‘s and his father Adam was also in the business.

Dater and Price had persuaded the Paterson and Ramapo R. R. to pursue its route through Ramsey and not up the Ramapo Valley. When the first train came through in 1848 Dater shifted his interests south to Ramsey. He solicited farmers to help on the right-of-way, sold ties and afterwards cord wood to fuel the locomotives.

As mentioned before Dater and Price got the Post Office started in Ramsey. According to the records in Washington the Office was opened in John Y. Dater’s general store March 31, 1855. This is also the date of the deed by which Dater purchased 22 acres from William J. Pulis who had acquired the land after Peter Ramsey’s death in 1854. Dater apparently had some agreement with Ramsey that enabled him to build the brick store and the right to stack ties and cordwood on the land. After purchase Dater erected a store building, started a lumber and coal yard and also a wagon and carriage and sleigh factory. In 1866 Dater owned a house and considerable land around the Cleveland Bridge (Bear Swamp) which he had a hand in building. The house on the east side of the Valley Road is now in a burned out condition and by the records is one of the oldest houses in the Valley. The Abraham Garrison who worked on the well was a relative by marriage to the Dater family.

 

 

Mahwah Historical Society History: First Installment

 

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

This is a short history of the Mahwah Historical Society. Back In 1965 the old 1871 railroad station stood end to E. Ramapo Ave. under the high voltage line of the local power company, and they wanted it moved or razed because of the potential hazard.

It was no longer used as a storehouse by the man who had moved it there in 1902 when the Erie went from 2 tracks to 4 and had to relocate the station. Former Mayor, Morris Ruddick suggested that a society be formed to move and restore the old building which was still structurally sound. This idea bore fruit in the spring of 1965, and the Mahwah Historical Society came into being.

The author of this account, John Y. Dater, although not a resident of Mahwah, along with this wife, was invited to join. The occasion was a meeting in the fall of 1966 when the above-named brought a collection of H. O. Havemeyer papers they had acquired that spring.

A new foundation for the station was installed on town land a few hundred feet from its 60-year old location on the street. This was done by a Naval Reserve Construction Battalion whose assistance was solicited by Peter L. Murphy, a society member and also Township Committeeman. A mover was engaged to shift the building to the new site. In the early summer of 1967 restoration work was started. It was found that the slate roof had badly disintegrated and had to be removed. Plywood was laid on the boards and over this asphalt shingles. A good sized crew of members worked for many days to accomplish with the money being raised by total contributions. Some contributed to have their names placed under shingles on the building. Work was also undertaken on the original paint color.

For the second part of this article, click here.

 

 

The Baldwin Gristmill

This article by Susanne Knudsen, was first published in the “The Old Station Timetable”  in January 1978.

When the Northwest Bergen Sewer Authority commissioned an archeological survey for their sewer lines, as required by law, they found that one of their interceptor lines would run in the vicinity of an historic site. The law also requires that in this case a more in-depth survey be done to prevent intrusion in the area.

I walked that site, known as the Baldwin Gristmill, with Ed Rutsch, the archeologist, on January 11th. It is located on the Ramapo River behind the UAW Hall. Claire Tholl, John Y. Dater and a reporter for The Record were also there.

Mr. Rutsch was able to point out for us the remnants of the dam, mill building, head race, equipment and a dam built further upstream at a later date to compensate for changing conditions in the river’s flow. He said It was probably the largest earth moving project In this part of the country; the dam measured 100 yards in length, 16 feet wide and 8 feet high, with a breastwheel for grinding grain in the Revolutionary period, (probably supplying Washington’s troops), sawing wood later and pressing cider in the late 1800’s when it was converted to a turbine mechanism. It burned down in 1919. To the untutored eye there is little to see, but Mr. Rutsch was able to make it come alive for us. Mr. Dater told us that the area had been rich in hemlock trees which provided bark for tanning. As the trees were cut down, the river silted, necessitating the upper dam. Mr. Rutsch is going to do the necessary survey work so that the area can be submitted for the National Historic Sites Register by our town Historic Sites Committee. He will also provide us with a drawing of how it looked. We need to think of some creative way to improve the area, now that it will be preserved, to make it an educational and pleasant place to visit. Any suggestions are welcome.