Recollections of the Past

This unattributed article was first published in the “Old Station Timetable” in February 1981.

The late Frank Scherer told Gordon Miesse during an interview in 1974 he remembered coming to Mahwah as a young man back in 1900. He referred to this area as “Vacation Country.”

Hiking seemed to be a favorite past time for the younger generation. -Mr. H. O. Havemeyer, Sr., also invited the young people to his home on Route 202 three times each summer for an evening of dancing.

He recalled Franklin Turnpike was paved in 1915 -the year he moved here permanently.

Mr. Scherer reminisced about Charles Bacon and Charles Ellis who were among the first officers of the American Legion Post: Frank Rothhaupt who was the first fire chief, and Raymond Dator who served as the first police chief.
He was a senior director of the Mahwah Savings & Loan Association, and spoke about Albert J. Winter who was president and David Hopper who served for more than 50 years as Sec.

Hazelwood on the Ramapo

This unattributed article was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.

hazelwood Following his retirement from office in 1857, N.J. Governor Rodman Price and his family moved to Mahwah in 1862 and established a dairy farm, “Hazelwood on the Ramapo.” Price became so involved in farm machinery and the ensilage system of feeding cows that the American Agriculture and Dairy Association called him a leading agriculturist. In 1866, he owned 250 acres, which later increased to 400. Hazelwood was one of the earlier large estates in the Ramapo Valley, noted for its beautiful gardens and European art and furnishings. Price remodeled the house in 1881 and the “Bergen Democrat” wrote, “It is a magnificent place.”

mapThe map at right, from the 1876 “Atlas of Bergen County,” shows Price’s home, west of the Ramapo Valley Road and Ramapo River. To the north is »Valley Farm,” (near the intersection of Ramapo Valley Road and present-day Darlington Ave,), owned by A.B. Darling, who came to Mahwah in 1872. Further north, the properties of Bockee and Petry eventually became part of Theodore Havemeyer’s “Mountain Side Farm.” Havemeyer came in 1878.

Price died in 1894, and his wife Matilda in 1897. Eventually, the property was annexed to the Kohler estate to the north. The house was rented out and fell into disrepair. In 1942, Hazelwood and part of the Kohler estate were acquired by Fred and Margaret Wehran. who named the property “Sun Valley Farm.” They removed the third floor of the house and substantially remodeled it. In 1964, the bouse was torn down and replaced by another.

The photo above is from a 1942 “Previews” real estate brochure (collection of Carol Greene), and is the only photograph of the original Price home known to exist. Badly damaged and written on, it was restored by Sieglinde Lehmann of Oakland.

 

 

The Farmer Goes to Market: The Railroad Connects Mahwah Farms with the City

This article, by Dick Greene, was first published in The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.

centennial-railBlandina 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.

 

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. 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. 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 scrapters 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.

 

 

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.

 

A Story of the Andrew Hopper House

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in September 1977.

The late H. O. Havemeyer showed me a letter written to him by Erskine Hewitt, of the famous Hewitts of Ringwood and vicinity, stating that Henry B. Hagerman as an  innkeeper on the Valley Road had saved George Washington in 1779 from being captured by the British.

The statement did not sound right to me because the historical records had stated that George Washington had stayed at Andrew Hopper’s at least 5 times. Hopper also secured intelligence from the British in New York which he passed on to Washington. Also Benjamin Lossing in his Field Book of the American Revolution said a lot about the Hopper house and even drew a picture of it which he published in the book. He also quotes Mrs. E. O. Smith’s visit with Mrs. Hopper in 1849.

As a result I went to the old Hopper cemetery on the Valley Road where Andrew and his wife Maria LaReau are buried. Henry Hagerman rests there too – born 1790, died 1858. I asked Mr. Havemeyer if he believed the Hewitt story? His answer, “Why not? He got it from his father Abram.” My reply was, “How could Hagerman help Gen. Washington when he wasn’t born until 1790?” and I quoted the old gravestone.

The above story is published in full in Dater’s (my father) history of Mahwah and Ramsey which was not too well researched by the young man who helped him. Their facts on the Havemeyer estate are far better. The book is out of print but a few libraries have copies.

I do not know if the British raid is true with the hero as Andrew Hopper. But there are two unnamed gravestones in the cemetery with the date 1779. The story says two were killed by the gun taken down from the mantel.

Mrs. Andrew Hopper cherished the memory of George Washington and is quoted in Mrs. Smith’s book “Salamander”. The visit was in 1849. “We were shown the bed and furniture, remaining as when he (Washington) used them; for the room is kept carefully locked. Here were the.dark chintz hangings beneath which he had slept; •the quaint furniture, old walnut cabinets, dark, massive and richly carved, a Dutch Bible mounted with silver clamps and a chain of the same material…paintings upon glass of cherished members of the Orange family. These and other objects of interest remain as at that day.” (Note. I have a beautifully carved bedroom mantel which came from the Hopper house when it was torn down in 1890.).

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.