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.

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.

 

Mahwah Cemeteries of the Past

This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in the “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1983.

For the most part churchyard cemeteries were the last resting places for the early farmers of the Ramapo Valley. Ordinarily they would attend the nearest church. The state line was no barrier to the people who lived at Suffern or in the Clove. The Ramapo Reformed churchyard holds many of the workers from Pierson’s Iron Works, and the miners and woodcutters who labored for the various local iron mines.

The choices were few. Those in the Masonicus area took their families to the Reformed Church in Saddle River. Those living in the Fardale section attended the Wyckoff Reformed Church or the Ponds Church in Oakland. Farmers in the upper Ramapo Valley went to the Reformed Church on Island Road in Mahwah. In each of these old cemeteries can be found grave markers inscribed with the names of oldtime landowners – at Wyckoff, Van Gelder, Ackerman and Terhune; at Saddle River, Doremus and Van Blarcom and De Baun; in Mahwah, the Wanamaker, Hennion and Hopper; and names from north of the line, Pierson, Suffern and Townsend.

Predating the Reformed churches was the Lutheran Church started by early incomers about 1724. It was a log, then wooden structure located on Island Road near Moffatt Road. It served the local families until 1785 when the Ramapo Reformed Church was formed. On Moffatt Road there is a very old cemetery. Since it is located in the old church area and there is a deed for a cemetery given to the Lutheran Church by a Maysinger, this is probably the old Lutheran Church burying ground and certainly many of the graves hold people who attended that church.

The earliest decipherable burial is 1770, only initials being given. Much earlier are the rough field stones with no inscriptions serving the purpose of marking before any gravestone worker appeared. There were over seventy burials and probably more. Many belong to the Wanamaker, Maysineer, Carlough, Bevans and Fox families. A notable stone marks the grave of John Suffern, infant son of John and Mary Suffern. Until Route 17 pushed through Mahwah, this was a pleasant rural countryside. The site of the cemetery on a sandy hill overlooked farms and pastures, a quiet, serene resting place.

The highway cut into the hillside almost to the graves at the edge. Moffatt Road was lined with new homes. Brush grew into trees, vandalism wreaked havoc among the stones, erosion wore down the steep gouged-out slope, threatening a final destruction of hundred year old graves. Today, this is a neglected place, reflecting the callous indifference of the town. A site that should be a monument to pioneer ancestors is a testimonial to historic insensibility.

The Ramapo mountain people did not come down into the valley for burials. We know about two small hidden cemeteries marked with field stones up in the hills. One was obliterated when the pipeline gouged through the mountains, the other is recognized as a burial place only by those who have hunted it out. The population was never very large and there may be more lonely forgotten unmarked graves scattered through the hills.

Throughout the valley some small plots of ground were set aside on the farms for a family cemetery where the graves were marked, kept in good condition and probably visited often. There are only a few under the bulldozer. A few were spared, known t6 town planners, with builders forbidden to disturb them. What is left of the family plot of the Youngs who farmed along Youngs Road lies between two houses in the Fawn Hill development. Anna and James and two of their children lie here with Pulis neighbors.

The new Apple Ridge townhouses on Airmount Ave. are being built around a small fenced family plot. Protected for years by its obscure location, it may be the last unprotected family cemetery in Mahwah.

Two local family cemeteries have survived in good condition because they have not been entirely neglected. The best known is the Hopper plot which is located on the grounds of the historic Hopper house on Valley Road. Because it is so near the road, it is an easy target for vandals, but for the same reason there is a measure of protection. Here are found graves marked with early names in the valley and the earliest known grave of a Bartholf. It may be that of the very first Bartholf to locate here.

Even more fortunate is the Bogert family cemetery on Chapel Road. Here an unknown number of Bogerts, Hoppers and Pulises are buried. The earliest date known is 1799, but there are a number of simple fieldstones which may predate that. The original plot is well cared for and this is a fair sample of what the Lutheran cemetery on Moffatt Road should look like. An additional area is the property of the Lutheran Redeemer Church of Ramsey.

There may be other small private burial sites hidden in brush covered field and not yet ploughed under. All of these early cemeteries provide us with a continuity with the past; a reminder of those early settlers who cleared the land, endured the rigors of pioneer life, lived through the raids and alarms of the Revolution, and left their names to many of the present inhabitants of Mahwah.

 

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.

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.

 

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.).

The History of Fardale Streets

This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in January 1978.

It would be impossible to find Chapel Road on a 1936 map of Mahwah because, although the street is shown, it was called St. Moritz Ave. It was named for an estate at the end of Fardale Ave., later a sandpit, site of a murder and now a development of small homes. It was quite a show place with a fine house, outbuildings, a barn and an extensive orchard. The house burned and the abandoned barn became a haven for squatters who had to be evicted by the police.

The chapel for which the street was renamed is still in use. The land for it was given by the Bogert family as was the Lutheran Cemetery land. The chapel was built as a non-denominational place of worship and Mrs. Hopper, a Bogert, taught Sunday School there. Her house is still being lived in on Campgaw Road. For some time the chapel stood unused until Peter Tissing opened it for a while. Later John Van Brookhoven and John Van Gelder conducted a successful Sunday School program which expanded to church services conducted by visiting preachers, the first of whom was Mr. Klaus, a lay reader in the Pentecostal Church in Wyckoff. The first wedding held in the chapel was that of John’s son, Henry Van Brookhoven, to Cornelia Tissing in 1939.

Fardale Ave. was once Campgaw Road, same name as the present Campgaw Road but separated from it by several farms. On it stood Fardale School #6, now part of the Fardale firehouse. Classes were small with pupils going to School #2 after 6th grade.

Morris Ave. was only a paper street until an angry resident, tired of paying taxes with no services, pestered the town into improving it. Harry Morris, a plumber, lived there in 1940. He stored his supplies in the old barn which probably antedates the house.

Bartholf’s Lane never did lead to his farm as so many lanes of those days did. It was cut through by Gilbert Bartholf as a road through his property connecting Youngs Road and Fardale Ave. A daughter had a house on the lane.

Down along Youngs Road west of the Young Homestead and across the pond is a house once owned by H. T. Grundland, a radio announcer and showman. He kept a stable and often had show girls out who rode horses along the local roads, no doubt causing considerable neck-stretching by the men in the fields.

Along in the 40’s Fardale firemen used a building still standing at the S bend on Forest Ave., a two-car garage which they rented. In it was kept a pumper donated by the Civil Defense. Three local men with pickups capable of pulling it had the key job of getting it to the fires, C. Bartholf, H. Carlough and E. Kjellander. Later, a Reo fire truck was added, but It was the pumper that responded first when a new brooder coop on the Fardale Poultry Farm burned down fortunately with no loss of life, poultry or otherwise. When heat was to be put in the chapel, the firemen, using Harry Carlough’s equipment and horse power, dragged soil from beneath the foundation to put in a basement. It was a return favor because the firemen were always allowed to hold their suppers in the building.

Actually, Fardale Avenue was quite an economic asset to the town with a thriving egg business, Bartholf’s farm and orchards and Hieland’s seasonal harvesting of two to three thousand pints of blueberries from the swampy land on the north side of the road.