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 ofN 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 1earned 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 millenium 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 and Orange Counties. In 1881, the name was changed as a relection of more grandious 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, eventual.1y, 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.

 

The Railroad Comes to Mahwah

This article, written by Dick Greene, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in March 1984.

When the trees are bare and the wind is right, the blare of diesel horns from the Conrail mainline through Mahwah can be heard all the way to Fardale and into the Ramapo Valley.

For over 100 years, until the mid-1950s, the sound people heard was the mournful wail of the steam whistle, immortalized in Country and Western song and story.

Sparsely settled since the 1700s, Mahwah had its first real growth “boom” with the arrival of the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad in 1848, after the line pushed north from Ridgewood to Suffern. Why Suffern? Simple – because there the P&R could connect with the Erie Railroad Company which was building a line linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The Erie was the culmination of a grand design by W. C. Redford for a railroad system from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River. Chartered by the State of New York in 1832, the Erie was an INTRAstate railroad and was not permitted to cross over the State’s boundaries as did the INTERstate New York Central.

The 446-mile Erie line was completed May 14, 1851, and ran from Piermont (on the Hudson) to Dunkirk (on Lake Erie). It was the longest railroad in the United States. The main drawback to the Erie was its eastern terminus at Piermont, where passengers and freight were shuttled on steamboats for 26 miles on the Hudson River to and from New York City.

To capitalize on this “inconvenience”, the operators of the Paterson and Hudson Railroad sought permission from the N.J. Legislature to extend their Jersey City to Paterson line from Paterson to the New York State border at New Antrim. New Antrim had a large and impressive station built by the Erie, which they called “Suffern Station”, after John Suffern. The hamlet, as well, soon changed its name to Suffern.

On October 19, 1848, the Paterson and Ramapo subsidiary of the Paterson and Hudson opened its service to the State line on a single track railroad surveyed and designed by John Allen, after whom Allendale is named.

There were only a few stations on the line: Suffern (actually in Mahwah, at the State line), Ramsey’s Station, Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Godwinville and Paterson. Later, the Bergen County Railroad would connect the Paterson and Ramapo tracks at Ridgewood Junction to Hoboken.

With no real standards in use, railroad designers used various gauges–the width between the railheads. The Erie was built with a 6′ -0″ gauge and the P&R with 4′ -10″. At the time of construction, this mattered not, as no physical connection existed due to the INTRAstate nature of both lines.

Passengers and freight were transported by carriage and wagon for a mile between the two stations in the two states.

 

 

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.

 

 

Hohokus Township

This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in February 1982.

From the late 18th century this area of Bergen County was part of Franklin Township, named for the last royal governor of New Jersey. He was a son of Benjamin Franklin., February 5. 1849, the New Jersey Legislature established Hohokus Township running north from the Ridgewood line to the state line at Mahwah. It ran from the Ramapo Mts. east to the Saddle River and embraced the towns of Hohokus, Waldwick, Saddle River, Allendale, Upper Saddle River, Ramsey and Mahwah. The bill mentions crossing the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad at Hohokus.

The name Hohokus comes from the Lenape Indians. It means “cleft in the rock” and was their name for the 100 ft. deep cleft where the railroad crosses Hohokus Brook near Hohokus. Ramsey was the chief town. The new Township Committee first held meetings in the old Mt. Prospect Inn on Franklin Turnpike. Later it went to a building part of the Ramsey Hotel at the corner of E. Main Street and Church Street. Here township elections were held using locally printed slip of paper and a box with a slot in the top. Here were the Township offices where you paid your taxes and collected the 50¢ bounty for killing hawks.

In the 1890’s the State passed the borough act and as a result Waldwick withdrew, also Saddle River and Hohokus. In 1908 Ramsey became a borough and in 1910 Mahwah became Hohokus Township. From 1792 there was a stage line on the Franklin Turnpike running from Jersey City and New York to Goshen, N.Y. and then to Albany. The first train on the Paterson and Ramapo railroad came through in 1848 running to the state line. To get to Suffern and the Erie station you had to take a horse and wagon. The Erie then ran over the Piermont branch to the Hudson and then by boat to New York. ‘In 1852 the Erie acquired the Paterson and Ramapo and the Passaic and Hudson from Paterson so that you could get to Jersey City and New York by Ferry in about an hour instead of the previous4 hour trip. Ramsey and Hohokus and Glen Rock were the only stations before Paterson.

 

 

 

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. III 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 visiter 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.

 

 

Old Railroad Days

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

The Paterson and Ramapo Railroad ran its first train through Ramsey from Paterson to Suffern in 1848. Then you could get a horse and wagon to take you to the Suffern Erie station where the Branch Line runs over to Piermont. The Paterson and Hudson R.R. would take you from Paterson to Jersey City where you could take a ferry to New York. All this took about a quarter of the time it took to run from Piermont on the Hudson down to New York by boat.

In those days there was a Ho-Ho-Kus station where the road runs west from the Turnpike to the old factories along the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. Here is where Ridgewood people had to come if they wanted to take the train to Paterson or New York. Where the present Ho-Ho-Kus station is was called Undercliff when it was built some 10 years later. About 1852 the Erie R.R. leased both of the short roads and thus came to New York. The only problem was the Erie tracks were 5′ 2” gauge, and the other roads were standard or 4′ 8 1/2″. There is a picture of this in the Old Mahwah station.

In the beginning, Ramsey had only a shed by the tracks just north of Main St. which was then called Dater Ave. The present station was built in 1862, and the room in Its south end was used for express and freight. Also, by the crossing and the open passenger shed was a small building called the “flag shanty”. Here there was a railroad man who came out and waved a white flag on the crossing when a train was coming.

This lasted until about 1900 when a “gate tower” was built there and pneumatic gates were installed either side of the track. The operator had to push one arm to work one gate and another to work the other. Then in 1903 the four tracks were put through from Suffern to south of Glen Rock where the main line went to Paterson and the Bergen Co. Short Cut ran through Warren Point and Fairlawn to Rutherford with 4 tracks to Jersey City. Old timers said that in the early days trains crossing the meadows often derailed or the tracks sunk. Then there was the trip through the old tunnel In Bergen Hill when a trainman came through to light the gas lights in each car.

There was not much electricity around in the early 1900’s. Rockland Electric had just secured their franchise through Mr. Elmer Snow of Mahwah. About 1908 the crossing gates were made electrical, and they were operated from the old gate tower. There was also a tower east of the tracks down where the parking lot is. Here there were big levers to operate the switches from one track to another and also levers to operate the block signals. This was before they had electric block signals or switch motors. Lon Hagerman of Mahwah ran this tower for years, and we kids used to go visit him and help pull the levers.

In the old days when it was a pleasure to travel across country there were express trains through Ramsey. There was the Chicago Express, the Erie Limited, the Southern Tier and the Tuxedo Express for the big shots in Tuxedo Park. There was also a Wells Fargo train which carried money, and guards would get out, armed with rifles, and patrol the train. Another feature was the figure 4 devices near the east and west bound tracks on which mail bags were hung. The mall cars had arms which picked up these bags, thus insuring fast service.

 

 

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 largely because two Sloats and two Daters were married into the Hollenbake family of Dutchess County. On Stony Brook 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. late 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.