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.
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.
This article by Charles Anderson was first published in “The Old Station Timetable,” of January 1978.
The area in which Skylands is now located was a prime source of wood for the smelting operations at Ringwood during the 1700’s. Small farms were carved out of the stony hills where some level ground could be found. These were mostly along the Eagle Valley Road out of Sloatsburg (NY) and along the Wanaque Valley Road. The Ramapo Mountains were gradually cut up among small owners.
Around 1880, Stetson, a counsel for J.P. Morgan, with several associates bought up 1200 acres of these small holdings and established several large estates. Part of the Stetson property is now Skylands. His mansion was baronial and impressive. Sheep were grazed on the front lawn. A nine-hole golf course was laid out on land laboriously leveled. His wife was a paraplegic but could drive a buggy. Each year he cut additional miles of wood road through the estate so that she could travel about the property. Eventually, over 20 miles of road were cleared. Most of them are still available for hiking. They are easily distinguished from old wood roads used for lumbering by their easy grades, uniform width and solidly built stone bridges.
In the 1900’s Clarence Lewis bought property In Mahwah and lived here. He was a lawyer for the multi-million dollar firm owned by the Solomons of New York. Retiring a very wealthy man in 1933, aged 53, he was to live 30 years more. He owned a large piece of land east of the Birch property on the north side of the Ramapo River extending to a piece of Pierson property which extended west from the Glove and north to Pierson Ridge. Another large acreage owned by Lewis lay on both sides of the easterly third of Bear Swamp Pond, separated from the Stetson estate by a small piece of property owned by one Hines. When the Stetson property was up for sale, he bought it intending to join it with the Bear Swamp acreage. It is believed that Hines refused to sell, and he was not able to do this.
However, Skylands was his. He tore the house down. There are two stories giving a reason why, neither of which may be true. One states that his mother did not like the Stetson house, the other, that being a tallish man he bumped his head in several places while going through the house. At, any rate, the present building was put up in Jacobean style from stone quarried locally and embellished with interiors purchased from old castles in Europe. His mother died a year before the house was completed.
In the many years that he lived at Skylands, being an ardent horticulturist and well able to afford 60 gardeners, he developed an English style series of plantings complete with statuary and vistas, most of which are being restored today. Late in life he offered his estate to the New York Botanical Gardens. They insisted on a large endowment which he was unwilling to provide. The deal fell through. Later, he offered the property to Shelton College at a very reasonable price on condition that they follow his advice on management. They would not listen, he discontinued his help, and the college soon went bankrupt.
Developers were ready to purchase and carve the estate when Robert Roe purchased for the state 250 acres, the first acquisition of land under the Green Acres Program. House and grounds had been sadly neglected during the college ownership. Some restoration work was done on the house, and work was started In reclaiming the neglected gardens. However, with only ten gardeners, reclamation Is progressing slowly. The dedicated staff had made it possible for us to visualize the beauty of the gardens.’ Each year new discoveries of hidden beauties are made. Lewis’s dream of an estate extending from Skylands to the Ramapo has been realized. The boundaries of Ramapo Park have been extended past Bear Swamp Pond and now join with the wooded acreage of Skylands.