This unattributed article was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.
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.”
The 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 house 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.
This article, by Dick Greene, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in Fall 1987.
Blandina 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.
This article by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in October 1981.
The following account of the life of Rodman M. Price was taken from the 1882 History of Bergen and Passaic Counties by Clayton and Nelson (3 1/2 pages) and partly from the research of former Freeholder Chester A. Smeltzer and John Y. Dater II, “Birth and Growth of Ramsey and Mahwah”.
Rodman Price is the only Governor who came from Bergen County and he spent the last years of his life in the Ramapo Valley in Mahwah, the place now owned by Fred Wehran.
Mr. Price was born in Union Township, Sussex County, Nov. 5, 1818, when his father moved to New York City. He attended high school there, then Lawrenceville Academy and finally Princeton in 1834. Ill health cut his college short, and he then studied law with a New York lawyer. At an early age he married Matilda Sands, the daughter of a Navy captain. This gave him contacts with the Navy and in 1840 he was made a Purser. Price had a very interesting career in the Navy including very active participation in the seizure of California during the Mexican War. He lived in San Francisco for a while and then came east to New Jersey. In 1850 he was elected to Congress, but was defeated the next term. His friends said “we will make him Governor” and he was inaugurated in 1854. He was a very successful governor. He put New Jersey on the map by starting normal schools and teachers colleges. He organized the first geological survey of the state and had a very good topographical map drawn of the state. As a result of these· efforts it is claimed that the Ramapo oil well was instigated.
After his governorship, Price started a ferry line from Weehawken to New York which he ran for many years. In 1862, he came to live in the Ramapo Valley. He called the house; Hazlewood and the site is now Sun Valley Farm of Mr. Wehran. On Jan. 8, 1894, he died here, and services were held in the Ramapo Reformed Church and his granite monument still stands there.
During his campaign for Congress in and prior to 1850, Price and John Y. Dater I and Al Lydecker became close friends. It was through their joint efforts that the Ramsey Post Office was opened in 1855, the fifth one in the County. It was opened in John Y. Dater’s general store that stood on Station Square. Previous to that, they had persuaded J.W. Allen, the civil engineer of the railroad, (then the Paterson and Ramapo) to adopt the present route of the line instead of up through the Ramapo Valley to Suffern. The first train came through Nov. 1, 1848. In 1852, the Erie took over the line.
My great-grandmother, Mrs. John Y. Dater, was a frequent visitor to the Price estate. I have been told that on occasion they were stuck there due to the bridge over the river being flooded. My mother and I later visited Matt Price at her home on Island Road in Mahwah. There was a son, Governeur, who lived of Franklin Turnpike, Mahwah.
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.