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.

 

Cemetery of the Old Ramapo Lutheran Church, Moffatt Road, Mahwah – Chapter II

This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in April 1980. For the first part, click here.

Henry Frederick, 1729-1790, and several of his children are nearby.

John Bush, who died in 1812, could have been a son of Samuel Bush, who owned lot #96A south of the Frederick land.

Michael Fisher owned #154, including Hilltop Rd. There is a stone listing Mikel Fisher, 1722-1802, with two Fisher women, Mary, who died at 89 in 1812, and Catrin (Fishar), 1777-1793. A few years ago, Fanny Fisher Bartold, who lived in the Fardale section, died in her 100th year. She was raised in the Airmont area of Ramsey, which includes the old Fisher tract.

Adjoining the Fisher land is that of Conradt Brown, -1793 and Mary, his wife, 1777-1793. On the stone, the name is spelled Broun and Conrad loses its T.

One small stone reminds us that “Here lyeth the body of John Suffern, son of John and Mary Suffern of New Antrim, 11 mo., 1777.” On Darlington Ave., west of Grove St., lot #132 is in the name of Mary Ramsey. The young couple settled in Suffern (New Antrim) in 1773 and probably came to the nearest church for services. John Ramsey was one of the founders of the Dutch Reformed Church, and there he and many of his family are buried. There were 11 children just a short distance away from the boy who might have been his firstborn.

The Messenger family settled lot #24. This family too varied the spell ing of its name. Coonrad Mausenger, -1804, Nicholas Maysinger, 1760?-1804, Susannah, the wife of Nicholas Messenger, -1843, and Michael, 1774-1852 and Mary, 1777-1859. Lot #24 was taken by Henry Messenger. It was he who originally gave the church land to the Lutheran Church. Although not marked, he MUST be buried there.

There are many Carlough graves, and since a Carlough was an owner of a lot in the tract, here could be another of our very earliest residents. Some of the stones leave us wondering. Was Molle Hunter really Molly? Who was the Asler (Esler) family who was buried between 1774 and l798? What early names are hidden in the initialed and unmarked stones?

And what of Elias Fall; who died Jan. 31, 1771 at the age of 88? Who could the man have been, a strange name among the German and Dutch families of the early congregation?

This forgotten burial ground is as important in the history of Mahwah as Lorn Hill to Plymouth or Trinity Churchyard to New York. There must be some way that it can be saved for the future. It’s almost too late!

 

Cemetery of the Old Ramapo Lutheran Church, Moffatt Road, Mahwah – Chapter I

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

 in February 1980. For a continuation of the article, click here.

The congregation of the Ramapo Lutheran Church chose a sandy hill west of the church on what is now Moffatt Road for its burial ground. It overlooked the valley up to the Ramapo hills. Never did they envision the bustle of a crowded highway, nor the encroachment that today puts the hill in danger of gradually sliding, grave by grave, onto the border of Route 17.

It is a neglected plot of ground in imminent danger of total destruction as land values ‘increase and this’ irreplaceable part of Mahwah’s historic past becomes a burden on its present owner.

The first log church of the early German Lutheran inhabitants was built on Island Road near Moffatt Road in 1720. It was abandoned in 1789, but burials continued into the middle 1800’s. The early group was probably partly absorbed by the Dutch Reformed Church which was formed in 1785. That building was built in 1795.

There are probably many unmarked graves from that early time. Certainly there are many that are marked by a simple field stone without inscriptions. Others bear only initials chiseled in by some survivor, their family names a matter of guesswork. Among these are probably members of the families of the oldest settlers of the valley, men and women who came north from the Paramus and Hackensack area and west from settlements along the Hudson. The earliest legible date is 1758, with about 45 other stones in the 1700’s. After 1867, the cemetery seems to have been abandoned.

Derick Wanamaker was an original lessee in the Ramapo tract in 1740. A few legible stones may be his descendants, M., 1729; Richard, 1750; James, 1752. A young boy, Josiah, buried in 1839 is noted as the tenth son of John (no daughters are mentioned). Henry and Peter W.-10t #155 on the Ramapo Tract map had Airmount Road on its northern border. Susannah W.-#139 had land between Island Road the the railroad tracks. Derick’s family had been a potent force in the development of this area.

The Hemions too have imprinted their name on the community, since Stephen Hemion (Hemmion) on the stone selected lot #150. He was buried here with his wife, Ellen, in 1791 with many of his descendants nearby. The family name was variously spelled Hemmion and Hemion, each different from the spelling on the early 1787 survey.

David Fox 1755-1800 and his wife, Catherine Hemion – 1831 farmed lot #120 on the east side Frederick (lot #72) which was east of the Ramapo River on both sides of the present state line. Their children and grandchildren lie with them, the last being David D. Fox 1793-1869. Some of the Fox family still living in the area can probably trace their ancestry to this early settler, whose grave lies uncared for in the little cemetery. (continued)