The Ramapo Valley
This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable”
in February 1980.
The occupation of Bergen County by the early settlers is most interesting. Bergen and most of Hudson were settled by the Holland Dutch. In 1664, when the British seized the land, it was deeded to the Board of Proprietors of East Jersey. Much of the area was available along very old Indian trails which usually followed the streams and other water areas. This was true of the Ramapo Turnpike, Paramus Road and the Plank Road over the meadows. It possibly started as an Indian trail. It was the stage coach route from up country to the city. Dobbins and Tuston of Middletown, N.Y. were given a coach franchise back in 1790. Much the same path was followed by the Erie Railroad when it came through in 1848.
The purchase of the Ramapough Tract from the Lenni Lenape in 1709 was a big event. It opened up 42,500 acres for purchase or lease. It ran from Torne Brook in Rockland County to the rock at Glen Rock, from the Ramapo Mountains east to Saddle River. The original transaction was promoted by Peter Sonmans, who claimed jurisdiction from the British branch of the Proprietors. This occasioned disputes with the American group and especially when his friend Fauconnier was authorized to sell land. He kept the money, lost his records and caused numerous suits by the Proprietors, who finally took over about 1720. His daughter was Mrs. M. Valleau, who claimed many areas. She gave Valleau Cemetery to the Paramus Church. The Minutes of the Proprietors is filled with Ramapough problems. Kierstead and the La Reaus were continually on the docket. Kierstead was a signer of the deed and built the Hopper-VanHorn house in 1720 and by 1760 was heavily in debt to the Proprietors. He had married a La Reau girl and they bailed him out. Because of litigation, the La Reau boundaries as shown on the 1762 map are extremely inaccurate and only became accurate as the area was settled.
I have a copy of the deed to the Ramapough Tract. Kierstad had a lot to do with getting the La Reaus to John Edsall of New York became owner by sheriff’s sale. In 1865 Edsall sold to John Petry of New York for $16,000, along with 138 acres. Petry was in the liquor business in New York. He borrowed $20,000 on the place and then assigned the mortgage to John Y. Dater. About 1870 Mr. Dater foreclosed on the property and thus became the owner. In 1876 Mr. Dater sold to DeCastro and Donner Sugar Refining Company.
In November 1877 Theodore A. Havemeyer rented the property and a little later bought the place and paid off all the various mortgages. He also bought the Bockee place, where his son Henry O. went to live after making extensive alterations. I have a picture of it and was in it many times. This beautiful house fell prey to arson. In 1965 Henry Havemeyer died, and in April the contents were sold at auction. R. O. Havemeyer was a member of the Yale class of 1900, was interested in the Brooklyn District Terminal Railway, which served all the pierheads of south Brooklyn. He was also one of the firm of Havemeyer and Elder which refined sugar in Brooklyn. There is still a Havemeyer Street in that area. He was a member of a sporting club which owned an island off the Carolina coast and used to summer in Newport, Rhode Island. Mr. Havemeyer build extensive buildings and operated Mountainside Farm for a number of years and which his son, Henry, kept up. He also built for his daughter the brick and stone mans; on where the Birchs used to live and is now owned by Ramapo College.
Going a bit south, there was Alfred B. Darling, who owned and operated the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, who built in 1866 a very fine frame house and farm where the Reservation is now. Mr. Darling brought with him from Vermont, E. F. Carpenter, who became his superintendent and later became prominent in Ramsey. It was his daughter who married Allie Winters and established the Mahwah Library. When Darling died in the 90’s, the land was bought by George Crocker, whose family owned the Crocker National Bank in San Francisco. Mr. Crocker had moved to New York in connection with the banking business. He spent one million in building the brick Elizabethan-style mansion, finished in 1903. When he saw the site where he built, he said “it was the most beautiful building spot from Maine to California.” Mr. Crocker also built St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ramsey in memory of his wife, Emma. Mr. Carpenter gave the land for the building. Emerson MacMillin next owned the property, having made his money operating electric powered suburban railways across New Jersey.
The last and present owner of the property is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark, who established there the Seminary and Church of the Immaculate Conception.