Former Governor Rodman Price
By John Y. Dater, The Old Station Timetable, 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.