After over a year of work, the Museum’s archive volunteers have completed processing the John W. Bristow Papers. Archivist Cathy Moran Hajo worked with a team of volunteers and college students to organize, re-house, and describe one of the Museum’s largest and richest archival collections. A guide to his papers has been posted on the Museum website.
John W. Bristow (1924-2010) was a high school teacher with an abiding interest in history. He moved to Mahwah in 1973 and became involved with the work of the Mahwah Historical Society and the Mahwah Historic Sites Commission. He became Mahwah Town Historian in 1993 and is best-known for his newspaper column “This Month In Mahwah History” which ran in the Home and Store News from 1985-1992.
John W. Bristow, taken in 2008 (Courtesty of Ruth Bristow Portela).
The Bristow Papers was a large and unorganized collection when it arrived at the Museum. After separating materials like newspaper clippings, Mahwah Historical Society and Mahwah Historical Sites Commission records, and duplicates, the collection still spans 24 boxes! Among its highlights are John Bristow’s many presentations on local history, a rich collection of photographs and the photographic slides that accompanied his lectures, and ephemera he gathered while conducting research.
We could not have completed this major reorganization without the help of a dedicated team of students who volunteered on Saturday mornings. We want to thank Kevin Cosenza, Jeffrey Fischer, Meg Hajo, Lee Herman, Nicholas Incorvaia, Cristina Macari, and Jennifer Zgola for all their efforts to make this collection available to researchers. I would also like to thank Ruth Bristow Portela, John Bristow’s daughter, for sharing photographs and biographical information that we used to write up the guide to his papers.
To view the papers, please arrange an appointment by either calling the Museum or e-mailing the archives directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in the “Old Station Timetable,” in February 1982.
Richard Snow is on the tax rolls of Woburn, Mass. in 1645. A record of his will is recorded 1676, and he died in 1677. It is believed he arrived in the Colonies in 1935 as a young man on the sailing ship, Enterprise. He is the progenitor of a vast family network that is scattered across the country, as far as Texas and California. A great number of the early family members were born and lived around Colrain, Mass. In 184), Asaph Snow was born, he enlisted at the age of 18 and fought through several campaigns during the Civil War. After the war, he stayed in the south working as a United States claims agent. While stationed at Camp Dennison in Ohio during his training, he married Teresa McKinney and they lived in Tazewell, Tenn. where he was the postmaster. He died on his farm nearby in 1899.
His son, Elmer John Snow, was born in Tazewell in 1869. He came to Hillburn, N.Y. in 1884 to work for the Ramapo Iron Works owned by a relative, William Wait Snow (1828-1910). This firm manufactured car wheels and other railroad devices. Mr. Snow also bound the first Webster Dictionary! Naturally, Elmer John Snow met W.W. Snow’s daughter, Clara Amanda, and married her in 1892. The iron works later became the Ramapo Wheel and Foundry Company.
W.W. Snow had been trained in the foundry business since boyhood, working for various employers in Massachusetts. With financial backing, he started his own business near the Hudson River and later bought land from the Suffern family in Hillburn. This included a mill, 20 houses and a store, and that is how the town of Hillburn started.
The Worthington Pump Company employed Elmer John in 1899 to put up a large pumping station in Hawaii. Returning to the mainland, he again joined his father-in-law serving as superintendent in charge of design and construction for a new brake shoe factory -now known as Abex – and part of Illinois Central. As director and a member of the board, he had a great deal to do with the growth and prosperity of the business. The Snow houses in Hillburn were destroyed when the N.Y. Thruway was built.
Mrs. Peter D. Ash (Oliver Snow) lived in a house off Miller Road, now in the Oak Hill Estates in Mahwah, N.J. Of her sons, Peter is living near Mt. Snow in Vermont and, Charles lives in Litchfield, Conn. A home on Olney Road, once occupied by Elmer Snow, is still in the family. Mr. Howard D. MacPherson, whose late wife was Mildred Snow. lives there now. She was a great-granddaughter of W.W. Snow.
The Snow family recognized the poverty and deprived conditions under which the mountain people lived years ago. They were forefront in starting a school on the mountain, a one room building with a huge fireplace. A nurse, Miss Mack lived in a comfortable house not far from the school. She provided medical help to the neglected families. Her expenses were paid by the family.
Although the Snow family is no longer prominent in local affairs as “Snow”, the line is carried on under other family names. These include MacPherson, Bristow and Vilmar, just to name three of them. Another great-granddaughter, Mrs. Dorothy Snow Vilmar, lives in her uncle’s house (Homer H. Snow) on Mahwah Road. Her sister, Eugenia Snow Averill, lives in Willbraham. Mass. Her brother’s (Douglas Snow 1934-73) children live in the New Paltz, N.Y. area. How many more area residents can trace their heritage back to William Wait Snow?