Wanaque Library is committed to preserving the history of Wanaque, Haskell, and northern Passaic County. Our local history archive includes numerous clippings, photos and scrapbooks from the library’s collection, as well as many items that were donated to the library by the late Sam DeBenedetto. We are slowly digitizing our collection and enlarging the local history section of our website. If you or your relatives or friends have documents, photos or items at home that pertain to the history of this area of Passaic County, please consider sharing them with us – either by making plans to donate them, or by allowing us to digitize part of your collection so it can be accessible to others with an interest in our area’s local history. If you’re interested in learning more or are interested in checking out what we have in our archive, please contact me – stop by the library, call me at 973-839-4434, or email me at martin [at] wanaquelibrary.org. Gratefully, Mary Martin, Library Director, Wanaque Public Library
Ernestine “Teeny” Petras, whose hometown was Haskell, started playing in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1944 with Milwaukee Chicks (who later became the Grand Rapids Chicks). She played from 1949-1951 with the Kenosha Comets before ending her career in 1952 with the Battle Creek Belles. In 1944, Teeny’s salary started at $75 per week. By the end of her baseball career, she was making $500 per week. During her time in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, she was the league’s top fielding shortstop in 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950 and 1951. Suburban Trends columnist Howard Lee Ball, who knew Teeny, described her as “one heck of a baseball player. She was just as competitive as they come and a golden glove on the defense.” Ernestine also played basketball for the New Jersey Amazons in 1947-1949. The 1992 movie “ A League of Their Own” was based on the life of the women in the AAGPBL. Teeny and her teammates on the Grand Rapids Chicks were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in November of 1988. Here is a link to Teeny’s page on the All American Girls Professional Baseball Team website: https://www.aagpbl.org/profiles/ernestine-petras-teeny/22 You can find out more about her on her Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernestine_Petras
Visitors to the Wanaque Public Library may be curious about the large marble obelisk and flat stone that sit on the library lawn and are visible from Ringwood Avenue. If you look at them closely, you’ll see that there is a large metal ring atop the obelisk and that the flat stone is engraved with the initials JES. The initials JES stand for James Elias Sloat, whose family (for whom the town of Sloatsburg, New York is likely named) first settled in this area in the 1800s. James Elias Sloat owned a butcher shop on the corner of Ringwood and Belmont Avenue (just north of the library’s current location), and these objects were originally located in front of his shop. The tall pillar with the iron ring was a hitching post (these were the parking spaces of the pre-automobile era, used to secure your horse while you weren’t riding it or being pulled in a buggy behind it). The low block was a carriage step (also known as a carriage or mounting block), which people used to help them climb in and out of horse-drawn carriages. Both the hitching post and the carriage step were mined from Pompton Pink Granite at a local quarry that is now buried beneath Wanaque Reservoir. In 2002, the hitching post was donated to Wanaque Borough by Charlotte Marini, great-granddaughter of James Sloat. If you have any information, questions or corrections to share with us about this topic, please contact Library Director Mary Martin at 973-839-4434, stop by the library or email us at email@example.com.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, gunpowder manufacturing was a prominent industry in our area. In fact, Haskell was first settled as a company town, supporting workers at the Laflin & Rand Powder Company (it was likely named after Laflin-Rand’s then-president, Jonathan Amory Haskell). Later, the company was purchased by DuPont and it continued to be a major producer of smokeless gunpowder for the United States military during both World Wars. Manufacturing gunpowder was dangerous work, and the plant suffered several large explosions during its years of operation, including June 1898, October 1911, March 1914, October 1915, July 1916 and January 1917. An article from the Paterson Morning Call described the aftermath of the October 31, 1911 explosion:Habitues of Jimmy Downes’ saloon, at Haskells, were gathered around the pool table, last evening, when the table reared up on its hind legs and commenced to throw pool balls all over the room. The bottle on the back bar fell to the floor with a crash and Jimmy Downes, ever mindful of the comfort of his guests, yelled: “Look out, boys, the powder works has blown up!” There was a second and then a third explosion, and when the pool players and Jimmy had arisen from the floor it was discovered that the ballistite plant of the Dupont Powder works had been wiped off the map and that $60,000 damage had been done in the destruction of three buildings. (Paterson Morning Call, November 1, 1911. Click to view full article.) These two postcards from the collection of Richard Townsend show the powder works before and after the October 31, 1911 explosion. Postmarked November 23, 1909: Postcard titled “The Blow-Up, Oct. 31st, ’11”  For further interest, check out local historian Hans Segboer’s website showing a collection of several postcards and photos of the Haskell location of DuPont Powder Works. If you have any information, questions or corrections to share with us about this topic, please contact Library Director Mary Martin at 973-839-4434, stop by the library or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This postcard of the Railroad Station at Midvale is from the collection of Richard Townsend. It was published by J. G. and W. H. Rhinesmith, Midvale, NJ and was postmarked November 26, 1913. To: Geo H Rhinesmith, Macopin, Passaic Co, NJ “Nov 24 – Dear folks at home, haven’t heard wether [sic] you have butchered yet, suppose you have, let me know what day you are going to make sausage and I can probably come and help a little.” Here’s a birds-eye view of the location of the train station shown on the postcard (which no longer exists). If you have any information, questions or corrections to share with us about this topic, please contact Library Director Mary Martin at 973-839-4434, stop by the library or email us at email@example.com.
Let’s celebrate the brave men and women from Haskell and Wanaque who have volunteered to fight for our country. Banners featuring our Hometown Heroes are all along Ringwood Avenue, and they are also available digitally at Wanaque Borough’s “Wall of Honor” .
Take a look back at what was happening in our town on this day in earlier years!
The April 2022 release of United States Census Records provides genealogists, historians, researchers, and all of us an opportunity to research our family history alongside our nation’s history. Explore census records to see how America has changed: census.gov/1950records