Welcome to our Wanaque Area Local History Page! Here you will find a collection of historical materials and photographs ranging from the early days of this area, during the time of the Lenni Lenape, through British Colonial America and throughout the 20th century. (The photo of the Freedom Furnace shown here was taken in 1870 by Vernon Royle, a well-known photographer of the time.)
Highlights of our online local history collection include the European settlement of old Pompton Township, the chartering of the Borough of Wanaque, iron mining, the railroad days, and the building of the Wanaque Reservoir. Historical photographs were gathered from the collections of area residents Sam DeBenedetto and Bill Trusewicz, and some photographs from the older collections of Louis P. West and Clinton W. Ackerman.
Our library also has a large print collection of local history documents, many of which were generously donated by the family of Sam DeBenedetto when he passed away. We are working to continue to digitize this collection. You are welcome to make an appointment to come browse our physical archives!
This project was originally developed by former director Richard Mariconda in the late 1990s.
Built by Tunis Ryerson about 1780 on Hook Road, we see the Ryerson farm.
The ladies are John A. Ryerson’s daughters. With them are grandchildren.
Also pictured are: Edward R. Brown, first from the left, and Frank R. Parry, third from the right.
Settlement in the Wanaque Valley
During the first quarter of the 18th Century, a few European settlers found their way into the picturesque Wanaque Valley. Names familiar to us, the Beams, Ryersons, Sloats, Van Duynes, Van Wagoners, Vreelands, and many others, represent families that settled these hills in the early 1700’s. The activities of these early Dutch settlers centered on providing the bare necessities of life. Farming was the principal occupation. The men raised sheep; the women spun and wove the wool into cloth. As time passed, the wool was taken to Pompton Lakes after shearing and made into blankets and yarn. The settlers cut timber from the surrounding forest and hauled it to a saw mill to be made into lumber for their homes.
From the Records of the Beam Family
One window into this period of Wanaque’s history is provided through the excellent records kept by the Beam family, one of the first European families to settle in this area. The Beams kept written records of their family’s activities. The following information is drawn from these documents.
Abraham Lines, Koenrad Lines, and Anthony Beam purchased from the natural proprietors – Indian Chiefs Quackpacktequa, Namerisco, and Mataros – a certain tract of land containing about 800 acres. The conveyance refers to “a river called Patkeck by the English and…called by an Indian name, Wanochke brook.” The Board of Proprietors, honoring the Indian conveyance, surveyed the tract and found it to contain 683 52/100 acres.
A deed dated September 8, 1729, conveying the land from the Indians to Abraham Lines, Koenrad Lines, and Anthony Beam was not acknowledged or recorded. The Board of Proprietors, on August 23, 1740, returned the property to Richard Ashfield who had right to it by a grant. The deed dated May 20, 1741 conveyed the land finally from Richard Ashfield to Anthony Beam, Abraham Lyne, and Coenratt Lyne. Anthony Beam’s one third amounted to 277 3/4 acres.
The tradition of the Beam family as recorded at the Newark Historical Society states that the ancestor Anthony came from Germany and settled at Wynoke. Some have said as early as 1660, but judging from the births of his children, 1715-1720 seems more likely.
One credible tradition is that he lived among the Indians for many years with no other Europeans roundabout. He made his residence in the wilderness north of the Captain Beam place. He first set up a bark hut beyond the brook near the mountain. This area was called Bark House Valley (or Bark House Brook) and was located at what was called the wild plantation when the Indians had a settlement there. He afterwards built a log house west of the Deep Brook where then stood two old apple trees. Subsequently, he built a stone house which is said to be the west end of the house owned by Captain Beam. Anthony’s wife is known only by her Christian name Margaretha. There were five children: Yost or Joseph Beam born about 1717, died 1794 and was married to Catherine Sloat; Conraad Beam born 1727, died November 29, 1810 and married Grietze Mead; Annanickee Beam born January 14, 1741 married John Bartram of Wynockie; Abraham Beam born about 1730 married Sarah Mead; and Catren Beam married Peter Beatie of Wynockie. Yost or Joseph Beam resided on the Joseph I. Beam Place (which could be the remodeled house located on Chestnut Street and currently occupied by John Beam, a direct descendant). Conraad resided between the two brooks at Wynockie. This building might be the house owned by the Scrivani family, now a part of Meadowbrook Estates. Abraham resided on the homestead which could be the stone house opposite Lakeland Regional High School. The house has stone walls over two feet thick, with the upper structure being made of wood. Chains used in the original construction are visible in the upper section. The purpose must have been to hold the wall because there are tension rods inserted in between.
In the early days of European settlement, the local area probably looked much like the view below of what was known as Ferralasco Pond. Pristine wilderness and clean water were the hospitable norm for the first settlers. Of course, there were no photographs of the 17th and 18th centuries, but we can imagine that this view of Ferralasco Pond taken in the early 1900’s conveys something of the setting enjoyed by the early residents of the Wanaque area. Ferralasco Pond was in the Hook Road area, lost in the construction of the Wanaque Reservoir. Some of the first European settlers mentioned above lived in the Hook Road area, notably the Ryerson family, some of whom are pictured above. The Ryersons lived throughout the area of present New York and New Jersey in Colonial days. Even today, there is a Ryerson Street in Brooklyn and a Ryerson School in Wayne. The Ryerson Furnace, built by Martin J. Ryerson in 1838, was also located on land now inundated by the Wanaque Reservoir.
Lower West Brook Valley and Winbeam
Winbeam, a mountain in the Ramapo Mountain Range, is located north of Wanaque in Ringwood. It is one of the highest points in the area, and figures prominently in the book of the same name by Minnie May Monks, mentioned below. The book recounts a reminiscence of her youth in the West Brook Valley area during the years of the early 20th Century.
The two photographs here were taken in the early Twentieth Century by Vernon Royle and were originally published in Winbeam, a book about growing up in the West Brook Valley, written by Minnie May Monks. The Board Homestead was one of the old stone houses destroyed to make way for the Wanaque Reservoir. These photographs, and others from Winbeam, are presented here with the generous permission of living members of the Monks family.
Exploration and Early Conveyance
From writings by Elsie Peters (Wanaque Borough Golden Jubilee booklet, 1968)
This history of Wanaque is reconstructed from documents and recorded facts. In 1498, John Cabot sailed off the coast, giving England claim to what is now called New Jersey. King Charles II of England owned much of America and in March 1664 granted the region between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers to his brother, James, Duke of York.
In June 1664, James, Duke of York conveyed the land to two court friends who had stood by the monarchy during the Cromwellian Revolution, namely John Lord Berkely (sic – common spelling is Berkeley) and Sir George Carteret as tribute to their stout defense of the Isle of Jersey when King Charles had fled there in 1649.
The grant carried with it the right to govern and the document of lease and release of the property called it “Nova Caesaria” or New Jersey. Lord Berkely and Sir George Carteret, being friends, divided the present in half. The area was divided, under the 1664 terms, Sir George Carteret taking Eastern New Jersey and Lord Berkely, West New Jersey with no definite dividing line. Actually, faulty navigating by the surveyors who paced out the dividing line gave Lord Berkely almost twice as much land as Sir Carteret but both were dead by the time this came to light.
In 1674, Lord Berkely sold his half of New Jersey to John Fenwick in trust for Edward Bylinge.
In 1676, agreement was reached on “East New Jersey – West New Jersey Division” in the Quintipartite Deed, so called because it was signed by five men: William Penn, Gawen Lawrie, Nicholas Lucas, and Edward Byllinge (sic: actual spelling Byllynge) for West New Jersey and Sir George Carteret for East New Jersey. The line of division, roughly from Little Egg Harbor to the Delaware Water Gap, gave West New Jersey approximately 60 percent of the land area. When Sir Carteret died, his widow, Lady Elizabeth (who had not seen New Jersey), auctioned off East New Jersey. The area of some 4,000 square miles was sold for 3,400 pounds ($17,000) to a group of 12 bidders that included William Penn. They eventually divided the land into 98 equal shares, established themselves as the Proprietors of East New Jersey, and set about selling the land. Revenue from sales was split among the shareholders according to their shares. Due to inaccurate surveys (some made at night with the aid of flaming tar barrels toward which surveyors walked at night to pace off the boundary lines), changes in compass bearings, and oversight, all the pieces of owned land in New Jersey did not add up to the whole. Since the Proprietors once owned all of the State, they figured that the missing pieces belonged to them. So did the courts. Any pieces of land which did not show a valid claim belonged to the Proprietors. This understanding kept the Proprietors in business until 1998 when, after 314 years, the oldest continuously operated corporation in the United States was dissolved by a New Jersey court. The Board was not chartered by the State, as its origin predated the charter of New Jersey. Its remaining assets were sold to the State of New Jersey or donated to the State Archives in Trenton.
The first conveyance of land within the limits of the present Passaic County was the transfer, by the Indian chief Captahan (sic) Peter, of the Indian title to a nine mile island lying in the Passaic River. He conveyed the island to Hartman Michielson (sic: correct spelling appears to be Michielsen) (Vreeland) on April 4, 1678.
The first European settlers in the area now called Passaic County were almost entirely of Dutch descent, most of them being second generation natives from Long Island and New York. Scattered Dutch settlers lived along the west side of the Hudson River throughout the 1630’s, but relentless Indian raids in 1643 drove them across the River to New Amsterdam. They returned, only to flee again in 1655 during another Indian raiding period. Both the 1643 and 1655 Indian uprisings were provoked by unfair Dutch treatment of the natives. The Lenape, who were originally strong and healthy, readily succumbed to the white man’s diseases. Their number was further reduced as colonial settlements became larger and more numerous. The Indians, unable to compete with the increasing population of colonists, were forced westward.
In 1682, fourteen Dutch families acquired the Acquananonk Tract, comprising most of present Clifton, Passaic and Paterson. By 1711, all of modern Passaic County had been purchased and by 1730 most portions of it had been settled by German and Dutch farmers. Such were the early days of European settlement in the New World. Though this land of shining waters and verdant hills had been home to people for some 10,000 years, one age was ending as a new age, with its possibilities, challenges and hopes, was beginning.
Main Street, Midvale
This is a view of Ringwood Avenue in the early 1900’s looking northbound. In the center can be seen Shippee’s Pharmacy, still standing today, and farther up the street, the present day location of the Wanaque Public Library. Right foreground shows Ray’s Hardware. Main Street was a dirt road with no sidewalks, in these bygone days.
During the 1800’s, the principal industries of this area, then known as Pompton Township, were mining and charcoal burning. A large amount of charcoal was manufactured and sold to the Iron Works. Two mines were located in the immediate area.
The first Freeholders for Pompton as a Township in Bergen included Anthony C. Beam, Freeholder continuously for 23 years from 1802 to 1824. When the Township passed into Passaic County in 1837, John V. Beam was our Freeholder. Joseph B. Beam, Conrad Beam and Josiah Beam all served as Freeholders in the 1850’s.
In the mid-1800’s, the railroad ran through Midvale on the way to Greenwood Lake. Where there had been only 64 families living through the early part of the 19th Century, many new settlers began to arrive with the railroad. Some of the new residents were employed by the Wanaque River Paper Mill owned by Robert D. Carter.
Wanaque River Papermill
The quiet valley, nestled between the Windbeam Mountains on one side and the Westbrook Mountains to the north-west, had begun to wake to the industrial growth of the late 1800’s.
The Papermill was dismantled as the work on the Reservoir progressed. It was formerly situated in the area where the Raymond Dam and landscaped area with fountains can be seen from Ringwood Avenue. The Mill was owned by Robert D. Carter, the first Mayor of Wanaque Borough from 1918 to 1920.
Public School Endowment
There is an interesting bit of history about the Haskell Public School pictured here. According to amateur local historian and genealogist Richard Townsend, whose great-grandfather John Townsend appeared on the Democratic ticket for Judge of Election in 1882, the Haskell School property was sold to the Borough by Cornelius Van Wagoner for $1.00 with the stipulation that the property only be used for a public school.
Public School, Haskell, New Jersey in the early 1900’s.
If ever the school is lost to fire or otherwise destroyed, it is to be rebuilt within six months and can only be replaced by another school. If these particularare [the Latin word for “conditions”] are not kept, then the deed to the property is to revert to the Van Wagoner family.
History of Wanaque Borough
Throughout the 1800’s, the area roundabout was known politically as Pompton Township. Pompton Township included Bloomingdale, Ringwood, Wanaque, and Pompton Lakes. Pompton Lakes separated from the township in 1895. During the early 1900’s, the people of the remaining three municipalities determined that it would be more convenient to separate into three communities rather than try to conduct their public affairs over such a widespread area.
It was not a simple procedure because boundary lines had to be agreed upon and all indebtedness and assessments had to be apportioned. Also, school appropriations had to be redistributed, Fire Department and Police Department had to be established, and Borough officials elected. An election held in February 1918 by the Passaic County Board of Elections approved the separation from Pompton Township of three Boroughs: Bloomingdale, Ringwood, and Wanaque. This action was confirmed by three acts of State Legislature on February 23, 1918. The governing body chosen for Wanaque in 1918 was Mayor Robert D. Carter and Councilmen William Crawford, Edwin W. Wheeler, H.A. Piper, Arthur Redner, David Ringle, and Edward Ricker.
The Wanaque Reservoir was in the planning stage. The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission had been created by the New Jersey Legislature in 1916 and by 1920, the first construction contracts would be awarded. World War I was in progress. Wanaque, once a sleepy little hamlet, was becoming an active town.
Here we see two views of Railroad Avenue in the early 1900’s. In the photograph above, we are looking down Railroad Avenue. Shippee’s is in the foreground on the left side of the street, and beyond, also on the left, is Dondero’s. Both buildings are still in use today, as a pharmacy and as a tavern. This photograph comes to us from the Louis P. West collection.
In this photograph, we are looking up the street in the other direction from a position in front of Dondero’s Tavern which we see across the street in the foreground. In this photograph, Shippee’s can be seen at the far end of the street on the right hand side on the corner of Ringwood Avenue. Railroad Avenue was so named because it served as the direct approach to the Midvale Railroad Station, which was active from 1872 to 1966. The view in this photograph is from the perspective of the Railroad Station itself, looking away up Railroad Avenue.
Image to the left shows a view of Main Street from the corner. Main Street was the old name for Ringwood Avenue when it was still a dirt road. Shippee’s is in the right foreground. Before this building was Shippee’s, it was called Tice’s.
This photograph comes to us from an old postcard that was produced in the early part of the Twentieth Century.
Facing north, we see here a view of upper Main Street, Midvale as it was in the early 1900’s. This photograph is from the Louis P. West collection. Some of the houses pictured can still be identified on what is now Ringwood Avenue, north of the Library. This is the same stretch of road that now bears the flow of motorists traveling to and from work, morning and afternoon.
This view shows Gaston Drew’s Feed Mill. House on the left in photograph can still be identified at the corner of Ringwood and Lines Avenues.
Iron Works in Wanaque
Built in 1838 by Martin J. Ryerson on Furnace Lane, this furnace was used to separate iron ore from rock. The ore came from both the Wanaque and Ringwood mines. One was called the Blue Mine in the section known as Westbrook Valley. Also called London Mine and Iron Hill Mine, it was opened around 1800 and was named for the bluish cast of the ore. The area on which the furnace stood is now under the Wanaque Reservoir. The Furnace had its last blast in 1855 and was demolished in the 1920’s, its materials being used as riprap for the construction of the Raymond Dam.
Vernon Royle was a well known photographer in the Wanaque area in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This is a photograph he took of Freedom Furnace in 1903. Iron ore had been mined and smelted in the Wanaque area since Colonial days when the iron was needed and used for the efforts of Washington’s Continental Army. The making of charcoal for use in the smelting process was another early industry.
History of the Blue Mine
The Blue Mine, also called the Iron Hill Mine, Whynockie Mine, or London Mine, was discovered by Peter Hasenclever and was located in the area known as Westbrook Valley. Originally known as the London Mine, it was worked for a number of years before 1857 by Peter M. Ryerson. Ore from this mine was being processed by the Freedom Furnace until the Furnace ceased operation in 1855. Visitors to the mine in 1857 and 1867 reported it filled with water. At a later date, the shaft was extended almost 150 feet along the vein. The Mine was worked again in 1871 and 1872. In 1886, the Wynockie Iron Company Superintendent G.M. Miller reopened the Blue Mine, working it over 100 feet down the slope and through a drift at the bottom some 50 feet in length. This effort produced about 300 tons per month. Work halted until 1890 when the mine was again de-watered. After operations were resumed, over 8,000 tons of ore were raised before it was again shut down. Despite another de-watering in 1905, the Mine was not worked again. The overall length of the working area measures approximately 500 feet. At its widest part, the ore vein reaches 16 feet in thickness and is on the average 9 to 10 feet thick. The ore is characteristically hard, compact, and mixed with much rock.
Other Area Mines
The Beam Mine was located 3/4 mile southwest of Haskell in a small valley between the knolls. This old mine was reopened in 1875 and a small amount of ore was taken out before the Mine was abandoned that same year. A 20 foot shaft was worked on a vein 4 to 5 feet thick. Today, two shafts and a few sizable dumps can be seen. The Brown Mine had a shaft 26 feet deep and accessed a vein 12 feet thick. It was opened in 1874 when about 250 tons of ore were raised. It was then shut down until 1880 when it produced some 1,232 tons of ore. The Knouse Mine had four shafts operating between 1867 and 1872. By 1875, it had produced 2,000 tons of ore. The two main shafts were 1,500 feet apart and 100 feet deep. In 1890 it was de-watered but it was not worked again.(Excerpted from: Ransom, James Maxwell. Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966.)
Wanaque is the name given to our valley by the Indians. These early inhabitants had no written language, but pronounced the name Wa na’key or perhaps Wyanockie. This word, in the language of the Lenni Lenape, may come from an Algonquin root meaning “rest and repose.” A more popular interpretation is “place of sassafras.” Historians have found old deeds and documents which reveal the word Wanaque had many spellings – Wynokie, Wynocky, Wynoky, and Wynockie.
1,000 Years Ago in the Ramapo Mountains:
The people who lived in this area 1,000 years ago may have been related to the Munsee tribes of the Lenni Lenape nation who called this region home at the time of early European colonization. The Lenape homeland included all of New Jersey and nearby areas of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Through their legend called the Wallum Olum, we learn that the Lenape migrated to New Jersey from the “North Country” crossing the Mississippi River, gradually traveling east to New Jersey. The country of origin in the legend is believed to be in Asia and the migration they speak of probably took them across the Bering Strait into Alaska and then eastward. We cannot pinpoint the exact time the Lenape came to the area, as other groups of people preceded them; it is known that people have lived in New Jersey at least 10,000 years. (Price, Lynda. Lenni Lenape, New Jersey’s Native People. Paterson: Paterson Museum, 1979.)
During the span scholars call the Late Woodland period, which lasted from about A.D. 500 until the beginning of European settlement in 1638, large Indian towns and villages were established. Hunting declined in favor of agriculture and probably became more of a seasonal pursuit. Triangular arrowpoints were in use, replacing earlier stemmed forms.
Corn, beans, and tobacco were grown. Wooden pestles from this period, apparently replacing earlier stone pestles, have been found along with elaborately decorated clay pipes stamped with designs, modeled human faces, and animal heads. Tools made from stone, bone, and antlers have been found. These include needles and awls, arrowheads, scrapers, and flaking tools used in chipping stone artifacts, along with barbed harpoons made of bone and antler. Pottery, from this period, was often globular or oval in shape with decorated collars or other forms of decoration. (Cross, Dorothy. New Jersey’s Indians. Trenton: New Jersey State Museum, 1970.)
An Algonquin speaking people, the Lenni Lenape were called “grandfathers” by the other Algonquin tribes. In their language, the words Lenni Lenape mean “men of men,” or, “original people.” Every band had a sachem or chief chosen by certain women called chiefmakers. It was the job of the chief to tend to the welfare of the band and administer during peacetime. In times of war, the leadership of the band fell to the captains or warleaders. Although the Lenape society was organized under the leadership position of a chief, they also maintained a council which consisted of the chief, shamen (medicine or holy men), elders and warriors. This council of men actually ruled the tribe.
The Lenni Lenape located their villages along the banks of a river, usually in an area with good soil in which to grow their crops. Moderate in size, the semi-permanent villages consisted of small single family dwellings with a large house in the center to be used for religious and social ceremonies. The traditional Lenape home was a bark covered wigwam, either round with a domed roof or rectangular with a gabled roof. Other saplings were tied lengthwise to the structure to give the dwelling strength and support. Bark, corn stalks, or woven mats were then placed over the shell to cover the wigwam and a hole was left in the roof to allow smoke to escape from the interior. A bark cover was hung over the ceiling hole when the fire was not burning and a hide was used to cover the doorway for protection from the elements. The interior of the wigwam was furnished with rough benches around the perimeter which, when covered with furs, were used as beds and seats. Personal possessions were stored beneath the benches. (Price, Lynda. Lenni Lenape, New Jersey’s Native People. Paterson: Paterson Museum, 1979.)
The rivers of New Jersey were the thoroughfares by which the Lenape traveled from place to place. Handmade dugout canoes were used by most of the Lenape in this area. The canoes were made by carefully selecting and cutting down large trees. The interior of each tree was then set on fire and the charred wood and ashes were scraped out with scrapers and gouges. Dugout canoes could safely navigate most rivers. When the Lenape ventured out into larger bodies of water, two dugouts were lashed together. Lenape traveled on foot between villages by means of a system of trails connecting different sections of the state. The trails generally followed waterways, going around mountains and other obstacles. Some of the most frequently used trails became roads during colonial times. (Price, Lynda. Lenni Lenape, New Jersey’s Native People. Paterson: Paterson Museum, 1979.)
- WYANOKIE, WANAQUE – Sassafras
- MACOPIN – Wild Potato
- WINBEAM (WOMBIMISH) – Chestnut tree
- PEQUANNOC – Cleared ground
- IOSCA – Shining waters
- POMPTON – Wry mouth (twisted)
- POMPTON VALLEY – Crooked mouthed. This probable refers to the manner in which Ringwood and Ramapo Rivers pass down and discharge themselves into the Pompton River near this place.
- MAHWAH – Beautiful
- CUPSAW – Curly brook
- HOHOKUS – Tall cedars or cleft in the rock
- TAMARACK – Larch tree
- RAMAPO – Chestnut forest
- IAWANDA -Placid water
- ACQUACKANONK – A place in a rapid stream where fishing is done with a bush net.
- ACQUACKANUNCK – Where gum blocks were made or procured for pounding corn.
- LONG POND – Greenwood Lake
Erie Railroad Station, Haskell
The first railroad into the area was begun in 1865. Its first station was located at the Ringwood Avenue crossing. As early as 1872, Midvale was listed as a stop on the Montclair Railroad. It was probably named for its location in the middle of the valley – Midvale. By the time the Railroad was run by the New York and Greenwood Lake Railway, there were two stations in Wanaque: one in Haskell near Doty Road and one in Midvale at the end of Railroad Avenue. The Greenwood Lake Railway was responsible for bringing many new settlers to the area. In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, many summer travelers used this line to get to Greenwood Lake and its vacation offerings such as a steamer cruise ship called the “Montclair.” Along the line, commuter towns developed. This was especially true in Upper Montclair, which eventually became one of the terminal points for this Railroad, the other being Greenwood Lake.
Charles Bowman was the last agent for the Wanaque-Midvale Station. It was built in 1904 by William Mullin and shows the standard Erie station architecture of the period. One of the last activities from this point was the shipment of long trains of sand from a nearby pit consigned for use in building the second deck of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River to New York. For years this was the terminal for the New York and Greenwood Lake commuter trains, with locomotives and cars serviced here.
Last Train to Midvale
The Midvale Station was active as a stop on various railroad lines through 1966. The last line to pass through Midvale was the Greenwood Lake Division of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. In September of 1966, Engineer Martin Munson turned train number 1421 onto the “wye” at the Wanaque-Midvale Station for the last time.
On this Friday evening in autumn at 7:55 PM, the last passenger train ever to enter Midvale paused and stopped. The Engineer and his crew left the train as the era of railroad service into Wanaque came to an end. Later, four engines and thirteen empty passenger cars would leave the Midvale Yard enroute to Hoboken. The Wanaque-Midvale Station building was destroyed by fire and then demolished, but the memory of the railroad and its real importance in the growth of Wanaque Borough would remain. Like many other small American towns, Wanaque grew up as a stop on the great railroad into the wilderness.
The Lost Children
Excerpted from the Wanaque Borough Golden Jubilee (1918 – 1968) Book
Riverdale, NJ: 6 Tri-County Publishers, [ 1968 ].
Wanaque did not escape a great tragedy which became legend, to perpetuate its memory this is the story. Heading in the newspaper read “HEROIC SACRIFICE MARKED WANAQUE TRAGEDY NEARLY CENTURY AGO, NEWS CLIPPING SHOWS.”
Death of three young sons of Mr. and Mrs. John Wyble, of “Wynockie” on the first of the year 1870 is graphically recounted in a newspaper clipping of the time, forwarded to The Bulletin by Mrs. Roy Decker, of Wanaque, whose grandmother and mother treasured it. The children’s graves are at Wanaque. The story of the Children’s death, told by a writer at a time prior to origination of the four “Ws” of journalism is not recounted merely for the tale itself. Rather, it carries a moral which we, in these hectic times, might well learn.
This story is passed along from year 1870. The text you read here was transcribed from the Borough of Wanaque Golden Jubilee Book, published for the Celebration in 1968. Jubilee was observed to commemorate 50 years of Wanaque Borough incorporated as a Municipality: 1918 – 1968.
OLD STORY REPRINTED
Tale of the children’s death and a poem written by one who was deeply touched by the incident follow:
Joseph Wyble is a poor man. He lives on Wynockie Mountain, on the west side of the Hudson River, about twenty miles from New York. Joseph lives in a miserable shanty, hardly deserving the name of a cottage; but though enjoying small share of the world’s goods, like many other poor man, he has had a liberal supply of children in his family.
Three of these children were Anthony, aged nine years; Warren, aged eight; and Johnny, aged five. On the first day of the present year these three children, from whose young hearts even biting poverty did not exclude the gladness of childhood, went forth from their home for a ramble on the mountain and in search of nuts. Their feet wandered too far, and after a while they found themselves where they knew not, and whither to go they knew not.
The darkness of night began to spread itself, like a pall, over them; and to add to the unspeakable misery of their situation, a cold, driving storm of sleet and snow set in. A woman passing along one of the mountain paths at this time, heard in a distance the tiny voice of one of them shouting: “Pa pa — ” “pa pa pa!” but somehow, unaccountably enough, she went on unheeding the cry, and, as she testified on the Coroner’s inquest, simply wondering who had children in the mountain.
Hours passed. The three children were irretrievably lost. The darkness of the night increased and became impenetrable, and the darkness of death now began to enfold their shivering and benumbed little forms. The beating heart could no longer send the blood to the extremities, which commenced to freeze. The youngest, Johnny – the baby of the party – must have sobbed most piteously from his sufferings.
And now we come to the closing scene in the brief lives of these untutored children – whose parents were unable to read, and had to sign their affidavits with a cross – and it was characterized by a self-sacrifice as pure, as noble and as godlike as history records.
They are all suffering with cold. Warmth is the thing needed that instinct tells them to prolong life. And yet, at this critical moment, when they themselves feel the icy fingers of death taking hold of them, simply from want of sufficient clothing – what, do they do? The second boy, Warren, takes off his own coat, leaving nothing but his shirt on his own back and spreads it over his little brother, Johnny, trying to keep him warm. And then, Anthony, when he sees Warren perishing, strips off his coat and puts it under Warren’s head for a death pillow.
Ah, Astor! with your accumulated millions; with the granite hotel as an enduring monument to your memory; with the grander monument of the Astor Library; and we trust, with some unpublished acts of kindness to ease your passage through the camel’s eye. Ah Steward! with the outstretched Hempstead Plains; your palatial stores filled with costliest fabrics; your residence of marble and peerless glass. Ah Peabody! rich dead and buried with a prince looking on, and the formal Winthrop to eulogize you. Ah, three-starred Grant and Sherman! there has been nothing so sublime in the life of any one of you, as marked the death of these poor mountain boys! Hallowed forever the spot where they [ died ]. The spot where, in the darkness and dreariness of that awful night, on an unseen ladder angels were ascending and descending between their expiring hearts and the Throne on High! And where, over the loud roar of the storm, their came to their [ ears ] the voice which of old spoke to Peter on the waters saying, ” Be not afraid; it is I;” and the same voice saying, “Suffer the little children and forbid them [ not ] to come unto me; for of such is the kinkdom ( sic ) of Heaven.”
The Lost Children
by Ethel Lynn
Come sit at my feet, little children.
Come sit in the fire light with me,
And listen a tale I will tell you
About the wee wanderers three
Who were lost in the dark of the mountain,
The very first night of the year –
Come sit by my feet, softly, silent,
So a tale truly sad you shall hear.
Over yonder, beyond the fair valley,
A mountain runs back wide and high,
Till the wods ( sic ) on its crest feather upward
Against the bright blue of the sky.
Great rocks with the white mosses hoary —
Deep springs with an emerald rim —
Old trees that fought with the tempest —
Young saplings elastic and trim.
Are yonder. Just facing the sunset,
Where the forest has been cut away,
Stands a cabin of logs laid together,
Made tight with a layer of clay,
And this is the picture before you:
The very first night of the year,
Three boys with a whoop and a halloo
Set off full of holiday cheer,
To gather up nuts on the mountain,
Their ages, ten, seven, and five,
While the mother looks out from the cabin,
Her last on the children alive.
The night, in its earliest shadows,
The mother stood calling them back
She listened, if answer or token
Came back to her wailing or faint,
But the terrible roar of the tempest
Was louder than cry or complaint.
Strong men trod the mountain till ( sic ) morning,
With staff and the lanterns red spark;
They called but there echoed no answer;
No cry from the horrible dark;
They rung out their rain sodden garments,
They fastened them tightly again,
As they though of their own little sleepers,
And plodded on spite of the rain.
So day after day on the mountain
Went careful eyed men far and wide
While mothers at home in the valley
Kept little ones near the hearthside.
Till ( sic ) a hunter saw circling beyond him
The crows with their horrible call
And following, found the poor children,
With brown forest leaves for a pall.
The strong men who hurried up thither
Dashed tears welling hot from their eyes,
As they saw in the little lads lying
Brave Anthony’s last sacrifice.
For over their forms near him lying
Were his garments carefully lain,
While stark in the rock’s gloomy shadow,
He fought with the cold and the rain!
Oh, brave little knight of the forest
If your life had been threescore and ten,
Perhance (sic) you would never had builded (sic)
So holy a (sic) altar again.
If at last you had slumbered in purple,
With banners draped over your head
They would whisper no tale like the jacket
That laid o’er the innocent dead.
And now little children my story
Is ended. Alas it is true.
‘Tis the tale of the Wynockie children
I’ve softly been telling you.
At times over two hundred men were searching the mountain. Some employed at Pompton Steel Works and at the Ringwood Iron Works joined in the search.
A reward for $100.00 was posted by the County of Passaic Board of Chosen Freeholders for such information as will lead to the recovery of the bodies dead or alive.
The reward was increased to $500.00 on January 29th. The children were found on February 2, 1870 and the funeral was on February 5, 1870.
Sprawling in the hollows of the Ramapo Valley, fed by the Wanaque River, the Wanaque Reservoir has been providing water to New Jersey’s cities since the 1930’s.
North Jersey District Water Supply Commission
The NJDWSC was created by the Legislature of New Jersey in 1916, and in that same year applied to the State for permission to develop the Wanaque River which had been recognized as a potential water supply as early as 1879. Permission to take 50 million gallons a day (mgd) – later increased to 100 mgd – from the Wanaque was granted. The initial contract with Newark was signed in 1918. In 1924 and 1925, contracts were signed with Passaic, Paterson, Clifton, Kearny, Glen Ridge, Montclair, and Bloomfield.
Beginning of construction of the Wanaque Dam
The first North Jersey District headquarters was in Newark, but just before the outbreak of World War II, the Commission moved to its impressive complex in Wanaque. Members of that first North Jersey Commission, all appointed by Governor James F. Fielder, were Laurent J. Tonnelle of Bayonne, George F. Wright of Paterson, Ernest C. Hinck of Montclair and William E. Ramsay of Perth Amboy. When the Commission organized in on May 16, 1916, it chose Commissioner Tonnelle as Chairman. The first Secretary was Nathan H. Pendergast and the Consulting Engineer was Morris R. Sherrerd.
The Wanaque Reservoir was constructed at a cost of $25 million to supply 100 mgd to the eight aforementioned municipalities. Water delivery began in 1930 after eight years of construction of a reservoir to hold 29.5 billion gallons of water. Interestingly enough, Wanaque, the home of the North Jersey Commission, has never been a subscriber. It has always had sufficient water supply facilities of its own.
As a result of a major drought which struck New Jersey from 1929 to 1932, the Wanaque yield was reduced from the original 100 mgd to approximately 85 mgd. It was obvious that the supply would have to be augmented from another source. With this in mind, the North Jersey District Commissioner looked toward the Ramapo River as a logical place for the added supply. The Commission in 1945 applied to the State Water Policy Commission for a Ramapo diversion. This was denied at the time, but the State reversed itself four years later when a new drought began. Total cost of the Ramapo program, which pumps water from the Ramapo River at Pompton Lakes into the Wanaque Reservoir was $5 million. By 1953, partners were assured a dependable yield of 110 mgd from the overall Wanaque project – 85 mgd from the original program and 25 mgd from the Ramapo diversion. In 1999, the daily yield can reach up to 173 mgd. The Wanaque Reservoir supplies the largest amount of water of any facility in the State of New Jersey.
The Commission occupies about one-fourth of the Wanaque land area. Many of the Commission’s employees reside in Wanaque and through the years they have served on the City’s various governmental agencies. In fact, one former employee – Anthony Guide – was Mayor from 1940 to 1950. Cooperation between the Commission and the Municipality has been a hallmark of the NJDWSC presence here in Wanaque.
This is a view of the tracks leaving the North Portal of the Wanaque Tunnel as it was on July 13, 1925. A train, used in the Reservoir construction project, can be seen at the opening of the Portal.
The heart of the Borough was both sad and happy with the coming of the Wanaque Reservoir: happy because it was to be an outstanding asset to the community, sad because the paper mill and many homes scattered throughout the hills and valleys were to be replaced by the ten-mile stretch of the reservoir. 70 buildings and homes were removed, many in the Hook Road area, seven miles of highway and six miles of railroad were relocated.
Four small cemeteries had to be moved. The next of kin were located if possible and their preference determined as to the new burial ground. The Brown Cemetery was moved, according to the wishes of Squire Edward J. Brown, to a tract in the Midvale Cemetery and fenced in. There were sixty-five graves and tombstones all in good condition. The Ryerson Cemetery was also moved, according to the wishes of the family, to the Midvale Cemetery. At the request of the Board family, of the nineteen graves, three were reinterred in a lot purchased by the Reservoir Commission in the Pompton Reformed Church Cemetery. The old stones were repaired where possible, and new stones were provided to replace some not fit for removal. The Commission obtained brown stone from Connecticut and duplicated the old style printing so that the new grave monuments would be as much like the old ones as possible. The Erskine Cemetery was in a dilapidated state. There were few monuments and no record of burials. Since the location of some of the graves could not be known, the whole area to a depth of six feet was turned over and all the remains removed. Where identity was possible remains were placed, with the consent of living relatives, in Midvale Cemetery, Pompton Reformed Church Cemetery, and Butler Cemetery. Two bodies and headstones were transported and reinterred in Bernardsville Cemetery. The total cost under this contract for removing 256 bodies and 37 tombstones was $17,685.44.
Wanaque Dam under construction as photographed in November 1922.
Works Cited and Acknowledgements.
The original library archive of Wanaque-area history was created by former Library Director Richard Mariconda in 1999. Our thanks to Mr. Mariconda for his dedication to this project! Mr. Mariconda wrote: “My hearty thanks go out to all who have helped with the creation of the Wanaque Area Local History Archive.
To Sam DeBenedetto whose collection of historical photographs, realia, and knowledge served as an inspiration to begin this project, and whose contribution of materials contributed greatly to the display presented.
To Bill Trusewicz for making available many of the historical photographs included here and for sharing his knowledge of the local history, particularly of the early iron mining industry.
To the Technology Bond Fund administered by the New Jersey State Library for supporting this digital archiving project with a generous grant, which went toward the purchase of the computer where the work was accomplished.
To Louis P. West, Sr., whose early collecting of historical photographs has inspired a new generation of collectors and enriched this younger man’s effort.
To Clinton W. Ackerman, for being there with a camera.
To Minnie May Monks, who loved these hills and valleys, and the clear water that nurtures us to this day.
To Vernon Royle, who understood what people see and what a camera sees, and thereby provided us with a window to the bygone day.
To Frank Pallatucci, for the work he has done seeing to the production of both the Golden Jubilee Book and the Diamond Jubilee Book, and for his permission to draw upon these works for the building of this Archive.
To Elsie Peters, Jeanette Biggio, and Saundra Storms Putnam, whose work and words presented in the two Jubilee books are now reaching a new audience through this online Archive.
To Mabel Monks of Pompton Lakes, on behalf of other living members of the Monks family, for her permission to draw upon the book Winbeam, by Minnie May Monks, and to reproduce some of the Vernon Royle photographs included in her book.
To Mal Sumka, who let me learn HTML.
To Christie Sayre and Sandy Schlosser, for helping me to apply what I learn in the interest of sound and practical information science.
The two photographs above are called, “The Bend in the Road” and “Miller Falls.” These and most of the unlabeled photographs appearing in this Archive were taken by Vernon Royle and were originally published in Winbeam, written by Minnie May Monks. Vernon Royle gave Minnie May Monks these photographs for inclusion in her book about growing up in West Brook Valley. They are presented here with the generous permission of living members of the Monks family.
Cross, Dorothy. Indians of New Jersey. Trenton: The Archaeological Society of New Jersey, 1964.
Cross, Dorothy. New Jersey’s Indians. Trenton: New Jersey State Museum, 1970.
Monks, Minnie May. Winbeam. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1930.
Price, Lynda. Lenni Lenape: New Jersey’s Native People. Paterson, NJ: Paterson Museum, 1979.
Ransom, James Maxwell. Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1966.
Struble, Evelyn Armstrong. In the Ramapos. Evelyn Armstron Struble, 1966.
Wanaque Borough Diamond Jubilee Book. West Milford, NJ: West Milford Rapid Press, 1993.
Wanaque Borough Golden Jubilee Book. Riverdale, NJ: Tri-County Publishing Co., 1968.
Cohen, David Steven. The Ramapo Mountain People. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1974.
Hewitt, Edward Ringwood. Those Were the Days: Tales of a Long Life. New York: The Vail-Ballou Press, Inc., 1943.
West, Louis P., Sr. Ramapo Mountain Stories and Tales. Louis P. West, Sr., 1995.
The following links will take you off-site to related information on topics approached in Wanaque Area Local History. These websites are in no way officially related to the Wanaque Public Library. The Library has no control over their content, and in no way endorses the veracity of information presented.