Pequannock County?

There was a time when the people of Bloomingdale, which at that time included the north end of Riverdale (“East Bloomingdale”) and most of Butler (“West Bloomingdale”), desired to form a new county. They envisioned taking parts of five counties to form “Pequannock County” — with Bloomingdale as the county seat, of course.

This effort failed, but ultimately Bloomingdale would become an independent borough when Pompton Township was broken up in 1918.

A companion article in the same 1879 newspaper explained why Bloomingdale anticipated a bright future accompanied by both industrial and residential growth.

Butler’s CCC Camp

The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps was President Roosevelt’s grand plan to put some of America’s hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men to work during the Depression. This was one part of his “New Deal” that was a success. These men — often merely boys — were put to work on a variety of environmental programs such as planting trees and battling mosquitos. Between 1933 and 1942, more than three billion trees were planted, and many miles of trails were built in more than 800 parks nationwide.

In Morris County there were two camps: One at Oak Ridge (roughly in the Cozy Lake Road area) and one in Butler. Almost nothing, other than its general location, is known about the Oak Ridge camp.

The Butler camp was designated Camp S-54, situated on the Pequannock River where Generant today manufactures industrial parts.

Looking north from the camp. I believe that’s Kanouse Mountain in the background.

From surviving photos in the collection of the Butler Museum, it was a pretty large camp. Several barracks buildings held several hundred men. It had all the comforts of home, so to speak, and like other CCC camps, was generous with the chow, as young boys needed to keep their strength up for what was arduous work — planting trees in the surrounding region and clearing trails for hikers.

Hey Cookie, what’s for dinner?

According to History magazine,

Under the guidance of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, CCC employees fought forest fires, planted trees, cleared and maintained access roads, re-seeded grazing lands and implemented soil-erosion controls.

Additionally, they built wildlife refuges, fish-rearing facilities, water storage basins and animal shelters. To encourage citizens to get out and enjoy America’s natural resources, FDR authorized the CCC to build bridges and campground facilities.

An existing railroad line on the opposite side of the river was utilized to drop off supplies. The boys made regular R-and-R trips to nearby Butler as well as Paterson.

These photos and others are from the Butler (NJ) Museum. There is also a collection of the newsletters published there filled with news and gossip, attesting to the high spirits of the CCC members. Today, nothing remains of the camp.


Farm for Sale – inquire of Henry Doremus

In 1843, Henry Doremus of Wayne offered “a valuable farm for sale.” It contained 274 acres of first rate land.

In real estate, location is everything: “The farm is situate in the neighborhood of Mead’s Basin, Passaic Co., N. Jersey, 6 miles from Paterson, 10 from Newark, and 20 from New York. It is intersected by the Pompton and Newark turnpike, and by the Morris Canal feeder.”

Ad in the NY Sun for the Henry Doremus farm.

Mead’s Basin was in Mountain View, and the “basin” was a large pond where canal boats traveling on the Morris Canal could tie up for the night to shop or to dine. The basin was the parking lot by (the now closed) Mother’s, formerly Gabriel’s.

The offer was for lock, stock and barrel: “On the premises are a good stone dwelling house, 2 barns, cow-house, etc., all in good repair.” We can only wonder whether that house still stands, given that so much history has given way to strip malls, road widenings, and housing developments.

What became of Henry Doremus? The family was quite well known in the region, and a search reveals dozen of potential matches by that name. A Henry Doremus served as the postmaster at Mead’s Basin in the early days of the Morris Canal, but who knows?


Henn’s Tavern, Wayne NJ

The 19th Century building known as Henn’s Tavern stood on the corner of Jackson Ave and Hamburg Turnpike from the mid-1850s until it was torn down in 1968.

The locals called it the Coop, the Henn house, or the Half-Way house — it was halfway between Paterson and the Norton House in Pompton Lakes — and they came for Al Henn’s 25-cent whiskey and 10-cent beer chaser … and to pass the time of day. Mabel Henn did the cooking, making both lunch and dinner.

The name “Half-way House” was well deserved:

More than a hundred years ago, when people journeyed from Paterson to the Hamburg Turnpike and to upcounty areas, it took them at least an hour by horse and carriage to make the uphill journey into Wayne.

Perhaps the reason why the older generation feel winters used to be more severe is because they didn’t have the convenience of heated cars. One shivers at the thought of them riding behind clopping horses, huddled up in their blankets, noses red as cherries.

In those days, there were way stations where travelers could pause, rest their horses, have a hot drink, and warm up before a fire. Henn’s Tavern was one of those early stage coach, stops, and if buildings could speak it would have many stories to tell.

The Morning Call, 12 Dec 1968

Across the street was a baseball field which the locals called Al Henn’s field. Some area residents recall that dugouts were added at some point, and that P.A.L. baseball was played there. Al Henn field was the only ball field in town besides the Valley High School varsity field with dug outs. 

(I don’t know whether Mr. Henn was responsible for constructing the field. If any readers have some insight, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.)

In those days there was a bus stop across Jackson Avenue by Old Homestead Road. As one resident recalls, Mr. Henn walked down to the corner every morning to open up the barn across the street so all the kids on Old Homestead Road had a place to wait for the bus away from the weather.

This 1968 newspaper article noting its passing says that the house was a stagecoach stop in the 1800s, and that it had been in the Henn family “for almost 100 years.”

Here’s the same location today.

Unsurprisingly, many deplored the destruction of yet another bit of Wayne’s history. Henn’s ballfield, the site of hundreds of baseball games, was sold in 1974 and became the site of Citro’s 1900 The Gaslight Restaurant, and later Victoria Station, before the property was sold for assisted-living condos.

# # #

The Ringling Circus elephant building

Alfred T. Ringling, he of circus fame, discovered the picturesque Berkshire Valley in the early 20th Century. Declaring it the most beautiful place he had ever seen, he purchased 100 acres and a pond in Petersburg (now the Milton section of Oak Ridge) and set about building a winter HQ for his circus. A 26-room mansion was built between 1917 and 1918, along with a series of outbuildings for his circus menagerie. Most of them survive today, in private hands.

A sketch map from 1966 locating (with some errors) the Ringling outbuildings.

The “No, 7 building” in the sketch map denotes the elephant building. Like the others, it was concrete with area fieldstone decorating the walls. It’s gone to ruin — the glass-roofed ceiling collapsed about 1996, according to the locals — but what’s left has been incorporated into the Berkshire Valley Golf Course.

I took the following photos in the spring of 2004 when the property was being transformed into the golf course.

A view of the Ringling elephant house ruins. In the distance, to the right, is another Ringling building, now occupied by Jefferson Medical Imaging.(Photo by Paul Havemann)
View of the Ringling elephant house ruins. The floor sloped down beneath the sloped ceiling. (Photo by Paul Havemann)

These close-up photos give an idea of the size of the place.

My favorite view of the Ringling elephant house from 2004, back when the Berkshire Valley Golf course was under construction. (Photo by Paul Havemann)
The inlaid stones on the pillar (at right) spell out the year the elephant house was built — 1917 — and ‘RTR’ for Robert T. Ringling, who took over the circus after Alfred Ringling died. (Photo by Paul Havemann, 2004)

Today, the Berkshire Valley Golf Course plays host to thousands of golfers every year. As a county golf course, it’s open to the public. Food and drink are available in the clubhouse, even if you don’t golf. And you’re able to borrow a golf cart and head over to the ruins yourself, if you wish.


The Brown’s Inn Footbridge

There once was a lovely village called Newfoundland, up West Milford/Jefferson way. A landmark of the area was Brown’s Inn, a lovely four-story hotel renowned all over for its hospitality and unrivalled peace and quiet. It stood on what was then the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike, which we know today as Route 23 South, just across from Green Pond Road. Gone now, of course; that’s the way of old hotels. But the story of the Inn is for another post.

Behind the Inn was a meadow crossed by the quiet Pequannock River. (There wouldn’t be a “northbound 23” until many years later.) Across the river stood the old Brown homestead, a nice little cottage. To get to it you would traipse across a lovely and well-made footbridge. No one can recall just when it was built — my earliest postcard view is from 1909, and it was likely constructed sometime in the 1800s — but it endured for over a century.

Brown’s homestead footbridge, circa 1909.

Here’s a close-up of the footbridge. Anchored on both sides, the ‘cabin’ was held up by three iron rods anchored to a boulder in the river. If you liked, you could sit in the little cabin and while away some time.

Perhaps the best view of the footbridge.

This is a view from one of the upper stories of Brown’s Inn. It shows a peaceful, tranquil, and unpaved meadow with a path from the homestead to the footbridge.

But as idyllic as it all seemed, Brown’s Inn was “a source of annoyance” to the City of Newark. Since the late 1890s, Newark had been buying land in upper Passaic County, and constructing dams and reservoirs, to supply it with fresh, clean water. Brown’s represented a problem to its campaign to prevent pollution from entering in its water supply.

Negotiations dragged on for a decade before a sale was made. Brown’s Inn was purchased, and then razed, in 1914.

In the early 1960s, Route 23 was “dualized” by the addition of two northbound lanes which came uncomfortably close to the homestead. As part of the project, the riverbed was actually “relocated”, in the state’s terminology, to make way for the new northbound lanes. (It is unlikely that such an action would be as readily granted today.)

And so the footbridge slumbered, unused. The half closest to the highway collapsed decades ago, and even when it was passable, there was nowhere to go except to climb the embankment to the highway.

My own photo, taken with permission from the tenant in 2015. Note that the right side is entirely gone.
My own photo, taken with permission from the tenant. I was not brave enough to risk getting on it!

The end finally came in the fall of 2020, when the old bridge couldn’t take it any more.

Rest in pieces, footbridge.

And another bit of history is gone.


The Greenwood Pond Ice House

Harvesting, storing, and selling ice was a major industry from before the 1800s until the late 1940s, when refrigerators became common in the home. Every lake and pond that could produce a decent quantity of ice was harvested all winter. In our region, that included the rural areas of Lake Hopatcong, Greenwood Lake, Charlotteburg Lake, Echo Lake (also known as Macopin Lake, Lake Macopin, and Macopin Pond), and the topic of this post, Greenwood Pond in the Oak Ridge section of West Milford.

Ice was a major source of employment. Companies would hire as many men (and teenaged boys) as they would need, as well as farmers and their horse teams who were idle during the winter. Ice was always needed by homes, hotels, and other businesses in the cities and vacation areas. Winters were colder two centuries ago; ice would form by November, growing to over a foot thick, and still be available for harvest as late as mid-March.

Ad for Silk City Ice Company
Greenwood’s Silk City Ice Company boasted that its Oak Ridge ice was “pure”

Around 1897, Edward R. Greenwood founded what would become a prosperous coal business in Paterson. Two years later, he started a new venture, the Silk City Ice Company, alongside his E.R. Greenwood Coal & Ice Company. Initially, he imported ice from the Poconos. Wanting a more local source, around 1907 he purchased Greenwood Pond and surrounding lands, and constructed a dam to enlarge the pond. The pond and the dam still exist on Bonter Road (which was then called Icehouse Road), not far from Oak Ridge Road.

Greenwood built a large ice house ideally located between the shore of the 4.5-acre pond and the NY Susquehanna & Western (NYS&W) railroad line. A siding brought railroad cars alongside the ice house to be packed with ice cakes bound for Paterson.

A typical ice house would be quite large and several stories tall. Greenwood’s was perhaps 50 by 150 feet, between 40 and 50 feet tall. Echo Lake had one, as did Lake Hopatcong, while Greenwood Lake boasted two, both owned by the Hewitt family.

They were all built the same way: the outside walls were built of wide boards, and another such wall was constructed on the inside. An ice house would be divided into several rooms, with the dividing walls built the same way. The gap between them was filled with sawdust for insulation, while salt hay was used in the individual rooms.

View of gasoline-powered ice saw in front of the Greenwood ice house.
View of gasoline-powered ice saw in front of the Greenwood ice house.

Ice harvesting was grueling work. Teams of men would work 10- to 12-hour days; they were well-paid and, at some ice houses, also well-fed. At Greenwood, an early-morning steam whistle signaled that the ice was ready for harvest. Between 30 and 40 day workers would congregate at the pond as a crew would plow any snow off the ice. One team would carefully score a checkerboard pattern in the ice; this was necessary to ensure uniform ice blocks. Other teams would begin the cutting process. Originally the ice was manually sawed into long blocks using specially-designed saws. By the 1920s, gasoline-powered ice saws replaced that manual labor. (A gas-powered ice saw is on display at the Long Pond Iron Works in Hewitt, NJ.) The men would break for coffee as well as a hearty lunch. The ice blocks were floated to a long conveyor belt where they were cut into cakes; a steam engine-powered conveyor lifted them into the ice house where they would be stacked among the rooms. It might take several days to fill the Greenwood icehouse, while the two much larger icehouses at Greenwood Lake might require weeks.

Side view of the Greenwood icehouse. Note the steam-driven conveyor belt. Bonter Road is to the right.

All ice houses needed a delivery system for their product. Before the advent of railroads, much was packed into canal boats and sent down the Morris Canal. Railroads were much faster and could handle much more product. The same railroads that delivered vacationers to idyllic spots such as Brown’s Inn in Newfoundland could return to Paterson with a profitable payload. Greenwood Pond had a siding constructed to the railroad line just yards away, while Echo Lake had a dedicated, 1.5-mile railroad line (the Macopin Lake Railroad) connected to the NYS&W.

Railroad cars would arrive at his icehouse, and be switched to a siding on the roadway. Once packed with ice blocks, the railroad would take the ice to various destinations for delivery. Greenwood didn’t market his ice in Oak Ridge, but local people, and some shop keepers, would come to the ice house to purchase bags of ice chips that resulted from shaping the ice cakes.

A 1906 ad for Silk City Ice. Before purchasing Greenwood Pond, he obtained his ice from “Mount Poconoke” in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Silk City Ice sold ice in quantity to big hotels and such, but also maintained eight local routes in Paterson and Totowa. Each of the eight route men had his own horse-drawn ice wagon from which to sell ice to housekeepers and small stores.

Newspaper accounts paint a portrait of a fair and generous boss:

E.R. Greenwood, coal and ice dealer of this city, gave a theatre party and banquet to his employees and their wives as a means of expressing his appreciation of the good work done by the men in harvesting the ice crop, during which time they labored day and night.

After watching a play at the Lyceum theatre, the party partook of a well prepared supper in a local restaurant. The ladies were presented with large boxes of chocolates, while the men received cigars.

Paterson Morning Call, 01 Feb 1917

A Silk City Ice delivery wagon of the era.

In late 1920, Greenwood turned over the retail route business of Silk City Ice to eight of his long-time faithful employees. According to a 1920 newspaper article, he realized that the present cost of living was a constant worry to the man working for wages. In turning over the business to the route men, he set each up as an independent business man whose earnings would depend entirely upon the efforts he put into the business. Each man also was gifted the wagon each had been using, and had their names painted on the sides. The ice would continue to be harvested in Oak Ridge.

By the 1930s, however, the writing was on the wall for the ice harvesters. The invention of the refrigerator, and the introduction of “artificial ice” made in commercial freezers at ice plants, would soon doom the ice-harvesting industry. “Mechanical iceboxes”, which used a liquid refrigerant to produce cold, had been invented in 1915 as an add-on to the traditional icebox. By the mid-1920s, the modern refrigerator was available for purchase, but only the wealthy could afford them; it would take decades before they became affordable to many families.

This 1931 ad touts a household refrigerator for $190. That translates to about $3,400 in today’s dollars!

Apparently, harvesting came to a close in the late 1930s, and the ice house was abandoned. Eventually, it collapsed; the wooden structure has long since returned to the earth. The railroad siding is long gone. The concrete foundation and footings, and some iron hardware, however, still survive, bearing mute testimony to a bygone industry.

There is little left of the Greenwood ice house today.

Photo Credits: Dale Greenwood Dunn

Various details: Recollections of a New Jersey Ice Harvest by David W. Dunn, Jr. (2014)

‘Arrareek’ and Ensilage

My interest in Arrareek started with a print from an 1881 issue of a very popular 19th-Century magazine titled Harper’s Weekly. It depicted some farm scenes, but also a church I recognized right away, in a view that in some respects hasn’t really changed much since then.

Nice line drawing of Pompton Plains Reformed Church.
“A glimpse of Pompton”

That’s the Pompton Reformed Church. It sits, as it has since 1814, on the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike in Pompton Lakes at Ringwood Avenue. (It was spun off from the First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains, but that’s another post.) That was the clue that got the ball rolling.

In the late 1800s, a Newark grain merchant named Clark W. Mills owned a farm he called “Arrareek” in the rural farming village of Pompton, NJ. In 1876, starting to experiment with hybridization of Jersey corn, he grew 13 acres of Southern corn, but began to worry when he realized that it would all likely be ruined by frost long before it would ripen. Unwilling to see it all go to waste, as Harper’s Weekly put it, “he remembered the old method of keeping roots in mounds of earth, practiced from time immemorial.”


Mills’ method employed silos to store his fodder — but not the tall, round structures we usually think of. These were subterranean silos.

Interior of the Arrareek silo at Pompton. As each layer of silage was added, it would be compressed to allow air and moisture to escape.

Mills instructed all hands to dig two deep pits in the dry gravelly soil inside his barn. In each silo a layer of short, cut lengths of the Southern corn was laid on boards, which were then roofed with planks and compressed with bags of grain. Layer upon layer was added, and the compression allowed a lot of fodder to be crammed into each silo. It also allowed air and moisture to escape, which largely prevented the fodder from fermenting. As a silo was filled, it was also covered by earth. The fodder was then removed as needed throughout the winter.

This worked better than Mills could have hoped. Most of the corn remained edible, and his cattle thrived. Mills had, on his own, unwittingly rediscovered the ancient practice of “ensilage.” By 1880 he had perfected his innovation, and word of his success began to spread. He received more inquisitive letters than he could answer; reporters and the curious would visit, resulting in a lengthy piece in the April 23, 1881 Harper’s (accompanied by a full page of illustrations) and an equally effusive article in an early 1881 Journal of the American Agricultural Association, which titled Mills “the prophet and pioneer of ensilage.” Several out-of-state papers also wrote similarly admiring articles.

Harper’s reported that Mills’ 120 head of cattle and 12 horses “ate of it greedily” all winter long. Not only had he demonstrated a means by which to thriftily feed his herd at a substantial savings over hay, but his fat and contented cows produced “a large quantity of milk, the demand for which is so great that it is beyond his capabilities of supply.”

It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Mills’ innovation; it was a real game changer in the farming world. Mills’ ensilage method became a subject of keen interest to farmers nationwide who began to adopt it, including Abram S. Hewitt on his 1,000-acre farm in nearby Ringwood. While the method would preserve any fodder, Southern corn was far less expensive than hay.

This is the full page of illustrations from Harper’s Weekly. It shows the expansive Mills farmhouse and barn, in which were two silage pits 13 feet by 40 feet, and twenty feet deep. To see it larger, click it.

Illustrations of Arrareek farm from Harper's Weekly, 1881
From the April 23, 1881 Harper’s Weekly

But Clark Mills’ newfound fame didn’t just benefit cattle farmers. Harper’s included flowery paens to the natural beauty of the Ramapo Valley, proclaiming “There can be no more beautiful country than that found in Passaic county, New Jersey, in the neighborhood of Pompton.” As word spread, more people came to make Pompton their home.

Finding Arrareek

But enough about ensilage! So just where was Arrareek? An 1882 piece in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described it thus:

“On Arrareek Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, on which is part of Mr. Mills’ farm, resides the celebrated Mary Virginia Terhune, better known as Marion Harland, the author of a number of popular novels, and who during the present year celebrated her silver wedding at this pleasant summer home.”

“Arrareek Lake”? A search of the internet found this stereo postcard of that lake. (Click it to see it larger.) It could only be Pompton Lake. I’m not sure just where on the lake one can get this view; if you might know, please leave a comment.

A stereovision postcard titled "Lake Arrareek, Pompton, N.J."
A stereovision postcard titled “Lake Arrareek, Pompton, N.J.”

As those familiar with Pompton area history would know, Mary Terhune was the mother of celebrated author Albert Payson Terhune. This description refers to (what would later be called) Sunnybank, located by the southeast corner of Pompton Lake. But there were more clues in this Lancaster PA publication:

“Just beyond Arrareek Farm you see the continuation of the plateau as it breaks through the blue hills and extends far beyond. …on Arrareek Farm there are two fairly big rivers, the Wynokie [Wanaque] and Ramapo. …right by Arrareek Farm stands an ancient stone house, which tradition states was once General Washington’s headquarters in 1777, for the old Pompton road was the back route on the line of communication between Trenton and West Point.”

So Arrareek was between the Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers, which narrows it down, and the “ancient stone house” on “the old Pompton Road” surely sounded like the Yellow Tavern. Also known as the Yellow Cottage, it stood on the site now known as Federal Square.

Those clues led to an 1877 map of Pompton. It was easy enough to find the Mills farm; it was quite expansive, encompassing some 290 contiguous acres of prime Pompton Lakes land. To see the map larger, click on it.

Map of C.W. Mills property
C.W. Mills farm, Arrareek, from “The Village of Pompton” (Hyde, 1877)

Clark Mills’ land holdings extended east from the Wanaque River, past today’s Federal Square, across Hamburg Turnpike to the end of Passaic Avenue, before turning south to about where Tudor Drive is today. From there he also owned a wide strip all the way to Pompton Lake (“Ramapo River” on this map). A person sitting comfortably on the front porch of the Mills farmhouse probably enjoyed the view accorded in the “glimpse of Pompton” illustration at the top of this post.

A neighborly feud

One of Mills’ neighbors was James Ludlum, the principal proprietor of the Pompton Steel Works, located on the Ramapo River just downstream of the falls. They shared a boundary west of the river (not shown on the map above), which seems to have led to some disagreements. A news item from 1883 tells the tale:

The residents of Pompton, N.J., were favored with a novel sight on Wednesday evening. It was the Sheriff of Passaic County driving sixteen cows along the road through the pouring rain. For some time there has been unfriendly feeling between Assemblyman Clark W. Mills and James Ludlum, the principal proprietor of the Pompton Steel Works,

Mr., Ludlum charged that Mr. Mills’s cattle trespassed on his domain. Finally sixteen of Mr. Mills’s cows were caught and locked up in Mr. Ludlum’s barn. Mr. Mills got a writ of replevin, armed with which Sheriff Winfield Scott Cox proceeded to Mr. Ludlum’s place on Wednesday and took possession of the distrained cattle.

There were sixteen cows, and it was dark and raining hard as the highest official of the county of Passaic with his consignment of beef proceeded “on the hoof” to Mr. Mills’s farm. Sheriff Cox, however, was raised in the country, and knowing something about cows, he got them safely to their owner’s barn.

New-York Tribune, 29 Jun 1883

And, finally, what is the origin of the name “Arrareek”? This is all I could find:

“…there were no Indians formally known as the ‘Arareeks’ [sic], but the name appears in an ancient deed, in which, as he recollected, the Pompton Falls or the land immediately about the same, was so designated. Any Indians, and there must have been very few, if any, living about Arareek, would be naturally designated by the name of the place.”

Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, 1913

Perhaps Mills knew about that “ancient deed” — he might even have owned it — and liked the name enough to resurrect it from the dustbin of history.

More than a farmer

In addition to being an ensilage pioneer, Clark W. Mills had a few other accomplishments to his name. In his occupation as a well-known grain broker, he and/or his partners were granted several patents in the 1860s and 1870s for improving the cooling of grain after being dried, as well as “a certain new and useful Improvement in Floating Grain-Elevators” for transferring grain from canal boats to a storehouse or vessel.

Mills also served, at various times, as the Chairman of the Township Committee of Pompton as well as Chairman of the Board of School Trustees. He also represented the first district of Passaic County in the NJ Assembly from 1883 to 1884. There’s a page of info about him, his wife Julia, and their eight children at the Familysearch genealogy site.

Arrareek today

Clark Wickham Mills died at Newark, aged 54, on January 5, 1887; his lands were sold a year later for $18,000. Nothing of Arrareek survives today; the house, the barn, the silos are all long gone. As the village of Pompton Lakes grew, due to the rapid growth of local employers like the German Artistic Weaving Company and the Smith Powder Works, farms and fields disappeared, streets were constructed and homes sprang up where corn and wheat once grew.

But some of his land along the Wanaque River was preserved as open space and parkland, stretching from Hamburg Turnpike (the “old swimming hole”) to Herschfield Park. It’s a lovely area that has been long been popular with young and old for decades. As Harper’s described it, “There can be no more beautiful country than that found in Passaic county, New Jersey, in the neighborhood of Pompton.”


A Brief Description of 1905 Newfoundland

Nice escription of 1905 Newfounland

Some of you know that I like to browse the old newspapers, because you never know what you’ll find there. This clipping, from 1905, is from a longer article (subscription required) and includes a nice description of Newfoundland and some interesting details.

Nice escription of 1905 Newfounland

For starters, “Newfoundland is the centre of the sugar bush country“. Who knew that some folks made maple syrup there?

And this tidbit: “There are two white frame churches with green blinds continually challenging each other from adjacent hills and so near alike that a newcomer might easily get mixed as to his doctrine by going to the rival church by mistake.”

I take this as a description of the M.E. church (now the dog-grooming place) and the long-gone Baptist church on Clinton Road. They were, in fact, almost identical in appearance, having been built by Conrad (later Reverend) Vreeland. (He deserves his own post.)

But it’s the sardonic description of Brown’s Hotel that I like the best:

“There is but one tavern with a bar in the place, and there is a bar that a bishop might dedicate without calling forth whereases and therefores from a single protesting body of his laity. It is a saloon in which there are window-boxes filled with oxalis and geraniums and begonias and other plants generally associated with grandmothers. It is one of the improving duties and pastimes of the bartender to water those plants and pick off the dead leave.

” ‘Botany before booze’ might be the motto of the place, but the only sign displayed is ‘Welcome,’ worked in light blue worsted on bristol-board and hung above the bottles. There are no drunkards there.”

The “saloon” the writer describes almost certainly refers to Brown’s Hotel. While John P. Brown kept a well-stocked bar, that came to an end after his death. J.P.’s son Theodore decreed that Brown’s would go “dry”, and he no longer sold alcohol there. And the writer was clearly very disappointed!


Newfoundland Speedway

This way to the races!
Admit One. Your dollar got you free parking, too.

From 1948 to 1952, large crowds would gather on weekends at the Union Valley Dude Ranch — later renamed Newfoundland Speedway — in Newfoundland (a part of West Milford) to watch motorcycles race around a dirt track. A course had been built on a farm owned by Richard Boulden and his wife, Violet Cole, in the Bearfort Mountain range. The Paterson Motorcycle Club sponsored the races, which drew racers from states along the East coast. Families would gather on weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall for “a good day of sport and clean racing,” as a 1951 newspaper article put it.

Poster for motorcycle races
1948 poster for motorcycle races at the Union Valley Ranch.

As many as 60 riders would compete in time trials and races along a newly-constructed 1/3 mile oval dirt track specially built for the sport. The track was 25 feet wide and featured a flat, dustless surface. A “dog leg” (sharp bend) heightened the excitement. Trophies and prize money were awarded. The novice trophy was especially prized.

Newspaper articles like this helped bring the crowds.

Unsurprisingly, accidents and spills happened. Miscellaneous cuts and bruises were not uncommon; sometimes, broken bones resulted from a spill. West Milford’s Volunteer Firemen’s Ambulance Corps was on hand to help. A man with a broken collar bone would be taken to a local doctor, who would patch up the rider before sending him to a hospital in nearby Franklin. At times, their main ambulance would be busy, spurring them to station a second, auxiliary ambulance as well.

Occasionally, proceeds from a race would be given to the volunteer corps for “faithfully contributing their time and equipment for the protection of the drivers.”

Riders came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut to compete. Some riders achieved local fame. Don Pink, of Yonkers, was apparently a popular fellow, as was Cornwall, NY’s Warren Sherwood. Easton, PA was represented by Jack Brewer and Ken Wismer. Al Wilcox was known as the “Trenton Flash” and Al Scirpo, the “Hartford Flash”. Race results were published in local papers, and undoubtedly a few wagers would be placed.

Photo from West Milford AIM (2012). Click for full-sized image.

In 1949 the track was christened the Newfoundland Speedway. There’s a great video of a race there on YouTube. Races were held every Saturday, and often on Sunday. The only exceptions were for larger motorcycle races such as the Gypsy Tour at the half-mile track on Route 6 (today’s Route 46) in Dover NJ — and, of course, rain.

The races came to be very popular. As many as twelve events were held, and the American Motorcycle Association would provide judges and timers.

The races ran almost every weekend through 1952, when the farm was sold. Today, it’s known as the West Milford Equestrian Center, and it is again up for sale.

There are some nice shots of races, and close-ups of the bikes, at this site.