The Iron Industry
The town of Ringwood sits amongst the Ramapo
Mountains of northwest New Jersey. In the mid 16th century, the Ringwood
area was recognized to have large deposits of Iron ore. The town was founded
in 1740 by the Ogden family of Newark. In 1742 the iron industry began in
Ringwood as Ogden open the first of many blast furnaces that would eventually
be built in the area. In 1764, a British firm called the America Company
bought the ironworks and brought in Peter Hasenclever to run it. Hasenclever
built more furnaces in the immediate area and established Ringwood Manor,
an iron "plantation" combining the medieval institution of a manor with the
iron industry. Miners and workers of the forges and furnaces lived on the
manor, and surrounding lands were rented to farmers and woodsmen.
In 1767, Hasenclever was relieved of his duties by the America Company, and in 1771 a Scotsman named Robert Erskine was brought in to become the new manager of the works. When the Revolutionary war broke out, Erskine sided with the colonists, and he was commissioned as Surveyor-General of the Continental army by George Washington. In 1782 the New Jersey legislature expropriated the mines and furnaces from the America Company, but they laid idle till well after the war. In 1807, Martin J. Ryerson bought the mines and furnaces in Ringwood and ran a profitable business. However, in 1839, after his death, the company went into bankruptcy.
In 1853, the Ringwood mines and furnaces (the furnace was at the Long Pond Ironworks (left), which today lies in West Milford) were bought by Peter Cooper of New York. Cooper was a New York industrialist who founded the Cooper Union, and operated the Trenton Iron Company. Cooper brought in Abram S. Hewitt as Secretary and business manager for the operation. Hewitt would later become a New York city mayor. During the civil war Cooper, Hewitt, and Company supplied gun carriages, and the Union Army's mortars. It was during this time that the shipping problems associated with the remoteness of the area began to become severe.
In 1875, the Montclair Railway Company built a line from Pompton to Greenwood Lake with a spur to Ringwood (the railroad would become the Erie's Greenwood Lake Branch), but it was too late. By 1880 iron ore from the Ramapos was replaced by ore from Minnesota. Peters Mine (left), the largest of the Ringwood mines was worked on and off until 1931. During World War II Peters Mine was refurbished by the federal government and was to be used as a defense resource, but no ore was actually mined. After the war, the mine was sold to private interests, and passed through several companies before finally being shut down forever in the late 1950's. Passenger service was operated on the railroad into the early 1960's. After passenger service was discontinued, the line was abandoned, and removed.
During the heyday of the iron industry in the
nineteenth century several wealthy families owned large estates in Ringwood.
Abram S. Hewitt married Peter Cooper's Daughter, and built the present Ringwood
Manor (left) in 1878 on the site of the first manor house built by
Hasenclever. This house still stands today and is a major attraction in the
area. Hewitt built another manor house on an adjoining property as a wedding
gift for his daughter. This house was sold in 1930 to the Franciscan Sisters
as a convent. This house still stands today, and is still a convent.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Francis Lynn Stetson, a wealthy corporate lawyer for J.P. Morgan bought 1705 acres on the slopes of the Ramapos in Ringwood and built a farm estate and mansion called Skylands Manor. This manor was rebuilt (left) in 1924 by Clarence Lewis, who acquired the property after Stetson's death. In 1966, Skylands Manor was bought by the state of New Jersey under the Green Acres program. Today, Skylands Manor is a state botanical garden (Lewis was an avid gardener, and turned Skylands Manor into a living showplace during his lifetime). The 1924 mansion still stands, and is open to the public several times a year.
Starting in 1908, the state Water Supply Commission
began work on a comprehensive project to develop water sources up north.
By 1915, seven towns had joined the cause, and in 1916 the North Jersey District
Water Supply Commission was created. Ringwood was slated as their target
for a reservoir. In 1920, construction began. During construction, properties
had to be acquired and demolished, roadways moved, seven dams built, a railroad
was realigned, and cemeteries were relocated. In 1928 the project was completed,
and it took another year for the works to fill. During this period Ringwood's
appearance took on a new look as parts of the town disappeared under the
water forever (above). By 1930 the reservoir was full, and became
known as the Wanaque Reservoir. The area covered is 1.5 miles at it's widest
point, and six miles long. The average depth is 37 feet, the deepest section
is 90 feet. In the 1980's a second reservoir was built in Ringwood above
the current one in order to expand the region's water supplies even further.
This new reservoir is smaller than the Wanaque, being about 2 miles long,
and .75 miles wide. It is held back by a single 300 foot high dam built between
two mountains. It was named the Monksville reservoir after the name of the
section of town that it obliterated.