Reminiscences of Paterson

From Passaic County Historical Publication Volume 1971 – Number 1

Note:  The following “reminiscences” are dated May 23, 1867, and May 24, 1867.   It is not known who compiled the material; however, the articles provide wonderful information about early Paterson and some of its residents.We have conversed with one who seemed more intimately acquainted with Paterson in early times than John K. Flood.  Mr. Flood was for ten years judge of our county court and of

We have conversed with one who seemed more intimately acquainted with Paterson in early times than John K. Flood.  Mr. Flood was for ten years judge of our county court and of course, knows everything about old time people here.  His father, John Flood, at one time bought 110 feet front in West street opposite Justice Geroe’s office (44 West street) for $88.  The street at the time was called the Paterson and Hamburg Turnpike, but was afterward changed to Bridge and then to West street.  This was in 1810 and at the same time, the Society (S.U.M.) offered him both sides, the whole street (excepting the Van Winkle property near the bridge) for one hundred pounds (about $240).  The reason he did not buy was because it was a greater price when it was worth – a greater part at that time being a swamp, the turnpike (West st.) having been laid right through the pond, which was on both sides of the road with water about five feet deep where Derrom’s shops and residence now are.  Mr. Flood says it was as mirey place as he ever saw, and that the mud beneath the water was thirteen feet deep, as he himself ran a fifteen-foot rail down easily and found no bottom with the length perpendicularly under the soft mud.  This pond ran up above Derrom’s dwelling to where Mr. Daggers now lives, which was on the higher ground on the edge of the pond and occupied at the time by the Flood family.  The pond ran down to nearly where Mrs. Butler’s brick house is on one side, coming up the easterly side of the street above where Mr. Munson’s house now is.  Mr. Munson’s house being built like Mr. Derrom’s, on made ground.  It was one pond before the road divided it and was about the same length both sides.  The turnpike across the pond sank several times, and strange to say, everytime at night.  At one time it went entirely out of sight, each time making the pond shallower, but not showing when it pushed up the ground as the water was of such depth.  The pond extended back as far as Mulberry street (the old road) and on the easterly side to the rear of the houses now on Main street.  The pond was filled generally twice a year, spring and fall by the overflow of the Passaic, the banks not being raised for protection then.  This pond Mr. Flood says was fairly alive with cat fish and when the pond was filled up to within ten to fifteen feet in about the year 1826, every load of dirt thrown in would force up the mud mixed with cat fish on the opposite side in such quantities as to excite the pity of the people about, who finally made up a purse and gave it to Paul Rutan, old Paul, an old fisherman, and he gathered four or five barrels of the fish and let them go again in the river, they not being considered good at the time, the water being stagnant in so far as to deprive it of the atmospheric air necessary to keep them in a healthful condition.  Dublin Spring brook did not run into the pond, although sometimes it overflowed its banks and went into this pond.  The brook crossed the turnpike where it now crosses West street and ran down in the rear of the pond.

May 23, 1867

Broadway of today and the “Old York Road”, the old Weasel Road and the “River Road” of the past are the same.  This was the direct road to New York through Acquackannock, going out to the crossing of the road and so through “Peace and Plenty” to what is now Willis (Park) Avenue and taking another hitch there and so diagonally coming out on Market street a half mile or so from the Dundee Bridge (via what is now called Vreeland avenue we believe, on which Mr. Turner lives).  By reference to a city map, it will be readily seen where the old road marked the way on down towards the river its course being diagonal and explaining the position what is now one of our main avenues, whilst all other streets and avenues, not old roads are mainly at right angles.  There was no turnpike then directly leading to what is now Passaic, and the York Road followed the river and is now what is called the Dundee Road.


in Paterson was John King, whose place was on the Old York road where Dr. Van Blarcom’s office (95 Broadway) now is – the same house which is now modernized.  He kept a stall and was the only butcher till he died, when David Van Horn started a shop in Stanfords Alley, then called Yoppy’s Alley, after Jacob Van Houten, a queer genius of olden times.  (This Yoppy got his jaw out of joint and went away to Acquackanonnock with his mouth side open where Dr. Ellison was holding the Battalion court.  When he got there he could not speak, but the doctor who saw what the matter was, at once gave him a tremendous slap on the jaw and said: “go home again.”  Whether the doctor spoke to the jaw out of joint or to Yoppy, the jaw went back and Yoppy went home rejoicing).  The third butcher was named Law, who kept a stall in a little wooden shantee where the Continental Hall now is, on the corner in front of where a great rock rested in the road till Kings store was built when it was blasted and taken away.  This rock was formerly a general place of congregation for all the boys and young men of the neighborhood.  Law the third butcher referred to is still living in Newark, N.J., and keeps a real estate office, and is active although over 80 years of age.  This Joseph Law as one of the Methodists here, and William Jacobs, the first Methodist preacher here, was the founder of Methodism in Paterson.  The first Methodist preacher was a bookkeeper for John Colt and preached on Sunday and erected the first church, for a long time called the Methodist chapel.  It was the first Methodist church in use here and was located precisely where the Prospect street Methodist church now stands.  William Jacobs, this first preacher, has his name inscribed on the old Paterson and Orange stone of Masons as the chaplain forty-three years ago.  Mr. Jacobs built Prospect street chapel the first Methodist church referred to by private subscription got principally from hands engaged in weaving duck cloth in the mills.  Jacobs preached here eight or ten years and died in 1832 of Cholera.


was William Day, who also was one of the early Methodists and an exhorter and afterwards a preacher.  He first opened his Tobacco and pipe store in what was recently the old wire mill latterly destroyed by fire (Nov. 1866) at the foot of West street.  He kept store there till he moved into Van Houten street, and continued in Van Houten street till he sold out to Stephen Allen, who was an apprentice of his and who still continued in the business.  Mr. Day went afterwards to Portland and it was his daughter that the late John English married as his second wife.


was Horatio Moses, also one of the early Methodists and who started a shop on the spot now occupied by John D. Hogan’s residence in Bank street.  Mr. Moses afterwards removed to Van Houten street where he kept store for years till he sold out to Mr. McCullock and went to California, as most of our people know.  He sacrificed a great deal for Methodism here, entertained the preachers and in fact for years bore a great portion of the burden.  His house at times has been a regular refuge for poor Methodists; but he afterwards became poor and got into financial difficulties, unfortunately.  It is often said he sacrifices his wealth for his religion.

May 24, 1867