The Thomas Ryder Farm


by William Belcher
Passaic County Historical Society Publication, September 1, 1928

ryderRight on top of Garret Mountain, just a little past the recently developed Amusement Park, was once the farm of Thomas Ryder.  It has been cut up until the homestead tract proper is now ( 1928) but seventeen acres in extent.

On this farm, in the Revolutionary period, a portion of the Continental Army was stationed, consisting of the Artillery of Major Parr and Col. Moylan’s Dragoons.  It is easy to see why this spot was chosen –  primarily, of course, because the height commanded a view of road from Cranetown (Montclair); and to the west, of the Second Mountain, (beyond which Washington himself was encamped July 1st to 29th and October 8th to Nov. 27, 1780, his headquarters having been at the Dey Mansion, Lower Preakness).  Secondly, because on what is now (1928) the Weimer farm and was then the original Ryder homestead, a sweet and cooling spring bubbled up, and too, at the very tip of the Weasel Drift another spring was on duty next to the late Rea place, and still helps to quench the thirst of the passing traveler, as both have done for the past one hundred and fifty years.  It is impressive to stop and contemplate, as one does, in drinking at these springs, that the military heroes of the Revolution undoubtedly did the same thing, and it is pleasing to note how well kept they both are.

In Scott’s History we fine the following:
On May 3, 1775, a meeting was held in the tavern opposite the church in Acquackanonk, and a committee appointed to act with other committees of adjacent townships to take action in regard to the protests against the enforcement of the obnoxious tea tax and other laws.  Twenty-three were on the committee; sixteen of them were buried in the old churchyard.  They were most all farmers.  Two of them, Robert Drummond and Thomas Ryder, turned renegade.

It is of the latter we write.  Instead of using his energy for the cause favored by his neighbors, he apparently became a member of the committee solely to get information to use against it.  Only a few weeks intervened before Ryder was missing from his home.  He turned up with a British detachment that scoured the country in Bergen County, robbing and killing all who were friendly to the Colonies; and it was learned, too, that he was implicated in the murder of Jonathan Hopper, one of the bravest and staunchest patriots, in 1779.

He left his family, who still resided on the farm, and it was at this particular place that Joshua Hett Smith, connected with the treason of Arnold, who had made his escape from the Godwin tavern, stopped for succor on his way over Garret Mountain to New York.  He was known to have taken the Rifle Camp road.  In those days there was no Main Street in Paterson, and this region was well beyond the settled portion of the community at Totowa Bridge.  Despite all efforts for his capture, he eluded his pursuers and arrived in safety within the British lines.

The Ryder family kept themselves quiet, and their neighbors did not molest them.  Although they were chagrined to have such a situation in their midst, the feeling against the Ryders seems to have been one of pity, and the family stayed on until after the war closed.  Ryder never came back and was never heard from again.

Subsequently, about 1778, an inquisition was made against Ryder, the result of which is more specifically stated in the following:

Jos. Hedden, Jr.,
Samuel Hayes, and
Thomas Canfield,
three of the
Commissioners of the
County of Essex
John Moore Bargain and Sale Deed.
Dated July 1, 1o779
Proved October 16, 1804
Recorded May 3, 1836
Book B4, page 500
Essex County Clerk’s Office
Consideration, L121

Recites:  Whereas lately, that is to say in the term of June, in the year of our Lord 1o7o79, in the Court of Common Pleas held in Pompton, in and for the said County of Bergen, before the judges of the same Court, final judgment was had and entered in favor of the State of New Jersey pursuant to law, against Thomas Ryder, late of the County of Bergen, on an inquisition found against the said Thomas Ryder, for that the said Thomas Ryder, on or about the first day of October, in the year of our Lord,  1778. did join the Army of the King of Great Britain, against the form of his allegiance to the States; and whereas after the entry of the said judgment and in the execution of the same, to wit:  in the term of June, in the year of our Lord, 1779, a certain writ issued out of the said County of Essex, directed to Joseph Hedden, Jr., Samuel Hayes, Thomas Canfield, John Closson, and Daniel Marsh, Commissioners duly appointed for the County of Essex aforesaid, on the part, or in behalf of the State of New Jersey, to take and dispose of, for the use and benefit of the same, to any two or more of them, were commanded and enjoined to sell and dispose of all and singular, the lands, tenements, and hereditaments held in fee, or for term of life, and generally all the estate, real, of  what nature or kind so ever, belonging to lately belonging to the said Thomas Ryder, within the said County of Essex, according to the directions of an act for forfeiting to and vesting in the said State of New Jersey the real estate of certain fugitive and offenders, made and passed the 11th day of December, in the year 1779, and by the record of the same judgment and writ remaining in the Clerk’s office of the said County of Essex may fully appear.  And whereas, the said Joseph Hedden, Jr., Samuel Hayes, and Thomas Canfield, three of the Commissioners aforesaid, by virtue of the said writ, did, after duly advertising the same, sell the same to John Moore, he being the highest bidder.

 Being butted and bounded as follows:  north on Hartman Vreeland, west on Peter Post, south on John Freeland, and east on the edge of the mountain, containing forty-one acres, be the same more or less, all the right, title, and interest of Thomas Ryder, on the first day of October, 1778.

Note:  This deed was not signed by Thomas Canfield, and was proved October 16, 1804, as to the signatures of the other Commissioners.

John Moore left a will, proved November 5, 1805, devising the property to his sons, Jacob and Cornelius.  Jacob sold six acres to Cornelius in 1851.  This portion passed through various hands until 1914, when it became the property of Rayton E. Horton, who still holds it.  Mr. Horton recently gave a strip of this land to the county in order to straighten the roadway.  The old road (the Weasel Drift) turned to the right opposite Mr. Horton’s house, and made a triangle, below which is located the original Ryder homestead and farm buildings, now the Weimer place.

A cellar on the land once owned by Cornelius is still in evidence, and the location of the walls clearly defined.  Lilacs, shrubs and vines cling about the ruin, and now and then you pick up a piece of earthenware.  The farm itself has not been much cultivated of late years, although there are folks about here who have seen it blossom as the rose.

If Ryder could return, he would be amazed to see the Sowerbutt Quarries, dug far into the face of the edge of the mountain that, in his time, seemed impregnable.  Garret Mountain Park and the houses to the west are all on his original possession.

The farm is beyond the limits of Paterson in West Paterson, as a matter of fact), there being no trace of the city visible from the houses now there; and yet, going a short distance down the fine road which was been constructed over the steep rocks, a panorama of the most bewildering beauty and vast extent opens up, in which are included New York and all its environment.  The Weasel Drift is a favorite route for pedestrians, and it is a short cut for automobiles via the Rifle Camp road to Little Falls.

This piece of property is one of the very few in Passaic County acquired by the State of New Jersey in this peculiar way.  In Bergen County, which was a hotbed of loyalty to the King, many farms were forfeited to the State by such processes of divestment.

It will pay anybody to climb the hill.  When its summit is reached, the finest view in this vicinity will repay the lover of Nature.  We do not appreciate what we have at out own door, but go to Europe and enthuse over scenes not half so wonderful.