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The Difficult Postwar Years

The end of the war reopened the South as a source of raw cotton, and the demand for warp grew. By 1865, the Rosencrantz mill was back in full operation, and the economic situation at The Hermitage improved markedly. In that year, the Paterson & Ramapo Railroad, which had become part of the Erie Railroad system, decided to increase from a single track to a double track through Bergen County. [Tell me more about the Paterson & Ramapo Railroad.] Elijah sold 1.5 acres of land to the railroad for this purpose. Improvements that were being made at The Hermitage, including a new carpet and coal-burning grate for the dining room, a repainted buggy, and a new corncrib near the pig pen, were visible signs of the family's returning prosperity.

Killie DaytonIn 1865, Will, 13, was sent to a boarding school near Albany, while John, 12, and Bess, 11, attended school in Ho-Ho-Kus. At home, the children had pigeons, turkeys, and a lamb. John hunted rabbits. Elijah took Bess shopping in Paterson, and she spent two weeks with her aunt Ida in New York City. Elijah's brother John and his wife visited from Philadelphia, to which he had returned after the war. The Rosencrantzes were also friendly with the family of Orville Victor, an author and publisher of dime novels, who lived across Franklin Turnpike. In 1868, Elijah repaid Captain Dayton $4,000 for his 1851 loan.

During the war years, Killie had contracted tuberculosis, exemplifying the tragic effect of the disease in 19th century America among the well-to-do as well as among the poor. Despite her illness, she gave birth to George in 1865. She then spent time trying to recuperate with her sister's family in Litchfield, Connecticut. Despite optimism on her return and the help of doctors, Killie's condition only worsened, and she died in 1867. In her sixteen years at The Hermitage, she made a large contribution to the Rosencrantz family. She added status and brought a cosmopolitan style to the household. She was, in fact, the key in bringing together the Rosencrantz and Dayton families who contributed so much to the founding of Ridgewood, and she was a strong support for Elijah during the trying years of the Civil War. [Tell me more about Ridgewood.]

George was only two when his mother died. Elijah asked 21-year-old Charlotte Caroline (Lillie) Dennis of Richmond, Virginia, to come to Ho-Ho-Kus to help take care of him and the other children when they were home from school. Through most of the second half of the 1860s, Bess attended the Passaic Classical Institute and boarded in Paterson during the week, returning to The Hermitage on weekends. The school reported that she was one of its best behaved and most painstaking students, and her grades in history were particularly good. In 1870, the family arranged for Bess to attend St. Mary's, an Episcopal academy in southern New Jersey. After a few months there, she had to return home with a serious infection.

Lillie DennisIn 1870, 55-year-old Elijah married Lillie Dennis. She and Elijah had one child, Henry De Witt (Harry) Rosencrantz, who was born in 1872. Harry had health problems and nearly died just before he was a year old. Lillie gained the respect and love of her four stepchildren and took an active role in running The Hermitage. At the same time, she remained in touch with her family in Virginia. She joined and donated to Confederate veterans' organizations and visited Dennis relatives who had moved to Ridgewood and those who still lived in Richmond. As son George reached school age, Elijah, unhappy with the quality of education provided at the local schools, helped to establish the private Valley School in Ho-Ho-Kus. [Tell me more about Valley School.]

As the cotton mill recovered, Elijah returned to an old idea: adding a paper mill to his business holdings. He chose to locate it in Orange County, New York, and to put his son Will in charge. By 1873, the paper mill was up and running. But 1873 turned out to be a bad year for the Rosencrantz family and their enterprises, as well as for the nation as a whole. Elijah was ill through the first months of the year and was unable to go even to the cotton mill because he could not bear the noise (which, of course, his workers had to bear for long hours six days a week). Then, as he was recovering his health, one of America's most severe economic depressions began. By November, Elijah was reporting that times were very hard. The paper mill ceased operation, and the cotton warp mill was kept going only because his brother John helped to meet its expenses. In the process, John became the owner of the Ho-Ho-Kus mill, while Elijah remained the manager of its operation. [Tell me more about the cotton mill.]

Elijah RosencrantzBetter economic conditions returned in the 1880s, and the Rosencrantz mill regained profitability. However, the second generation of the Rosencrantz family was coming to an end. John died in Philadelphia in 1885, and Elijah died in Ho-Ho-Kus in 1888. Both brothers typified the challenges, accomplishments, and failures of self-instructed early rural industrial entrepreneurship in the America that was rising in the first half of the 19th century and that became dominant in the second half of that century, with the mechanization of production, evolving power sources, new labor, innovative transportation, and personal rewards and community status that came with manufacturing wealth.

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