THE ROSENCRANTZ FAMILY AND THE HERMITAGE – 1807-1970
The Second Rosencrantz Generation – Four Sons
Three of the four sons of Elijah and Cornelia lived to be adults, John born in 1809, George Suffern in 1812, and Elijah II in 1814. They received some aspects of a classical education, some at home and some in schools. Their later letters show some knowledge of Greek mythology and other classical and literary subjects. Careerwise the three sons moved in quite different directions. However, the spirit of entrepreneurship and particularly, as with their father in his last years, the new rapidly growing industrialism, captured the imagination and energies of at least two of them. They exhibited flexibility in adapting to new opportunities afoot in the first half of the 19th century. This is a family that, while continuing some farming on their property, had moved in their main career goals markedly from the agrarian roots of their American forebears.
George Rosencrantz, 1812-1864
George, the second son, while having received some education early at home, went to work in 1827 at age 15 in the New York City retail establishment of his second cousin, Tom Suffern. He took up residence in a nearby boarding house on Cedar Street. George was thus employed into the early 1830s. He, however, developed a strong military interest – another Suffern cousin attended West Point – and enlisted in the first regiment of the New York Horse Artillery. He seems to have remained in the military for three years, during which time he transferred to the 59th Brigade of the New York State infantry. George seems to have left under some cloud, since he was court-martialed in 1838 and fined $14.75.
Appointment of George Rosencrantz in the New York Horse Artillery, 1835
By 1839 George was working for the firm of Crook and Watts. A letter from a friend in 1840 stated: “I rejoice to hear you yield no more to temptation.” Shortly thereafter George seems to have replaced Crook and became a partner in his firm which was then named Rosencrantz and Watts. This firm bought and sold cotton.
Some time later in the 1840s, George left New York for Philadelphia where he worked as a bookkeeper for his brother John and for John’s wife’s brother-in-law, J. Q. Adams. At some time, probably in the 1850s George again was having problems. He overdrew money from Adam’s account ($150), was absent from work about half the time, and was found to not be in a condition to attend to business (illness? drink?) By 1860 George is back in Ho-Ho-Kus. He lived near The Hermitage, continued to be a bookkeeper and had a live-in African American servant. George who never married, became ill and died in 1864 at the age of 52.
John Rosencrantz, 1809-1883
Earlier than George, John, at age 15, had gone to work for Tom Suffern in New York City. But shortly thereafter he was enrolled in an academy for classical studies, probably in New York, in 1824-1825. He pursued Latin, Greek, French, geography and history. However, whether due to financial problems at home or through his own inclinations, John in 1826 changed his studies to the applied field of medicine. Elijah wrote: “I have met with no disappointment in the course of my life which has hurt me so terribly and acutely as that which compels me to give up the idea of giving you a liberal education.” John seemed to be much less disappointed by the change. He wrote to a friend: “ I soon intend to quite Xenophon and go to study physick.”
John decided to study with his friend and neighbor, Garret Terhune, with a faculty that had just formed a new medical school in New York City that arranged to offer its degrees through Rutgers College. He may have returned for a second year, but there are no surviving letters from that time.
When John returned home, it is presumed that he apprenticed with his father. In 1830 the Board of Trustees of Rutgers College conferred upon John Rosencrantz “the degree of Doctor of Medicine.” In that same year John took his father’s place as the physician for the Bergen County Militia, but it is not clear to what extent John practiced medicine in Ho-Ho-Kus.
Actually John Rosencrantz got very caught up in growing industrialism and focused his attention on the cotton warp mill built by his father. By 1834 the Prall brothers seem to have become willing to cease running that mill and to sell their interest in it. In that year John borrowed the capital necessary to buy the Prall Brothers machinery so that he himself could run the cotton warp mill. He began the spinning operation on July 7, 1834 with 22 people working at carding, spinning on throstles and ruling. In 1836 the mill had 888 spindles, was producing 1000 pounds of yarn a week for a net income of $98. John gave thought, but not action, to adding weaving looms at the mill. He also involved his younger brother, Elijah II in the mill.
John and Elijah II were part of the rapidly emerging industrial activities in the eastern part of the United States. Not only was nearby Paterson one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution in this country, but mechanized workplaces and factories were developing in Newark, New York City, Philadelphia and through much of New England. Concomitantly this new economic activity spurred on the building of mills along suitable rivers and streams in rural areas outside of the cities. In rural Bergen County by 1834 there were 16 cotton factories, 5 woolen factories, 10 carding machines and 4 fulling mills for making clothing. In addition, mother Caroline, a Suffern, brought with her the knowledge of and contact with industrial entrepreurship in her family practiced not far away across the New York State border in Rockland County. Caroline’s father, John Suffern, after the Revolution had established a wool factory, built a forge and erected a rolling mill and nail factory. His son, John, the Rosencrantz young men’s uncle continued to run the rolling mill and nail factory
John Rosencrantz’s position now as a leading businessman in New Prospect (Ho-Ho-Kus) enabled him to gain the position of local postmaster in 1835. He probably ran the post office out of The Hermitage. However, the cotton mill also brought John into contact with a wider world beyond New Prospect. The raw material for the mill, bales of cotton from the South, came primarily through cotton merchants in New York City. In seeking markets for the manufactured cotton warp from his mill, he found buyers in Philadelphia. Here he came into contact with Joseph Ripka and his family.
By the mid-1830s, Joseph Ripka, an immigrant weaver from Silesia who had arrived in Philadelphia in 1816 was well on his way to becoming the leading textile manufacturer in that city with several factories and more than 500 workers. His largest mills were located in Manayunk in the western part of Philadelphia. Around 1823 Ripka married Kate Geiger of Germantown and together they had five sons and four daughters.
While details have not been found on how it happened, John Rosencrantz not only became involved with the Ripka’s in terms of business, but impressed the family and particularly a daughter, Cornelia, whom he married in September 1838. He was 29 and she was in her teens. The young couple had a daughter, Mary, in September 1839, but she died at a young age.
John Rosencrantz, thus, entered a highly successful entrepreneurial family, became manager of a large Ripka mill, and settled in Manayunk. He became highly knowledgeable about the most advanced developments in textile production which he shared to some extent with his brother Elijah who took over The Hermitage cotton warp mill.
John attained a degree of affluence, but the cost was high. Joseph Ripka’s factories grew in capitalization to nearing $490,000 by 1850 and his number of workers came at times to exceed one thousand. The self-made owner was hard driving on himself and on his workers. There were 13 hour days and low pay. Already in 1839 John Rosencrantz was writing to his brother Elijah about unrest among the workers. In 1848 another reduction of workers’ wages resulted in worker resentment, protests and the setting on fire of John’s “big mill” with much damage. It was restored, but in the 1850s the Ripka mills were headed for even greater problems as they became increasingly dependent on the South not only for their raw material, but also as the major market for their finished goods.
Appointment of John Rosencrantz as physician for the Bergen County militia, 1828
Mill Pond and dam for Rosencrantz cotton warp mill on the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook
from a ledger for the Rosencrantz cotton warp mill, payment of workers, 1844
Elijah II Inherited The Hermitage, Ran the Cotton Mill and Was a Postmaster
With George Rosencrantz in New York City and John Rosencrantz in Philadelphia, it was brother Elijah who remained at The Hermitage with his mother Caroline. She would reside there until her death in 1859. After the death of her husband, Elijah I, in 1832, Caroline, already noted for a reluctance in the latter 1820s to leave her home, showed increased signs of melancholy and perhaps depression. In February 1834 Elijah wrote his brother George then in New York stating that “ma…had got so much in the habit of staying home that it is with the most extreme difficulty we can get her outside the door.” There is extant a book into which she copied poems that she wished to record and keep. They dealt mainly with loss, loneliness and death.
By 1838, when he was 24 years of age, Elijah II was in charge of the Rosencrantz cotton warp mill. It is not clear how much schooling he received. From his correspondence it appears that he had some classical education, perhaps at home. With his father’s funds going into dam and mill construction, starting in 1828 when Elijah was 14 and then with his fathers illness and death by time Elijah was 18, it appears that there was little money available for a boarding school education (but this is not certain). By 1834 Elijah at age 20 was involved with his brother John in running the cotton mill. Elijah had no schooling for managing a mill. He gained knowledge by observation in working with his brother who was also learning, by trial and error, by contact with other mill owners in his area, by letters from his brother after 1838, and perhaps by some reading – a situation faced by most entrepreneurs in these early years of the industrial revolution in the United States. In 1840 there were in Elijah’s own Franklin Township (within which Hohokus was a village) six cotton manufactories and five paper mills. In the correspondence between the brothers there was advise, criticism, and discussion. In 1841 John complained about the yarn that Elijah’s was sending to the Manayunk mills. He wrote: “If you become familiar with the machinery you cannot fail to make a manufacturer.” In July 1848 Elijah wrote: “We can’t get warpers from Paterson, and in most cases have to learn them.”
As owner Elijah had to recruit, train and manage the workers at his mill. They ranged between 20 and 40 persons. From a ledger entry on one payday in 1850 thirty-one workers were listed. Marion Brown found most of these workers listed in the 1850 manuscript census. They seem for the most part to have been neighbors of Elijah Rosencrantz. They were within walking distance of the mill. Seventeen were male and fourteen were female. Some, including a couple of women, were the heads of households, but most lived with their farm or craftsmen (carpenter) families. There was child labor. Five workers were 14 years of age or younger – at least two had a mother, without a father in the family. Among the women workers, ages ranged from 12 and 13 to 24 with about half being teenagers. The range for the men was greater, from 8 and 9 to 20, 33, 46, 49, 58, 60, and 62, but with no teenagers. All the workers were born in New Jersey. More than half had English family names, while others had Dutch, German and Irish names. The Rosencrantz mill provided a limited number of family and two family tenant housing for a portion of its workforce. The laborers worked 6 days a week and 12 hours a day subjected to much noise from the machinery and with much cotton dust in the air. The only days off other than Sunday, but unpaid, were Christmas and the Fourth of July. Work was suspended, again without pay, when the water was too low or there were a lack of orders. As far as we know there were no labor protests at the Rosencrantz mill comparable to those at the Ripka factories in Philadelphia. This was probably due to the fact that the mill in Ho-Ho-Kus was smaller, the workforce for the most part was made up of neighbors, and most of the workers could depend on families for extra work and/or support on farms or in crafts.
Despite his lack of training and some inadequacies in the running of his mill, Elijah seems to have established a going business, one that survived the national economic downturn of the late 1830s. In fact, his cotton mill, as did the Ripka enterprise and other textile manufacturers, seems to have experienced prosperity in the 1840s. The capitalist business cycles of growing production and prosperity followed by overproduction, a decline in demand and a depression would impact on the Rosencrantz mill and family.
Elijah was able to obtain raw cotton through merchants in New York City that included his brother’s firm of Rosencrantz and Watts. He also associated with New York cotton merchant Samuel Dayton. Equally important, Elijah had a reliable market for his finished warp in Philadelphia through his brother John’s connection to the Ripka mills.
The cotton mill became the main source of income for the Rosencrantz family and of their position as an upper middle class family through most of the remainder of the 19th century. For a time Elijah supplemented his income by taking over from his brother John as the postmaster of New Prosepct and by continuing agricultural activities at The Hermitage. Through the 1840s Elijah and his mother had two black servants, Silva and Pompey Rosencrantz.
In 1840s Elijah Had The Hermitage Reconstructed into a Gothic Revival Style Home
One sign of Elijah’s prosperity in the1840s was his decision around 1846 to enlarge and reconstruct The Hermitage, which had not had a major remodeling in the more than 80 years that it had served as a home. A more imposing home would mark not only Elijah’s success as a new industrial entrepreneur, but also establish his growing status in his community and in his area of Bergen County. It has also been conjectured that a newly rebuilt and enlarged home would enable Elijah to attract a bride from a well-established family.
Elijah chose to engage not just a builder, but a professional architect for the reconstruction of his home. He was fortunate in that he had come to know William Ranlett, who had come to the New York/New Jersey area from Maine and had met and married, in 1833, Adeline Sexton who lived near the Rosencrantzes in Bergen County. Ranlett had established an office in New York City. He had designed houses in Manhattan through the 1840s and had gained a degree of renown through his publication The Architect.
While Ranlett offered his clients a variety of domestic architectural styles, he and Elijah agreed on Gothic Revival for the remodeling of The Hermitage. It was a style that was being advocated in the writings and work of the landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing of Newburg and of New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis and which was coming into vogue in the northeast and particularly in the Hudson River Valley region. The choice of Gothic Revival would mark Elijah as adventuresome, a member of the avant garde, a man of taste, a person of substance. The reconstruction of The Hermitage announced Elijah’s love of place and attachment to his local area. While the Gothic Revival style with its large ground floor windows and porches opened the home to surrounding nature, its innovative modern conveniences; running water, indoor plumbing and central heating made for increased comfort.
The Hermitage as remodeled by 1848 would remain largely unchanged through the Rosencrantz years down to 1970 and beyond that to the present. It remains for us today an outstanding, nationally recognized example of Gothic Revival architecture.
For Elijah, the cost of his reconstructed Hermitage stretched his finances and only gradually was he able to fully furnish the enlarged home. Through the years Elijah and his family remained friends with William Ranlett and his family, who after a number of years of work in San Francisco, would return east and settle in Bergen County.
In 1848 the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad Was Built Adjacent to The Hermitage Property
At the same time that Elijah Rosencrantz was engaged in the reconstruction of The Hermitage, there developed the prospect of a railroad being built to and through Hohokus. The financiers supporting the proposed Paterson and Ramapo Railroad were primarily interested in connecting two of America’s earliest roads, the Paterson and Hudson completed in 1832 and the Erie which reached from Piermont to New Antrim (Suffern) by 1841 and across New York State to Lake Erie by 1851. By the latter date it was the longest railroad in the world. In planning the connection leading from Paterson to the Erie at New Antrim the builders wanted to tap businesses along this connecting road. In an 1847 map showing the prospective route for the Paterson and Ramapo, the planners indicated the location of local factories that might be served, including the Rosencrantz mill and others on the Hohokus Brook. This single track railroad was completed in 1848.
For a mill owner like Elijah Rosencrantz a railroad would greatly improve transportation essential to his business. Before the arrival of the railroad, cotton bales were brought from New York City to Hohokus by boat and horse and wagon and the finished warp was taken to Philadelphia in the same way. The railroad with a stop near the Rosencrantz mill in Hohokus would greatly facilitate and speed up access to raw materials and to markets. Elijah could not but be excited about the possibilities for increased business and more rapid and comfortable personal access to Paterson and New York City. He thus willingly made land available for the railroad right of way through his property.
The prospects of improved transportation seems to have contributed to Elijah’s decision to join with Mathew Dunlap in planning in 1848 the establishment of a new paper mill on Hohokus Brook. In January of 1849 they ordered a paper making machine from Worcester, Massachusetts for $1,800. The mill went into operation later that year, even though Elijah reported to his brother John that his finances are overextended due to this mill venture and his reconstructed house.
Thus, Elijah exemplified entrepreneurs in industrializing America who were being incorporated more fully, if incrementally, into a regional and even national economy through increasingly technologized infrastructures controlled by heavily capitalized corporations. The railroad did aid the Rosencrantz cotton mill business, and also his agricultural output. Already in 1848 we hear about strawberry production at The Hermitage. The new railroad opened quick access to growing urban markets and strawberry output increased all along its line. By the 1850s Bergen County produced more strawberries than any other county in the country. While the railroad provided positive benefits, there would be costs and liabilities. Complaints from Eliljah Rosencrantz came early, by August 1849, when he had difficulty in getting the Paterson and Ramapo railroad company to clear debris from construction that had fallen into the Hohokus Brook and which interfered to some extent with the flow of the water and its use by the mills.
The building of a new railroad and the reconstruction of The Hermitage drew special attention to Hohokus among friends and acquaintances of Elijah Rosencrantz, even ones living in New York City. One of these was the cotton merchant Captain Samuel Dayton. Dayton came to visit in Hohokus, and then liking the area he decided to summer there in the late 1840s. He stayed at the Tolles House near the Hohokus railroad station. This was a time when an increasing number of affluent New Yorkers began to seek relief from the noisy, noisome, crowded city, especially in the heat of summer, by spending time in natural countryside areas outside of downtown. And then like some others from the city, Dayton changed from being a summer renter to acquiring a place of his own in the country. He was listed in 1850 as having a residence in Franklin Township with an Irish born worker and a black male child on the property. Additionally, in January 1850, Dayton bought land adjoining The Hermitage that had belonged to Samuel Coe.
Elijah Courted and Married Cornelia “Killie” Dayton
Through an exchange of visits in Bergen County and New York City, Elijah by 1850 came to know and be attracted to Dayton’s granddaughter, Cornelia Dayton. He was a bachelor of 36 and she was 18. In addition to personal attraction, Elijah found in Cornelia who became known as Killie, a young woman from a cosmopolitan family of some affluence, some renown, and a long-established heritage. He grandfather, for one, was a successful businessman. Her father’s and grandfather’s Dayton family reached back to 17th century Boston. Killie’s mother, Cornelia Street Dayton, had a heritage through her father’s family that also reached back to 17th century Boston and through her mother’s Billings family to the powerful colonial families of Robert Livingston and Philip Schuyler. Cornelia Street Dayton ethnically was English, Dutch and German. Her brother, Killie’s uncle, Alfred Billings Street, was a lawyer; a published poet and writer of books on history and nature in New York State; the editor of Northern Lights, a literary journal in the1840s; and was named the Director of the New York State Library in Albany in 1848. For Killie, Elijah was a successful entrepreneur who had just rebuilt and enlarged his country residence in a manner that showed him to be a man of substance and taste and to be forward-looking.
While there seems to be no doubt that the young Killie assented to a developing courtship with Elijah, she, in her correspondence with him, indicated an independence of spirit. For one thing she called into question, humorously or perhaps not, the need in marriage for a woman to obey her husband.
However, 1850 proved to be a very difficult year for both Elijah and for Killie. In July 1850 Elijah had to face another challenge to entrepreneurs other than downturns in the national business cycle when his cotton warp mill was destroyed (either by flooding or by fire). This came at a time when Elijah’s finances already were low. However, John urged Elijah to rebuild. In October he agreed and set in motion plans to erect a brick mill building. By spring 1851 the new mill was under construction and it was back in operation by fall of that year.
For Killie she had to face the death of her father who passed away in August 1850 at age 44. Then in October she, with three sisters, lost one, Mary Elizabeth, in October. Mary had just been married in March in Trinity Church in New York City. She was 21 years of age. A cousin of Killie, Emma, writing to Elijah talked about the light-hearted and wild roving Killie as now less mirthful and happy with the loss of her father and dear sister. Emma was sure that Killie’s happiness would be restored with time, when she would be “newly fixed in the new home.”
This did happen as the courtship culminated in the marriage of Elijah and Killie on June 3, 1851. Thus were joined two well-established families. This happy event may well be considered one of the high points in the history of the Rosencrantz’s long years at The Hermitage.
One economic benefit of the marriage for Elijah was that in December 1851 he was able to obtain a loan of $3,400 from Samuel Dayton. This seems to have enabled Elijah to help pay some of the costs of rebuilding the cotton mill and buy out Mathew Dunlap’s interest in the paper mill for $500. It does not seem that the paper mill prospered, but the cotton mill continued to provide the bulk of the Rosencrantz family income. With this income and perhaps also part of the Dayton loan, Elijah and Killie were able to furnish The Hermitage and begin raising a family. They soon had three children, William Dayton born in 1852, John in 1853 and Mary Elizabeth in 1855. Mary Elizabeth was the first Rosencrantz girl born at The Hermitage. Killie also contributed to a shift in the cultural milieu in the family. She subscribed to Godey’s Lady Book, which focused on fashion and on Victorian women’s values. While, from evidence in the existing Rosencrantz library, the books that were preserved from the first half of the 19th century were bibles and devotional reading, those from mid-century were increasingly books of history and some fiction. In 1858 Samuel Dayton made a gift to Elijah and Killie of the land adjacent to The Hermitage that he had bought from Samuel Coe. The Hermitage property then totaled approximately 200 acres and extended south along and west across the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook from the homestead.
In the decade of the 1850s Killie and Elijah, as did others in Bergen County, made changes among the servants at The Hermitage that reflected the growing importance of immigration in the United States. By 1860 only one African American, Sylvia, now 50, remained at The Hermitage, but two immigrants had been added, Janie Cox, 35, a nurse, born in England, who was the nanny and would be with the family for 35 years and Eliza, also 35, born in Ireland, who was the cook.
The Daytons and Rosencrantz Were Involved in Ridgewood Becoming a Railroad Suburb
Meanwhile, Samuel Dayton, in 1853, bought a large section of land from the Van Emburgh estate, located just to the south of Hohokus. Not only did Dayton like the area, but as a good businessman he saw that with the arrival of the new railroad, real estate in land close to this new means of transportation would grow in value. He became the first developer in the village of Godwinville, which was soon afterwards to be renamed Ridgewood. At first he attracted the families of his grandchildren, the Robinsons and the Graydons who were to become leaders in the area, and also Killie’s mother Cornelia who is credited with suggesting the name of Ridgewood. Later, lots were sold to other buyers, mostly from New York City, people who wanted to escape from the rapidly growing cities and live in the countryside, while still employed in the city. The Robinson and Graydon men and Dayton himself among other new residents of Ridgewood were commuters to New York. They helped to make Ridgewood into an early railroad suburb in which, fanning out from the stationhouse, not only new homes were developed, but also new stores, hotels, institutions and activities. In at least some of these activities, some older residents of the area, like the Rosencrantzs joined with the newcomers in creating this new suburb. Ridgewood, and to some extent Ho-Ho-Kus, would be two among a growing number of such relatively affluent settlements that would spring up around stations on railroad lines leading mostly north and west in northern New Jersey from terminals in Hudson County (which was separated from Bergen County in 1840), a ferry ride across the Hudson from New York City. These suburbs would be forerunners of a much more extensive suburban growth that would come to change and dominate New Jersey over the next century and a half.
“The Ramapo” the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad’s first locomotive, built in Paterson, 1848-from H. Bischoff and M. Kahn, From Pioneer Settlement to Suburb: A History of Mahwah, New Jersey, 1700-1976
A Paterson and Ramapo Railroad train ca. 1850-from H. Bischoff and M. Kahn, From Pioneer Settlement to Suburb: A History of Mahwah, New Jersey, 1700-1976
Portrait of Killie Livingson Dayton Rosencrantz
Christ Church, Ridgewood
The Coming of the Civil War, the Rosencrantz Family, and the Home Front in Bergen County during the War
The relatively good economic conditions of the early and mid-1850s came to a sudden halt in the panic of 1857 which resulted in many business failures and high unemployment. The textile industry was hard hit. The Ripka enterprises in Philadelphia were badly hurt, and Elijah Rosencrantz suffered a sharp cutback in his business and serious consequent fiscal problems. Already through the 1850s Joseph Ripka had been placing his sons as they reached into their 20s and a nephew in top positions in his firm. The situation with John Rosencrantz is not clear. However, by 1858 he no longer is running one of the Manayunk mills. Instead he was actively engaged in 1859 in establishing a cotton mill in Alexandria, Virginia, either in behalf of the Ripka operations or with other sources of capital.
John brought workers and their families to Alexandria from Philadelphia. This move seems to have manifested an optimism that belied the reality of the growing rift between the North and the South by this time. Antagonism between the sections had increased in the struggle between the slave and non-slave states for control of territories in the west, much of which had been forcibly taken from Mexico. At stake between the North and the South was domination of the federal government. The words and actions of northern abolitionists excited southern fears and psychologically deepened the gulf between the two sections of the union.
A letter from John Rosencrantz from Alexandria to Elijah in December 8, 1859 stated:
The North as a body are the neighbors and friends and brothers of the South – but you cannot make the people believe it. Why do not the conservative people of the North get up and denounce this abolition foray and let the people here see that they are no mere supine spectators of such movements as this John Brown… who would burn our houses and murder us all to carry out his …universal emancipation
This letter assumed a sympathetic response to its message by Elijah. The Rosencrantzes had strong connections with the south through their cotton manufacturing businesses, both in terms of it being the source of their raw material and of it being a market for finished textile products. They did not want the north to antagonize the south and give them a reason to secede from the union or engage in war. This letter indicated that the Rosencrantzes, among many others in the north, were not supporters of universal emancipation, and, in particular, they did not think that this cause was worth a war or a breakup of the union. Peace was vital in terms of their business interests and undoubtedly in what they thought was for the good of the country. At the same time a distant relative, W. S. Rosencrantz, a West Point graduate, was preparing to take a most active part in the coming conflict and would be an important general for the union side in the Civil War. This war, like the Revolutionary War, divided families.
Then in November 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president, the first Republican president, and the first president elected with electoral college votes from only one section of the country, the north. While Lincoln lost the state of New Jersey by 4,500 votes with 49% of the total, he lost Bergen County by a wider margin. There he received 1,455 votes to 2,112 for Breckenridge. In Bergen County the Rosencrantz family was with the majority who favored states rights and peace.
In December, South Carolina seceded from the Union, followed by a number of other states from the deep south. Following his inauguration on March 4, 1861, Lincoln ordered reinforcements for the federal Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. On April 12 the new Confederate States bombard this fort and two days later the union forces there surrendered. On April 17 the Virginia state convention voted to secede. Two days later John Rosencrantz wrote from Alexandria:
The temperature of the Southern people is fiendish just now. All the young men are military….The Southern people are as brave as any in the world and they believe they can beat the world in arms….I am so full of these troubles in addition to our other hardships that sometimes I feel I must seem demented
John held that the only way to avoid all out war, was a “full, natural separation” of the Northern and Southern states. He expressed the fear that Alexandria might be in the midst of a battle between “contending armies.” He noted that the women workers and the wives were packing to return to Philadelphia. The men stayed on and for a time the mill continued to operate. John was without his wife, but had “the negro servants.”
Not long afterwards, John Rosencrantz felt it necessary to close his cotton mill in Alexandria. Then, cut off from its southern cotton source and its southern market, the large Ripka firm went into bankruptcy. John decided to stay in Alexandria, where he obtained limited employment with the United States Commissary Department and where he opened a medical practice. His association with hospital personnel led to his being put in charge of a hospital by 1864.
In Bergen County, while there was a large number of Peace Democrats often called Copperheads, there was also much enthusiastic support for the union cause. Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, there was a large union rally in Hohokus on April 22.
Albert Terhune wrote:
The manufacturing firms of White, Rosencrantz, Zabriskie, Terhune and Marinus, located along the Hohokus Creek had a great number of male employees who worked in their factories. All who were able to carry a torch, chopping ax, beatle and wedge, and a twelve foot chestnut rail on his right shoulder were considered eligible to be drafted into the service of parading.
At this pro-union rally in Hohokus it was:
Resolved that for the defense and maintenance of our country and its institutions we are prepared, if need be, to sacrifice our wealth, shed our blood and lay down our lives.
Resolved that Bergen County will stand by our national banner, in the eventful crisis, and those who go out from among us to the tented field to uphold that sacred banner merit and will receive our warmest sympathy and aid.
At the Paramus Dutch Reformed Church, the pastor, Rev. E. T. Corwin, hung a union flag from the church steeple. Some members of the congregation demanded that the flag be taken down. Elijah Rosencrantz may have been among them. However, architect William Randall, a friend of Elijah, organized some 25 men to protect the flag. The Reverend Corwin stated: “I told you our flag should wave above us until the war is over. I have twenty-five men who will help me protect it. The first man who touches that flag to tear it down will be shot.” The political differences between Corwin and Elijah Rosencrantz would be a contributing factor to the latter’s leaving the Paramus church and the denomination in which his father for a time was a minister.
On July 22, 1861 Congress approved a Bergen County Regiment, the 22nd Regiment. On the same day a Woodbridge Hudson wrote to Elijah : “The news from Virginia is so discouraging today that I have no heart to write anything more. The U.S. army is reported to be in full retreat on Washington.”
In September 1862 the Bergen County Regiment with 939 men left for 9 months of service. Some left from the station at Hohokus. These men did not see battlefield action, but 24 died as non-combatants. There was great rejoicing on the return of the Bergen County soldiers.
While there were volunteers from Bergen County and people here who strongly supported the war, copperhead sympathies remained strong and almost only copperhead candidates were elected to the state legislature from Bergen from 1861 to the end of the war. At a copperhead meeting in Paramus in November 1863 strong attacks were made on Lincoln and on Democrats who supported the war. They described supporters of the war as having a “white man’s face on the body of a negro.” After a national draft was voted in 1863, the conscription call went out to 618 men from Bergen. The county freeholders voted for exemptions for all draftees in the county by providing $300 for substitutes elsewhere in the union for each of the drafted county men.
While the Rosencrantz boys were spared the dangers of the battlefield by age and perhaps also by family sympathies, Elijah would be put into great economic stress by the war. The raw material for his cotton warp factory was greatly curtailed and what was available was subject to a marked rise in cost – from about $35 a bale in 1848 to $53 in 1860 and to $166 by 1865. In order to meet costs and make a profit, Rosencrantz had to increase the price of the warp he produced which in turn resulted in a decrease in orders. His production slowed and for periods of time during the war his mill did not operate at all. Elijah and his family suffered financially throughout the war. Creditors continually hounded him from 1861 to 1865, including a threat to confiscate and sell the machinery in the mill. Despite dire fiscal problems, Elijah did not follow the path of the Ripka company into declaring bankrupcy. He held on by continued farming, the renting of some of his land, including to a storekeeper, and the obtaining of a loan of $4,800 from relative John C. Suffern. Elijah, slow to pay off business debts, did, though, pay the tuition for his children’s schooling.
Christ Church, Ridgewood
During the war, Elijah’s brother George returned to The Hermitage, where, after two years of declining health, he died in 1864 at age 52. At this time Killie also suffered from periods of poor health. The war years also saw the formation of the Episcopal Christ Church in Ridgewood. It was initiated through a meeting at the home of Samuel Dayton in 1864. The organizers were mainly Dayton relatives and others who had settled in Ridgewood from New York. Elijah Rosencrantz and Killie were among the founding members of this new congregation. Here the old locally prominent Rosencrantz family melded with the affluent newcomers in the establishment of one of Ridgewood’s first suburban village institutions. The site of the church was North Van Dien near Ridgewood Ave. The church was designed by William Ranlett who resided in a house on Saddle River Road, and was architect for a number of the new homes in Ridgewood. The cornerstone of the church was laid in March 1865. Unfortunately Ranlett, who was bringing the body of a son killed in the war home from the railroad station, was thrown from a horse, and died in November 1865 before the church was completed. The first service in the new church was held in May 1866. Elijah and his three older children were confirmed in 1867. He would become a vestryman in this congregation.
Title page of 1865 arithmetic school book, belonging to John Rosencrantz
Rosencrantz family member hunting
Report card, Bessie Rosencrantz, Passaic Classical Institute, 1867
Capt. John Qunicy Adams
Elijah Rosencrantz and his second wife, Lillie
Membership, Confederate Veterans Association, 1889, Bessie Rosencrantz
Valley School that was converted into first St. Bartholomew Church, Ho-Ho-Kus
Workers in front of Rosencrantz Cotton Warp Mill, ca 1880
Prosperity and Loss at The Hermitage in the Decade After the Civil War
With the end of the war and the reunion of the South with the North, there was a renewed source of raw cotton and demand for warp. Thus, in 1865, the Rosencrantz mill was back in full operation and the economic situation at The Hermitage improved markedly. In that year the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad, now a part of the Erie Railroad system with through trains from the west to the Hudson as well as local freight and commuter trains, decided to increase from a single to a double track through Bergen County. Elijah sold an acre and a half of his property to the railroad for this purpose. A sign of renewed income were improvements at The Hermitage – a new carpet and a coal burning grate for the dining room, new oil cloth, a repainted buggy, and a new corn crib near the pig pen.
In 1865 William was 13, John 12, and Bessie 11. William was sent to a boarding school near Albany. John and Bessie were in school in Ho-Ho-Kus, Bessie with Miss Jennie Eckert. The school books still in the Rosencrantz library from this period include such titles as The Euphonic Spelling Book and Reader (1855), A System of Modern Geography (1866), Thomson’s Practical Arithmetic, A Manual of History of the United States (1860), and Natural History (1870). Much of the emphasis was on drill, on memorization, and on questions and answers. Morality was transmitted through secular heros. One book, published in Massachusetts, specifically condemned slavery, but most supported the contention of one that held that: “The European or Caucasian is the most noble of the five races of men.”
At The Hermitage the children had pigeons, turkeys and a lamb. John went rabbit hunting. Elijah took Bessie shopping in Paterson, and she spent two weeks with Aunt Ida in New York City and enjoyed visits to Central Park. Uncle John came up with his wife from Philadelphia, and he participated in autumn hunting. The Rosencrantzes were on friendly terms with the Orville Victor family that had a residence across Franklin Turnpike from The Hermitage. The father was an author and publisher of dime novels and the mother also was a writer. The children were the same age as the three older Rosencrantz children. In 1868 Elijah was able to repay Captain Dayton $4,000 for his 1851 loan.
In 1865 Killie despite illness gave birth to her fourth child, a son, George. She spent some time trying to recuperate with her sister’s family in Litchfield, Connecticut. At The Hermitage, Janie Cox continued her live-in service. In addition, there was Ellen, an Irish immigrant domestic. The presence of Irish domestics and farm workers at The Hermitage, in the families of Killie’s relatives recently settled nearby in Ridgewood and in other families in the area, as well as Irish workers in the mills and on the railroad, resulted in the establishment in 1865 of St. Luke’s, a Catholic parish in Ho-Ho-Kus, with a church built directly across Franklin Turnpike from The Hermitage.
Despite optimism on her return from Litchfield and the help of doctors, Killie’s tubercular condition only worsened and she died in 1867. Killie in her sixteen years at The Hermitage made a large contribution to the Rosencrantz family. By her heritage she added status and she brought a cosmopolitan style to the household. Then she brought forth four children for a third generation at The Hermitage. Killie was the key bridge person in bringing together the Rosencrantz and Dayton families who contributed so importantly to the founding of Ridgewood as a railroad suburb and to the establishment of Christ Church, one of the first status institutions in that suburb. Further, Killie was helpful in securing Dayton finances needed to rebuild the Rosencrantz cotton mill in the early 1850s, and she was a strong support of the family during the trying years of the Civil War. Killie’s youthful death from tuberculosis, which also took the lives of others of her relatives, exemplified the tragic effect of this disease in the 19th century America among the well to do as well as among the poor.
Since George was only two years of age on Killie’s death, Elijah obtained a guardian, the 21 year old Charlotte Caroline (Lillie) Dennis from Richmond, Virginia, to help take care of him and the other children when they were home from school. Bess attended Passaic Classical Institute through most of the second half of the 1860s from age 12 to 15. She boarded in Paterson during the week and returned to The Hermitage on weekends. The school reported that she was one of the best behaved and painstaking students in the Institute. She had particularly good grades in history. Then in 1870, the family arranged for Bess to attend St. Mary’s, an Episcopal academy in Burlington, New Jersey. After only several months there, she had to return home with a serious infection.
Meanwhile, Elijah’s brother John, with the ending of the Civil War, returned from Washington to Manayunk. There, General Robert Patterson acquired and reopened the mills formerly owned by the Ripka family. John gained employment there at a salary that enabled him to accumulate a degree of financial equity. After his wife’s sister Amelia died of tuberculosis, John and Caroline took charge of her three children, Allan, Florence, and Harry. Their father, Captain John Quincy Adams (a relative of the country’s sixth president), was often away on extended duty with the United States Navy.
The relationship of John Rosencrantz with Captain Adams would have consequences for the Ho-Ho-Kus Rosencrantzes. The first of these was the gaining of admission to the United States Naval Academy in 1868 for William, age 16. Unfortunately, by December he became seriously ill and had to return home and withdraw from the Academy. After recuperating, he took a trip to England and France and witnessed some of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. He then, at the request of his father, returned to assist in Elijah’s mill operations.
William’s brother John took a position as a clerk in a fire insurance company in 1869 at age 16. His active social life and avid interest in girls caused much concern to his father. Elijah, thus, arranged that Captain Adams would employ John as a secretary on the USS Iroquois for a three year around the world cruise, starting in late 1871. In January 1872 Elijah wrote to John: “You must rather attempt to play the man, than play the lover, and be only the attendant of a lady, or allow the thoughts of them to occupy your whole time as it did too much while at home. I was desirous that you should see something of the world.” John did see much of the world with stops at Gibralter, Malta (sightseeing and opera almost every night), and Port Said (with a visit to Cairo and the pyramids), through the Suez Canal, sick as a result of rough weather in the Arabian Sea, and then on to Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong. John developed a good relationship with the midshipmen on the Iroquois and at the various ports of call joined them at parties, balls, and other social activities. He thus was able to save much less of his salary than his father had planned for him. When the tour ended in San Francisco in summer 1874, John was short of funds to get him back to the east coast, but Captain Adams helped arrange the needed transportation for him. After a visit to the family at The Hermitage, John settled in Philadelphia for a number of years.
In the meantime at The Hermitage, Elijah in 1870 married his children’s guardian, Lillie Dennis. He was 55 and she was 24. Her father was a physician in Richmond. The census noted that Janie Cox, 45, was still at The Hermitage and that there also was May Cain, 45, a domestic servant born in Ireland, and her daughter, Mary Cain, 18, also born in Ireland. Charlotte 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 one year old. While Lillie gained the respect and love of her four step-children and took a fully active role in the running of The Hermitage, she continued to keep in touch with her Virginia family and past. There continued to be membership in and donations to Confederate Veterans organizations, visits with Dennis relatives who had moved to Ridgewood in the 1870s, and visits to and from her family in Richmond.
In 1871 Elijah Rosencrantz joined with some dozen other of his more affluent neighbors to form the Educational Association of Hohokus. Dissatisfied with the level of education at the local public schools, they bought land on what is now Hollywood Avenue and constructed the private Valley School. It had one large room, a cloakroom and a supply room. At times there were 25 to 30 students in Valley School. Tuition ranged from $20 to $30 per term. Elijah’s interest was probably stirred by the fact that in 1871 his youngest son, George, was six years of age. From 1879 there is an extant bill for $70 that Elijah paid for four quarters of tuition. The Valley School continued into the late 1880s.
With the revival of the cotton mill after the Civil War, Elijah returned to the old idea of adding a paper mill. He decided to put it in upstate New York, in Orange County, and to put son William in charge of this plant. In 1872 Elijah was still waiting for the arrival of needed machinery and worried that it all was costing more than he had expected. By 1873 the paper mill was running.
However, 1873 was to be a bad year for the Rosencrantz family and their enterprises as well as for the nation. At Ho-Ho-Kus, Elijah was ill through the first months of that year. For several weeks he did not go to his cotton mill because he could not bear the noise, a noise which the workers had to bear for long hours six days a week. Then as Elijah was recovering his health, he and his businesses were very negatively effected by the beginning of one of America’s most severe depressions.
By November, Elijah was reporting that times were hard, very hard. As business orders declined he was caught with a lack of funds. The paper mill ceased operation and the cotton warp mill was kept going only because brother John expended some of his accumulated savings 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.
How did the Rosencrantz workforce in 1880 compare with that in the 1850 survey? Again Marion Brown took the names of workers for one pay period from the mill ledger books and checked them with the 1880 census. The workforce was larger than thirty years earlier with 39 names listed. There was almost an equal number of female and male laborers. Child labor continued with nine children workers14 years of age or younger. John Babcock aged 10 worked with his two teenage sisters, one of whom, Julia, was 12. James Munroe, aged 11, worked with his mother Mary. Edward Wanamaker was also 11 and David Wanamaker was 12. Again the males were spread out in age from 10 to 67, but again none were between 15 and 19. An exception was Elijah’s son George, who worked during the summer of 1880 at age 15. For the females, while there continued to be a good number of teenagers, there were, unlike earlier, a considerable number above 24 and married. Monthly wages ranged from $72 for the foreman to $5.44 for the lowest paid work, probably a bobbin boy or a picker. Most of the laborers, as earlier, were born in New Jersey, but now there were some who had been born in New York, and there were several who were born in Ireland and one in Holland. Most of the workers had English and Dutch family names, with again a few Germans and now more Irish. One person, John Conklin, may have been a Ramapo mountain person. Most of the workers still came from the neighborhood, but there were more families in the Rosencrantz tenant housing close to the mill and a few listed their residence as Paterson and Ridgewood and one as Newark.
With a return to better economic conditions in the nation in the 1880s, the Rosencrantz mill returned to profitability. This, together with the sale of some of The Hermitage property, enabled the Rosencrantz brothers to end their mill’s dependence on water power by installing steam power. It was reported that in 1882 the cotton mill had several carding machines and 2863 spindles, employed 42 hands and produced 3,800 pounds per week. In the mid-1880s the mill was increased in size and production was converted from cotton warps to cotton wadding.
However, the second generation of the Rosencrantz family was coming to an end. In 1885 John died in Philadelphia and in 1888 Elijah died in Ho-Ho-Kus. These two sons of Elijah I followed their father’s initial steps in building a cotton warp mill as a rental by themselves becoming engaged full time in manufacturing. They were two among early American industrialists. Both together, and then Elijah on his own, tapped the natural flow of the water of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook to power machinery in a rural setting while obtaining raw material through middlemen in New York City and finding a market primarily in Philadelphia. John, following his early Ho-Ho-Kus experience entered into the largest textile firm in that major city. Both brothers typified the challenges, the accomplishments and the failures of self instructed early rural industrial entrepreneurship in the new America that was rising in the first half of the 19th century and which became increasingly dominant in the second half of that century – with its emerging mechanization of production, its changing sources of power, its new employee labor force, the fluctuation of national periods of prosperity and depression, problems with sources of raw material, changing markets, innovative transportation, the financial costs of natural disasters and of human accidents, and the personal rewards and community status from ownership.
Elijah further enhanced his status when, during a time of business upturn, he financed the reconstruction of his home, The Hermitage, in Gothic Revival style, a new direction in architecture in the 1840s. The house would include trend-setting technologies and comforts. He married and brought to the newly-fashioned Hermitage Killie Dayton, and, in the process, became integrally involved with the early founding families of Ridgewood as a railroad suburb and with the establishment of the Episcopal Christ Church there. Elijah also was a representative of the considerable peace party sector of the Bergen County population in the era of the Civil War and he helped foster improved education in his community. He and Killie and his second wife Lillie also raised and educated four children for the third generation of Rosencrantzes at The Hermitage.