The Origin of “Paradise”

Students at Paradise Knoll School — Do they know where the school derived its name from?

I attended Paradise Knoll Elementary School from 1971-1977. I have many fond memories of my time there as well as a student. I also have wonderful memories of the various events that took place on Friday nights as a member of Cub Scout Pack 44 and Kathy Rupp as my den leader.

Dr. Arthur Zampella, Cubmaster
Dr Arthur Zampella was the Cub-Master of Cub Scout Troop 44 in Newfoundland, NJ

The most anticipated scouting event in the gym was the annual pinewood derby with the track set up from the stage down onto the gym floor. I had the added benefit of having my dad as the cubmaster. I remember him playing Santa Claus every year at the holiday party.

It never dawned on me in my years while at Paradise Knoll, the origins of either Paradise Road nor the namesake school that educated local children for many years. I seems to me that current day perception of the geographic center of Paradise is the development of homes and the surrounding vicinity of the elementary school. In fact, the namesake of Paradise has it’s origins quite deep into the interior of current day Newark Watershed property on the eastern periphery of Dunkers Pond. As you will read further down the page, Anthony Ludlow Day established a homestead deep in the heart of Paradise. In the coming weeks I intend to hike into the area in hopes of locating the homestead site. Anthony Ludlow Day was the father of Dr. Edgar Day who would go on to build Idylease in the summer of 1902.

I do not recall any block of instruction that addressed it’s history or any block of instruction on general local history. As a 1984 graduate of West Milford High School there was never any discussion or curriculum about West Milford history.

As a preservationist and one keenly interested in the past, I thought I might share some early history that was provided to me by Beth Willis whose family relatives hailed from the area during the mid 20th century. Beth is a wonderful resource of written and oral history, and has written a 639 page manuscript which chronicles some of the families that had lived on Paradise Road. A copy of the manuscript entitled “The Inhabitants of the Neighborhood…… A Pictorial History of Snufftown, now Stockholm, Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey and it Vicinity” has been donated by her to the West Milford Public Library as a reference source material.

Anthony Ludlow Day

The following excerpt is re-published  from Author Beth Willis’ manuscript.

The Origins of Paradise

Paradise was a name given to a small community of farmers living in the foothills of the Ramapo Moutains in West Milford Township. It was a very remote area. The name was derived from the Angle family, or Angel as some old timers called them, that first settled in the area. Elizabeth S. Day gave an account of Paradise from an explanation given to her by her mother, Elizabeth Strait Day. Elizabeth Day was a descendant of John Angle whose brother Samuel Angle settled in the hills of West Milford. “At one time, there was living on the hill, not only the Angle family, but a family named McCloud. A Methodist preacher holding services at the Clinton School house humorously described them in a letter to his father, ‘I preached until the Angels and the Clouds met. It was he who thought that the earthly dwelling place of these celestial beings’ should bear the name of Paradise”. The name has since adhered to the community.

There were farmers in this area whose descendants had intermarried with several generations living on their ancestral lands. They were William Kimble, Samuel Angle, Silas VanOrden, William Cole, William Wagoner, John Stickles, and Charles Card. Anthony Ludlow Day saw possibilities of establishing a large farm in the area as well. Home sites for these families were shown on the 1861 Hopkins map of West Milford Township.

Two descendants of these families eventually wrote extensive histories. One being Elizabeth S. Day about the “Life of Anthony Ludlow Day 1818-1898” written Dec. 25, 1918. The other being “A History of the Old Days” by Ella V. Card which was a compilation of her notes she kept of her family, and typewritten by her daughter, Dessel K. Fehr, in November 1974. It is from these family histories that this information is based upon. They make delightful reading as to the insight of their lives and times.

The lands in West Milford Township were subject to the land acquisitions by the East Jersey Water Company for building the Clinton Reservoir. Later, the City of Newark acquired additional lands to insure the quality of the water be free from pollution. Most of the area consisted of small farms of poor farmers who were willing to sell their lands. There were only a few properties that the owners refused to sell to the City of Newark. Though the lands in West Milford were not researched, the history of the area is based on the writings of Elizabeth S. Day and Ella V. Card.

The Road to Paradise

From the Day photo collection is a picture of the Day homestead. The photograph was taken by J.P. Crayon, probably in the 1880’s.

Just below the lands of Silas B. Day was a fork in the road. The fork to the left was the Canistear Road, and the fork to the right was called Dunker Pond Road. It was a very windy road and made a few sharp curves that eventually led to the Paradise Road bounding on the east lines of Anthony L. Day’s property. Then, it intersected with the Paradise Road that is a north- south road which traveling southerly one would come into the Newfoundland area.

From “Life of Anthony L. Day”, by Elizabeth S. Day is an account of the Dunker Pond Road. When writing the history of her father, Elizabeth visited the homestead, and along the route took photographs to preserve its history. These pictures ware part of the Strait and Walther Photo Collections taken about 1910-1915.

Elizabeth wrote, “The highway from Stockholm ran through the middle of the low grounds and right across, or through a perpetual pool of water, which father and mother, after reading Pilgrim’s Progress, had named ‘the Slough of Despond’. “Tons of logs and stones and other material had been dumped into this pool to make a causeway over which teams could pass, but additional material was always needed to make the road safe. Occasionally one of our cows became mired in the pool beside the road and could be extricated only with the greatest difficulty. Once father sought to measure the depth of the pool. Three iron rods, each twelve feet long, were let down by the side of the road and screwed together as they were lowered. The extended rod, thus made was thirty- six feet long, failed to touch bottom! Through father’s influence, the county afterward placed a substantial bridge over the ‘Slough of Despond’.

1861 Map showing the location of the Day Homestead & “Origin of Paradise”

Continuing easterly on the road, one would come to Dunker Pond. Elizabeth wrote, “Thinking to reclaim more of this fertile land, father spent about fifteen hundred dollars in blasting out the rocks which formed a natural dam at the outlet of Dunker Pond. Because of this work, done at the suggestion and under the superintendence of Edgar, the surface of the pond was lowered about three feet and the draining of the valley rendered more complete”.

As one continued across the low ground toward Paradise, “the road came to the foot of the large hill on the eastern side of the valley, and then climbed abruptly up to the farmhouse, which stood about a hundred feet higher than the valley below. This long hill had always taxed the strength of horses, and drivers were obligated to halt their teams for rest two or three times on each upward journey. Another appropriate name was borrowed from Pilgrim’s Progress and this long, tedious pull from the low grounds became the ‘Hill of Difficulty’.

© & ™ 2017 – Beth Willis

Continue Reading

Introducing Historian Beth Willis

Beth Willis Historian

Beth Willis has written the most meticulously composed manuscript that I have ever read about the history of West Milford. Her work is both comprehensive and carefully researched.

I am delighted to introduce Beth Willis to the Idylease History Blog. Beth is an exceptionably knowledgeable historian. Below, she will introduce the highly detailed manuscript that she has composed about local history. It is a particularly comprehensive overview of families and genealogy that dates back over 200 years. What I find most remarkable about the document, is that much of it is derived from original writing by those personalities who wrote letters and family histories from the era. It is probably the most meticulously composed piece of history that I have ever read about the past of West Milford and beyond. Beth will be guest posting informative stories from time to time, and this week, she will be sharing a detailed history of George Anthony Day. George was the nephew of Dr. Edgar Arthur Day who had built Idylease Inn. From 1904 -1920, George served as General Manager of the Inn. I promise that Beth’s writings will clarify many myths and legends of community. I am fortunate to have worked on restoring many images that are part of the Day and Strait Family Photograph Collections with her. We will be sharing the fruits of that labor with you all soon. So, without further delay, I’ll let Beth introduce herself…

#####

Many readers of Richard Zampella’s Idylease History Blog have seen new articles appearing on his site mentioning a Beth Willis who shared information on Dr. Edgar A. Day, the founder of Idylease. Richard has asked me to introduce myself.

Though I use my preferred name, Beth, I was born Jane Elizabeth Willis, the daughter of Ralph A. Willis and Verna Jayne Muhlbauer, who herself was always known by the name Jane. We had lived in the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls, New York. My father’s family lived Ogdensburg, New Jersey. For many years our family made annual visits to my Dad’s parents, Aaron and Malinda Crain Willis. As child, I was captivated by the beauty of the mountains in northwest New Jersey. For many years, my grandmother regaled us with stories of the Crain, Strait, Walther families. But as a young adult, I had paid little attention to them, for which I deeply regret now.

After my grandmother’s death in December of 1970, my parents and I returned to visit my grandfather the following spring. Dad and Grandpa were cleaning out the basement of the boxes my grandmother had saved that contained the family memorabilia she had inherited from the Strait and Walther homesteads at Stockholm in 1956. As Dad and Grandpa sorted through boxes of old letters from the Walther estate, Dad would save the stamps as he was an avid stamp collector. Then, they burned them.

Being bored, I picked up a letter and began to read it. It was written by Edward S. Keeler who was a soldier at the Signal Camp, Georgetown, D.C. to his friend, George Walther. He described his duties in which flags were used to communicate intelligence to another camp about 10 miles away. He wrote that he like being part of the Signal Service of 1700 men and was doing well, despite that his brother’s regiment at the James River where typhoid fever claimed the lives of one half of the regiment. The letter was dated Sept. 30, 1864.

I had realized that I was holding a piece of history, and bolted out of the comfortable chair, ran to the back garden where Dad and grandfather were just about to start to burn another box of letters. I asked Grandpa to stop burning them. He asked, “you don’t want these old things, do you?” I said “yes”. During the remainder of the visit, Grandpa showed me the family bibles, photographs, papers and manuscripts her relatives had written about the family. Loaded with a box full of memorabilia, I spent the winter compiling a genealogy of both my grandparents’ lines.

The following spring, we return to visit with Grandpa. I proudly showed him the genealogy I began. He remarked that I was just like my grandmother and invited me to move down to live with him. Much to my parents’ reluctance, for I was 26 and he was 85, grandfather had persuaded them that it would be good for him to have someone help him out.

In the fall of 1972, I moved to Ogdensburg to live with my grandfather. We were like “two peas in a pod” as he would say. We visited relatives, went to cemeteries to copy headstones of the family, and many days went through the photographs and memorabilia which my grandmother had preciously preserved. It was the best time of my life.

Though Grandpa passed away in July 1975, he had bequeathed the family home to me where I lived until a re-evaluation of the house went from $25,000 to $119,000 in 1988. The tax base about equaled my pay. With much reluctance, it was decided that I had to leave the beloved family home.

Carefully, I packed thirty-seven storage boxes with the family artifacts and memorabilia. While living in Ogdensburg, I had researched historical items, as well as the family genealogy. One of our relatives, Josephine Walther had hired a photographer to photograph the remaining 102 houses and businesses at Snufftown, now called Stockholm during the land acquisitions by the City of Newark for the Pequannock Watershed. I had begun to research each of the properties. Several of which were owned by various members of my grandparents’ families. I also conducted many interviews with descendants of the area.

In 1990, I purchased a small house in Lockport, New York. This was so I could be near my aging parents who had various medical issues. My energies were to assist my parents who had given me support, encouragement and moral guidance throughout my life. The histories and memorabilia were stored away for the next 25 years.

I had developed many long-lasting friendships while living in Ogdensburg. Over the years, several friends, Claire, Barbara, Pauline and Fran have kept in touch with me. In January 2015, my dear friend Claire had sent an article that had appeared in the Sunday New Jersey Herald. It was an article about one of my woodpile relatives Frederick Crill. He was hanged in Newton for taking his rifle and shooting his daughter in the back of her head during a quarrel about a measure of corn meal he had owned for which his grandson had been playing with. This article sparked an interest to review the family genealogy to scrutinize the accuracy of the reported article.

I pulled out the box containing the genealogy and made the comparison. When putting the genealogy away, I pulled out the photo album containing the Walther Photo Collection. Gleaning through it brought back the passion I once had. When speaking with another dear friend, Pauline, she noticed how enthusiastically I sounded when I told her about my recent findings. She said, “Write it”.

The research and compilation of the proposed manuscript was made during the 1970’s-80’s without today’s electronic technology. As I finished a handwritten draft, I realized I needed to acquire a computer to type the manuscript. Thus, in June 2015, I purchased my first computer and learned the basics of using Word 2013. During the finishing editing, I had contacted James R. Wright of the Hardyston Heritage Society. He has been extremely helpful in providing information and photographs. He had visited many of the sites written in the manuscript and sent many wonderful photographs of the stone foundations of the former dwellings, the only remains left. These inspired a conclusion to the manuscript which blossomed into 639 pages and has over 900 photographs.

Thus, after some 40 years my dream to document the history of Snufftown, now Stockholm, New Jersey came to fruition. “The Inhabitants of the Neighborhood……… A Pictorial History of Snufftown, now Stockholm, Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey and its Vicinity”.

Through the assistance of Hardyston Heritage Society, the manuscript is on the shelves of several local libraries and historical societies. It is also available for purchase on a USB Flash Drive by contacting me. I consider the manuscript as a work in progress as I have since been contacted by several people who have had family members that had lived in the area and are sharing their family information and photographs.

Descending from a long line of story tellers, who have at times been known to be long winded as every detail of their lives was so interesting, I also acquired their passion to preserve their history and those of the Stockholm area.

It is my pleasure to meet Richard’s readers, and hope you continue to enjoy the articles we have been working on. I can be contacted by email at: snufftownnj1764@gmail.com

Beth Willis, June 16, 2017

Continue Reading