In-Depth History of Ho-Ho-Kus


See brief history here


Our Ho-Ho-Kus story commenced generations before the three hundred years we are now celebrating. It began with the native Americans, the Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indians), who lived here, walked the paths, fished the streams, hunted the forests and toiled the land. The Lenni Lenape tribe had three distinct sub-divisions - the Minsies, in the northern part of the state, the Unamis in the central and the Unalachtigo in southern Jersey. Translated Lenni Lenape means "original people". Chief Wearimus lived east of the Saddle River with his tribe, while Chief Oratam, born 1577, was the great Sagamore (Chief) of the Hackensack Indians. His decision to live in peace with the first Dutch and English settlers of his land is credited with easing the way for the quiescent settlement of Bergen County.

No one knows when they first inhabited the area. We do know, however, that most of the native Americans left New Jersey about 1730.

The Minsies, in 1758, relinquished their land but reserved the right to hunt and fish. During the latter years of their residency here, they were joined by immigrants who were Dutch, English and Polish.

Names such as Zaborowsky (now Zabriskie), Ackerman, Hopper, Bogert and Terhune fill the pages about our first homesteaders. History tells us that Albert Zaborowsky and David Ackerman arrived in New Amsterdam on the same ship in 1662. David died before he re-located to this area but Albert eventually made his way to the Paramus region and apparently owned land within what is called the New Paramus Tract - an area, according to several writers, which included Ho-Ho-Kus. We know that one of David's sons, Abraham, married and moved to Hackensack and his sons David and Adrian moved to the Paramus area and that Adrian's son Johannes acquired land in Ho-Ho-Kus as early as 1773. Descendants of Albert Zaborowsky and David Ackerman still live within our borders giving them unequalled long-time resident status.

Although there are family histories and church documentation about early pioneers, one of the earliest written notices that specifically mentions Ho-Ho-Kus is the 1698 Van Emburgh deed. It records the purchase, for thirty-two pounds ten shillings, of half of a 500 acre patent of land by David Provoast and Johannes Van Inburgh from Issac Kingsland to whom it had been granted by the Proprietors of East New Jersey. A transcription from the original document states: Hoghakas (Ho-Ho-Kus) in ye Provinse of East and New Jargy ye 2d of may ano Dom 1698 There apaired before me Pieter Johnson and Jaccomintie his wife & Declared This within instrement to be There vollantary act & Deed as wittnis my hand

It is this written documentation that permits us to celebrate the fact that the settlement of our town is over 300 years old.

We were called a "township" because in the late 1600's and early 1700's the territory of "HOHOKUS" included land north and west of our present boundaries. However, as more and more settlers arrived, various clusters of homes eventually became communities, e.g. Mahwah, Ramsey, Allendale, Waldwick, Ho-Ho-Kus and parts of the Saddle River Valley.

Since our beginning we have been known by several names: Hochaos - (Indian) Choghaxes - (Dutch)
Hoppertown New Prospect
Ho-Ho-Kus Undercliff
Borough of Orville Borough of Hohokus

And how did we get to be the town with the hyphens and the Ho's? It was by a public referendum. The residents went to the polls to decide and voted to have us known as the Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus. Today every man, woman and child in this historic town is proud to live in a community whose spelling is not duplicated anywhere on earth.

An excellent question asked by many is "What is the meaning of Ho-Ho-Kus?". As is the case with many names of Indian origin, there can be many interpretations some with proof and authority and some without documentation. Here are a few definitions found to date:
 

it is an Indian word for running water

it means cleft in the rock or under the rock or hollow rock

it comes from hohokes signifying the whistle of the wind against the bark of trees

it is named from the Chihohokies Indians whose chief lived here

it comes from the Dutch Hoog Akers for high acorns or Hoge Aukers, Dutch for high oaks

its "Ho" part means joy or spirit and the rest of the name hohokes means a kind of bark of a tree

it comes from Indian hoccus meaning fox, woakus, gray fox.


Perhaps the most accepted is that Ho-Ho-Kus was a contraction of Mehokhokus or Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus, a Delaware Indian term meaning "the Red Cedar", on the basis that most of the older Indian words beginning in "me" or "mah" often lost their first syllables with time.

From the immigrants arriving, time kept marching on for the development of the area and more and more families arrived as this chart indicates:
 

1698 - 1 family

 

1940 - 1626 people

1712 - 5 families

 

1950 - 2254 people

1770 - 10 families

 

1960 - 3988 people

1887 - 24 families

 

1970 - 4348 people

1900 - 316 people

 

1980 - 4129 people

1910 - 488 people

 

1990 - 3935 people

1920 - 586 people

 

2000 - 4060 people

1930 - 925 people

 

 


Along with the establishment of a colonial community came the building of homes that, in our case, were clustered around the present business district area at Franklin Turnpike and Sheridan Avenue (originally called Hoppertown Road). The first stores were Vreeland's which served not only as a general store but also as a hotel with a saloon and Leary's General Store. Joel Miller's Store with the modern convenience of an ice box. During the period of the late 1700's homes were constructed on the east and west banks of the Saddle River and during the next 100 hundred years nineteen magnificent, imposing and impressive homes appeared on the landscape. Most of these homes are still standing today and several qualify to be listed on the National Register of Historic Homes.

Not only were more families arriving in the area and there was no doubt that life was still a struggle but nothing equaled that of their ancestors. But, now the political arena was changing. The Revolutionary War found the people in Bergen County in a strange dilemma. What were they to decide? What was the right thing to do? For more than a hundred years they and their ancestors had struggled with the soil. The farmers of 1775 were prosperous, well-fed, warmly housed and hopeful of a great future. Their fields were yielding produce and selling for fine prices. Their capacious barns and meadows were well-stocked with a steadily increasing number of cattle, horses, swine, fowl and sheep. Their capital and income were growing - and all this under the English rule. Perhaps taxes were high but, perhaps too, these men were able to pay them.

At first the unrest did not seem to be the concern of the citizenry here as these Revolutionary meetings were being held in the far-off places of Boston or Philadelphia. As a result, resentment ran high among certain colonists who were Tories and those others who were heart and soul for the revolutionary movement.


For several reasons it could not be avoided that the war touched us. New Jersey was a bottleneck between the northern groups of states (New York and New England) and the southern groups (Pennsylvania and the other colonies to the south). What is now known as Franklin Turnpike was one of the best routes for travel from Albany to New York directly through Hoppertown (Ho-Ho-Kus) and Paramus. One of our families, the Hoppers, had the spirit and foresight to believe in the cause of the colonists and the courage to fight for their convictions. Records indicate that the Hopper family was joined by the Vanvoorhese, Storms, Blauvelt and VanOrden families.

The Hermitage, with its classic lines of English Gothic architecture, its wood-shingled roofs and pointed gables, found itself in the middle of the great struggle. In this home could be found classical music, lovely ladies, manners and culture quite unknown in most of Bergen County. Regular visitors, American and British, were entertained by the Widow Theodosia Prevost. Names such as George Washington, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de La Fayette, Benedict Arnold and James Monroe frequented the Hermitage.

During the conflict the romance between Widow Prevost and Aaron Burr developed and soon after hostilities ceased they were married. Subsequent owners of this historic home following Theodosia Prevost and Burr were William Cutting (to 1794), William Bell (to 1804), James Laroe (to 1807) to Elijah Rosencrantz. All of Ho-Ho-Kus can be proud of this man - a minister, doctor, farmer, traveler, successful business man and a leader dedicated to achieve economic and political independence. Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz, granddaughter of Elijah, lived in the Hermitage until her death in 1970. The home and land were willed by Mary Elizabeth to the State of New Jersey.

With the war behind them, the resurgence of our community began and we entered into the 1800's. The Turnpike Era was ushered in by the farmers need for better and cheaper transportation, an increasing population and county development. It was during this era that Franklin Turnpike was upgraded from a stage road. The two pikes were the Franklin Turnpike and the Paterson Turnpike. The former commenced at Paramus Church, followed the old stage route, straight through Ho-Ho-Kus, to connect to the Orange Turnpike on the New York State line. The latter turnpike followed Maple Avenue south to Ridgewood Avenue and on to Paterson.

The Turnpikes aided developing industries as did the swiftly running water of the Saddle River and the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. There were grist and cotton mills, carriage, paint and blacksmith shops and on East Saddle River Road a saw and grist mill and a cotton and woolen mill flourished. Perhaps the most remembered were the Zabriskie and Rosencrantz Mills. The site of the Rosencrantz Mill, also known as the Ho-Ho-Kus Bleachery, is at the end of Hollywood Avenue. It was the final industrial endeavor built. Today, with those buildings still in existence, it has been converted into Dalebrook Park, a complex of offices, shops and warehouses. The Zabriskie Mill does not exist. Its location was the site of the lower level of the parking lot at the railroad station.

All was going well for those families living here during the 1800's until, as history would have it, war clouds were on the scene once again. Abraham Lincoln had been elected president, Ft. Sumter had been fired upon, emotions rose throughout the country and we were now engaged in a Civil War. Just as during the Revolution, opinion differed, and while most citizens were loyal to the Union, others felt that the war was unrighteous and unnecessary.

The National Guard of Ho-Ho-Kus was formed; the members of the Guard drilled faithfully under their Captain Abraham Van Emburgh and they departed for war. The majority of the men from Bergen County were in Companies B and D of the 22nd Regiment with twenty eight of them from Ho-Ho-Kus. To our knowledge all returned safely to their families and farms.

Following the Civil War different type of new families started moving into Ho-Ho-Kus. They were known as the commuters! The Erie Railroad had begun a campaign for new settlers to the lands which it traversed. The railroad, in 1878, published "The Erie Guide Book" and "Where To Spend The Summer" in which glowing pictures of suburban towns were painted. Ho-Ho-Kus is given attention in the pamphlets with a beginning line that reads, "Hohokus station is one of the most picturesque on the Erie".

Part of the attraction was the existence of fifty acres of Sylvan Lake located on the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and formed by a fifty foot high cut brownstone dam built in 1863 by the John Zabriskie family in order to supply water to the Zabriskie Mill. The purpose was to supply power to local mills. The lake was a true recreational facility as it provided ice skating, canoeing and swimming. On its western shoreline was the Ho-Ho-Kus Hotel and dance pavilion. The eastern shore was known as Knollwood Park. Unfortunately, when the dam broke in 1892, the lake disappeared along with the summer tourist attraction.

Ho-Ho-Kus residents had other forms of recreation. The 1870's brought with it the Ho-Ho-Kus Race Track. In one form or another the track continued to exist and be used until the late 30's. There were the traditional livestock exhibits, competitions and the many displays of wagons and machinery. The County Fair was always the event of the year. The last Fair was held in 1932 and the last horse races a year later. Exciting entertainment was provided by the Ho-Ho-Kus Driving Club which invaded the track in 1919 and remained popular until a fatal day, July 4, 1938 when two race cars plunged into the infield killing two spectators and injuring many others. The exhilaration of racing was stopped. The land sold in 1950 and 1951 for a housing development.

When 1924 arrived so did our first public library sponsored by the Ho-Ho-Kus Woman's Club. The library was housed in a jail cell intended for female prisoners. Three years later the Borough officials authorized funds for a library by purchasing a real estate office and relocating it to East Franklin Turnpike. It was in 1988 that the library was moved to the corner of North Franklin Turnpike and Warren Avenue and became known as the Worth Pinkham Memorial Public Library. The present Library Board of Trustees and the staff encourage everyone to secure a library card not only for local use but to enjoy the privileges of being a member of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS). Without a doubt one of the most successful endeavors at the Worth Pinkham Memorial Library are the year-round children's programs.

Throughout the years of Ho-Ho-Kus history there have been numerous changes - from farmlands and farmers to well established homes, to professional and business people, to commuters and to well established youth and sports programs. We are grateful to the town's forefathers and the citizens who supported them for the legacy and example they gave to us. In the real estate market homes in Ho-Ho-Kus homes usually are at a premium. The Borough is fiscally sound enjoying the highest rating possible for a community of our size. Families move here because they like what they find here. Many tend to stay even after children have left the nest. Ho-Ho-Kus continues to provide the positive qualities of family life and community pride and involvement that was first brought here by the Zaborowskys, Ackermans and Van Emburghs. There is no doubt that Ho-Ho-Kus is deep-rooted in the annals of history - the past and the yesteryears.
The above information is a thumbnail review of our story. This presentation does not cover our more recent history, e.g. Chestnut Ridge stables, the 1903, 1945, 1977 floods, Floyd, the war years, Brewster Pond, the Route 17 overpass, the arrival of the townhouse development, the trolley and many more.
Ho-Ho-Kus is many things to many people. But, to everyone, it is peaceful, secure and protected. The community consists of a friendly, diverse population that is family oriented. Ho-Ho-Kus is a great place in which to live!

See brief history here                 Additional Historical Data from the Master Plan


REFERENCES

Anniversary Committee, 50th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1958, A.G. Goll, Chairman.

Anniversary Committee, 75th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1983,
Ruth Frost, Chairperson.

Hudson, Sue F., Background of Ho-Ho-Kus History, Woman's Club of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, 1953.

Planning Board, Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus Master Plan, 1995 Revision.

Thompson, Rusty, Spotlighting Ho-Ho-Kus, Northwest Board of Realtors.