Friday, August 17, 2012

Ringwood- A bit of History and Nostalgia

Manor Grounds
Manor Grounds
Ringwood Manor
Statuary at the manor
In my old hometown of Ringwood, there were two manor houses (Ringwood Manor and Skylands Manor) and you could wander the grounds and see the sights of house and garden quite freely back then. I wandered these houses and their gardens often. We'd cut through the woods to get there and my friends and I would spend the afternoon picnicing or just wandering. Ringwood Manor was a historically significant place and I loved the history...'Washington slept here!' I loved the giant iron chain, used to blockade the Hudson River during the Revolutionary war, I loved the formal gardens, and I really loved the cemetary where historical figures were buried. I felt a connection to them, and it was very peaceful there looking out over the small lake, dotted with water lilies and waterfowl, in the pleasant sunshine. I imagined what it would be like to live in such a place and what it would have been like to be alive at the historical time period when the manor was an actual home.
Ringwood Manor Gravesites

Brief Historical Timeline....Ringwood Manor & Ironworks

Prehistorical land of the Lenape Indians, it was a woodland paradise. The iron ore was so abundant it was visible on the surface of the ground.

Colonial peoples began to smelt the iron ore in the 1740's. Within 20 years there was an iron furnace, three forges, a grist mill, a saw mill, a worker's community and stores and farms in operation in the area.
Ruins of the Iron Works at Long Pond, the Indian word for Greenwood Lake.

Revolutionary War.....During the Revolutionary War times the manager of the IronWorks was Robert Erskine (I attended Robert Erskine Elementary School, and lived on Erskine Lake in Ringwood as a girl.) Erskine made Ringwood his headquarters and lived in an earlier version of the manor house. Erskine sided with the American Patriots during the war and became the mapmaker for General George Washington. Erskine was the Army's first Geographer and Surveyor General. He produced over 200 accurate maps and the manor hosted General Washington at least 5 times.

Iron Canon and Chain, manor in the background.
The Great Chain.....Iron ore from the Ringwood mines was used to create the 'Great Hudson River Chain' which was used to blockade the river to keep British naval vessels out during the war. A piece of the chain is displayed on the manor grounds. Iron ore from the Ringwood mines was also used to provide the army with tools, hardware and ovens during the revolutionary times.

In the 19th Century......Martin J.Ryerson purchased the ironworks and began building the present manor house in 1807. Ryerson ran the ironworks for 50 years. Ringwood iron ore was used to make shot for the war of 1812.

Eleanor Hewitt, who some stay still roams the manor
New York Industrialist, Peter Cooper, and his son-in-law Abram S. Hewitt purchased Ringwood in 1854. The manor house became the Hewitt's summer home and they added to it in the 1860's and 70's. The manor boasts 24 fireplaces, 28 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, and is a mixture of styles that characterize the Victorian Era. The Hewitt's entertained often in the manor. When the family retired from the iron industry they donated the estate to the state of New Jersey in 1936. They gave it furniture and all, so as such it is an important historical snap shot of life during that time period.

The end of an era....In the 1950's the ironworks finally closed down. When I lived in Ringwood, the old mine area was inhabitated by a unique racial group called the Ramapough Mountain People (or slang; Jackson-Whites), a racially mixed group of mostly Native American, Black, and Hessian descent.

Ringwood Manor State Park operates today, and during October there are special evening tours where you might catch a climpse of Mrs. Hewitt, who is said to haunt the upstairs of the manor house, Robert Erskine whom they say sits outside near his grave in the mornings, or the midnight moanings of the French soldiers, who are also buried there.

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