New Milford was in Oradell Before it Was New Milford
A Journey into Oradell
Stop and look at an old map of the area (circa late 1800’s) and you’ll find New Milford there – along Kinderkamack Road between River Edge and Oradell.
Turns out that New Milford was in Oradell before it became known for its association with the area to the east of where it is known by that name today.
Back some 115 years ago (1894), New Milford was the designation of a stretch of land to the west of the Hackensack River and wholly within the bounds of Midland Township. It went from Midland Avenue north to Ridgewood Avenue, and from just west of Prospect Avenue to the Hackensack River, including river islands.
The present day New Milford was then known as Peetzburgh (or Peetzville, perhaps not to be confused with Pittsburgh). It received its name from Gustav Peetz, an early land developer. Peetzburgh was part of Palisade Township, a Borough to the east of the river.
“New Milford” (now in Oradell) was a place of farming, residence and commerce. At its heart was Van Buskirks’s Mill and Voorhis’ General Store.
The mill stood at the foot of New Milford Avenue hill, south of the road – then known as Mill Road.
Similar to the Demarest Mill to the south at Old Bridge, the Van Buskirk’s Mill dates back to the days of the Revolutionary War, and was used variously as a tannery, and bleaching mill, button factory and woolen mill. After Van Buskirk took over in 1837, he changed it to a gristmill to grind buckwheat, rye and wheat. Their storage and other buildings occupied the island where the Hackensack Water Company later built a pumping station.
A dam had been built at the mill to provide energy to the site. Thus, the location became the head of the navigable river and a center of commerce as well as a destination for sail boat transportation. Van Buskirks operated schooners, the “Kate Lawrence” and “General Grant”, to carry their flour and grain to market down the river.
Businesses grew there. There was the “Spring Valley” post office on New Milford Avenue (in the home of Jacob Van Buskirk). The New Milford General Store was operated by John B.H. Voorhis. It was located at the crest of New Milford hill at what is now the corner of Kinderkamack and New Milford Avenue. The building is now a private home.
The Hackensack Water Company first came to town in 1882 when it built the afore-mentioned pumping station. The Water Works, so much a part of modern day conversations, was built later.
Old timers can still recall the New Milford Train Station – there on the east of the tracks just north of New Milford Avenue. The original station was replaced by a shelter, and that too is now long gone. The “New Milford” stop on the Pascack Valley Line made it into the early days of NJ Transit (some 30 years ago). Today there is an electrical box on the site.
To the east, the present-day New Milford (Incorporated under that name in 1922) has spruced up its Main Street. So too has streetscape been added to River Road, a de-facto Main Street through the Borough.
Their retro lighting is an attempt to evoke an earlier era – an era, that, in fact, when the place was not even called in New Milford. After all, back then New Milford was in Oradell.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Source Materials - "Biography of A Borough: Oradell" (1969), by Irving Crump; Oradell Centennial; 1894-1994…And, a special thank you to Borough Archivist, George Carter for his ear, his support generally and in particular his help in securing historic pictures from the Borough/Library Collection.