Little Ferry History


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This is a "live" work in-progress area and subject to daily updates.   The following draft information is provided for review by members of our community and interested parties. 

 

 

American Sokol Little Ferry [back]

In the fall of 1896 four men met at the residence of Frank Navara, now owned by former Mayor August Stocek, and organized Sokol of Little Ferry.  Its first officers were Vincent Petrik, President, Joseph Kucera, Sr., Vice President, Frank Navara, Secretary, and William Zabransky, Sr., Treasurer.  A number of young Sokol came from Bohemia and charter members Thomas Tuma, William Tuma and Anton Pavlicek were instructors.  Other charter members were Frank and William Laznicka, Joseph Vedral, William Kour, Sr., John Kavrik, and Anton Budin.   By hard work they erected the first public hall in the borough.  Sokol accepted all nationalities in its organization at the time, as it does today.  The little hall was the center of all activities in our borough, and its gym classes in those days were fairly large considering our small population.  Two old members organized the Sokol Fife and Drum Corps, known throughout our country from 1900 to 1917.  Dramas and plays were given in both English and Czech, and we also had a fine Sokol choir and orchestra.  Sokol carried on its annual Fourth of July parade until 1918.  All those days are gone.  On March 17, 1911 the old Sokol Hall was completely destroyed by fire and the present building erected.  Over 2,000 children have attended gym classes and many of these gymnasts have traveled in many sections of the United States adn Czechoslovakia.  The American Sokol has organizations in twenty states of our country.  It is more than a physical culture organization;  it has high ideals and coincides with the constitution of our great nation.  The American Sokol in the United States was organized in 1865 in the days of Lincoln, and many of its members fought to save the Union.  Up to 1935 its members wore Union Blue uniforms.  To the American Sokol our country and the constitution are first; it teaches the philosophy of life and its first aim is to be physically fit to serve our county.  Not one of our members was rejected in either World War I or II.  Sokol teaches individual responsibility and moral uplift and recognizes, as in our constitution, freedon of conscience and creed.  The membership of its members in churches in their private and personal affair.    During World Wars I and II Sokol gave its auditorium for Red Cross and Liberty Bond drives, send off and welcome home celebrations and graduation exercises for our public schools.    Translated Sokol means Falcon.  The Sokol ideals were founded by Dr. M. Tyrs one hundred years ago to conform with our constitution.  (Reprint:  Little Ferry 1964-70th Anniverary). 

Bergen County V.F.W. Band - Petersilge Verlock Post 809 [back]

The band was organized in Englewood, New Jersey in 1920 and had a membership of 35 musicians - veterans of World War I, and sponsored by Mr. W. Higgins, and undertaker, who resided in Englewood.  Its first president was Mr. William Fay of Ridgefield, New Jersey.  Both men have since passed away.  Mr. Charles Vaclavicek was the band's first treasurer and held this post until 1959.  Mr. Vaclavicek now resides in Maywood, New Jersey.    In 1935 the band rehearsed in the old Hackensack Armory, and in that year it was taken over by the Little Ferry Post 809 under the direction of Mr. William McCann.  Mr. Fred Kirchoff succeeded Mr. William McCann. as musical director until his resignation a few years ago.  Mr. Peker is the band's able drum major, who at 78 years of age, is the oldest in the state. (Reprint:  Little Ferry 1964-70th Anniverary). 

 

Brickyards [back]     Photo

First brickyards built in 1872.  Reminders are the many clay pits throughout the Borough (filled in by water when pumps stopped) now known as Willow Lake, Lakeview, Mehrhof, etc.  The first were established by Cole and Showers.  After a poor start, the business went into the hands of John Thume.  In 1877 the brickyards passed into the hands of the Mehrhofs.  This family was connected with the yards until they closed down.  The location was ideal for brick making.  The availability of clay, the closeness to transportation (barges down the Hackensack River), and growing areas such as Newark, New York City, etc.  Among the earliest to establish brick companies in Little Ferry were I. and W. Felter, Charles E. Walsh, and James Gillies, who came here between 1884 adn 1886.  The biggest plants were the Mehrhof Brick Company at the foot of Mehrhof Road, the E. N. Mehrhof Company at the foot of Treptow Street, the Gardner Brick Company on Riverside Avenue and Main Street, and the Hackensack Brick Company.   The Hackensack Brick Company was the last brickyard to go out of business. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944)

Flower Pot firm [back]

A flower pot company was one of Little Ferry's first industries.  The plant was situated near Strohmeyer's brickyard, where Route 6 and the Bergen Pike join. The clay pit which was used was filled in when Route 6 was built.  The industry was also the site of the Borough's first railroad.  A small car on tracks was used by the company.  It was pulled by a horse and was used to bring clay pottery from the plant to the Hackensack River, where it was loaded on barges and shipped to Eastern cities.  Old-timers recall seeing the workmen shape the pottery by hand before it was baked. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944).

Hackensack River Bridge(s) [back]

The bridge over the Hackensack River at Little Ferry was a very important link for travelers going to and from New York City.  For years it was necessary to pay a toll to cross the bridge.  The bridge was later a part of the roadway first known as Hackensack Turnpike.  Later named the Bergen Turnpike,  it went from Fairview through Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Little Ferry, then on to Hackensack.  It was first built in 1804.  At first, to cross the Hackensack River, it was necessary to use the little ferry near the property now owned by the Mehrhof family in Little Ferry.   In 1828, the first bridge over the Hackensack River was built.  It was a wooden structure, but at the turn of the century, it was replaced by the bridge which still stood before the erection of the present span.   It was necessary to pay tolls on both the bridge and Bergen Turnpike until the start of the World War.   In 1915, the Board of Chosen Freeholders took over the entire stretch of roadway from Fairview to Main Street, Hackensack.  Public Service later became the owners of the bridge and retained the right of way along the Pike for the operation of its trolleys.   In 1934, after the present structure was completed the old historic bridge was torn down despite efforts of the local government and residents of Little Ferry to have it remain. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944).

Indian Massacre

Little Ferry's first settlement was wiped out by the Indians in the warfare which raged from the Raritan River to Connecticut.   In 1641, Mydertse Van der Heer Nedderhorst set up a plantation and a trading post on the west bank of the Hackensack River about 100 yards south of the home of Philip Mehrhof, now Riverside Avenue.  Two years later the settlement was entirely wiped out in a widespread retaliatory massacre by the Indians. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944).

Little Ferry - the ferry [back]

Little Ferry acquired its name from one of the earliest public utilities established in the State.  It has long since vanished from its former location.  The ferry after which the Borough was named in 1894 was called the little ferry to distinguish it from the longer ferry across the North or Hudson River, between New Amsterdam (New York City) and Paulus Hook and Hobock, now known as Jersey City and Hoboken respectively.   The ferries were then importan connecting links on the roadway leading from what later became New York City and the northern sections of New Jersey.  An ancient road had been built from Paulus Hook and Bergen, now known as Jersey City, connecting with another ancient road from Hobock, now Hoboken, to the English neighborhood lying on the easterly side of Overpeck Creek.  This old road followed the approximate location of Broad Avenue or Bergen Turnpike and west to Ridgefield, to approach the Overpeck Creek near the present site of the bridge connecting Ridgefield Park and Ridgefield.   The old road did not cross Overpeck Creek, but continued along the southerly side of the creek across what is commonly known as "The Island".  It terminated at the south end of the railroad bridges at the confluence of the Overpeck Creek and Hackensack River.  On old deeds this point is referred to as the ferry stairs.  From the stairs, the crossing of the Hackensack was made by ferry, probably to the solid ground upon which the old trading post in Little Ferry formerly stood. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944).

Little Ferry American Legion Post [back]

The American Legion Post in Little Ferry was organized on September 7th, 1944 by Patrolman Charles Balala, who served as its first senior commander.  The unit became the John H. Gertz Post 310.  Named after the first Little Ferry man to lose his life in WWII.  Gertz was a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Juneau which was sunk in a battle with the Japanese in the early part of the war in the South Pacific.  Patrolman Balala was active in the Captain Harry B. Doremus Post 55, American Legion of Hackensack, and handled the work with service men leaving the Borough.  Other officers chosen are Patrolman Henry W. Strohmeyer, senior vice-commander; Albert Petretti, junior vice-commander; Charles Hageman, sergeant-at-arms; Harold Woodley, post chaplain; Watts C. Fairchild, post adjutant; James Nahy Jr., finance officer; Lester DeBaun, services officer, and Gerard Beckmann, historian.

Little Ferry Building and Loan Association [back]

One of the oldest in the State, formed in 1910 one of the few which weathered the serious financial crisis without dissolving or merging with another organization. When formed in July 1910, officers Louis Brauer as president, Frank Herman, as vice-president, Charles Schulz as secretary, and Andrew Warhold as treasurer.  The first shareholders were Frederick Becker, William Dorling, Frank Merman, Carl Schulz, Frank Rysavy Jr., Charles Schulz, Frederick E. Vogel, Louis Brauer, Joseph Kavrik, Nicholas Schopp, Andrew Warhold, Joseph Mach, and Frank Trinka.  During its first year the Association had 75 shareholders and 320 shares sold.  In 1944, William Zabransky Jr. was president; Joseph Kour, treasurer; Charles Schulz, secretary; and Elmer Zabriskie, attorney.  Members of the Board included Max Janish, Anthony W. Riedel, John Faul, and Otto Schulz. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944)

Little Ferry First Aid Corps [back]

Started by six members of the Fire Department during the winter of 1937.  The firemen who originated the plan were Fred Havecker, Charles Ebenau, William Steeger, John Latusa, Frank Stetnile, and Fred Vincent, who took Red Cross first aid work.  The first Board of Governors who organized July 14, 1938.  Included Robert Ebenau, president; Robert Abend, vice-president; the Rev. Frederick B. Brown, secretary; the Rev. Havecker, captain; Mrs. Havecker, assistant secretary; and Fire Department representatives of Charles Ebenau, John Kozief, John Weeks, John Krejsa, William Holley, Arthur Borchert, James Busico, and Andrew Bauer.  Chief Frank Trinka, Alvin Scherb, and Dr. William C. Rucker were also members.  The first contribution of $60 came from the Mayor and Council.  The unit was incorporated in March 1939, and six members, Edward Hubelmeyer, Dr. Rucker, Chief Trinka, Richard C. Moeller, John Krejsa, and John Weeks, loaned the Corps $225 which was used to purchase an ambulance.  The Hook and Ladder Fire Company depleted its entire treasury to erect a garage adjoining its firehouse for housing of the ambulance.  The Corps answered its first call May 18th, 1939 and *since then has responded to 879 cases, including 335 minor cases. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - *Weds. September 20, 1944).    

Little Ferry First Rotary Club [back]

Organized May, 1937, made many contributions to the Borough.  Organizer Edward P. Kinchley, 187 Main Street, Insurance man, secretary of the Volunteer Building and Loan Association, and former Bergen Evening Record correspondent. Kinchley served as the club's first president.  Others elected were Peter A. Wiseman, then cashier of the Little Ferry National Bank, vice-president; the Rev. Frederick V. MacPeck, secretary, and William Fehrs, treasurer.   Other original 14 charter members included Dr. Parker A. Groff, Dr. Clarence R. Slavik, Edward J. Hubelmeyer, Cornelius Jordan, Owen Hawkins, Charles Rucker Jr., Charles Kuss, Richard C. Moeller, and Frank Perina.  Owens Hawkins was the clubs second president.  One of the club's big projects was to see that each Little Ferry man going into service was presented a fountain pen.   Other projects included a student loan fund for Little Ferry scholars. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944).

Little Ferry Hose Company  [back]

In the year of 1907 Little Ferry was a typical rural community with no paved streets, sidewalks or curbs,no water supply, and a very limited electric supply. One thing did take place that summer of 1907; and this was that water mains were installed along Lodi Ave. (now Main St.),and Liberty St. The thoughts of progressive members of the Borough turned to the problem of obtaining the man-power and equipment needed to use this assured water supply for fire protection.

On the evening of December 9,1907 Hose Co.1 was organized. A group of enthusiastic young men met at the Little Ferry Hotel, later known as Becker's Cafe and completed a temporary organization with the following officers and members: Charles Schultz Jr., Foreman; Frederick Becker, Assistant Foreman; James Van Saders, Secretary; Herman Becker, Treasurer; and members John Dvorak, August Fehrs, Robert Fehrs, J.Kucera Jr.,Otto Schultz and Chester Schopp.

The Number of members was increased to twenty five and the Organization was incorporated as Hose Company Number One of Little Ferry, N.J., on July 25,1908 the members were sworn in by Notary Jacob Vogt. On October 8,1908 the Governing Body passed and ordinance on final reading creating the Little Ferry Fire Department and approved the following as officers and members of Hose Co. Number 1, the Borough's first volunteer firemen:

Charles Schultz Jr., Foreman      Frederick Becker, Asst. Foreman   Frank Rysavy Jr, Secretary     Herman Becker, Treasurer

Members:    Henry Bergman, Emil Dannacher, John Dvorak, August Erdman, Henry Erdman, August Fehrs, Robert Fehrs, George Hendricks, John Knell, John Krejsa, Joseph Kucera Jr., Charles Lang, George Lawrence, Jacob Lawrence, Edward Lutton, Chester Schopp, Raymond Schopp, Otto Schultz, Frank Trinka, Henry Vopasek, and George Zimmerman.

A lot for the firehouse was donated by Carl Becker on the corner of Maple St. and Marshall Ave a site for the building which is still in use today. The building was dedicated on May 27, 1909.   Prior to that date the voters approved the purchase of a hose wagon and the necessary equipment at a general election in November 1908.   (Reference: www.littleferryhoseco.org)

Little Ferry Historical Society [back]

Primary purpose is to recall the borough's past by collecting artifacts, photos and records depicting the changes in environment and culture.  Interest ranges from the time of the native Lenni Lenape people, Van Der Horst's trading post at the ferry crossing in 1641, the Freiburg section of our town when it was part of Lodi Township, and especially from the founding of the present borough in 1894.  The Society's activity was manifest when it participated in the re-enactment of George Washington's RETREAT To VICTORY on November 17, 2001.  Some speakers have been R. Griffin of Bergen County Historical Society, John Quinn from the DeKorte Environmental Center as well as re-enactors of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.  Presently, the Society is in partnership with the Little Ferry Environmental Commission and Little Ferry Public Schools to establish the history of the Mehrhof Brick Yard at the revitalized Losen Slote - Mehrhof Pond site.   Many present home-sites were preceded by earlier structures as is being witnessed today by demolition or renovation of these old houses.  Pictures of those old structures are in demand.  The Society would like to have a picture of Holz (Krieger) Hall, D.A.Sokol Hall, the Dvorak Building (present day 7-11), Bud Lake, Silver Cup Diner (at the Rte. 46 Circle), Verecka's Diner, the Diamond Ball Field (across today's Boro Hall), Kavrik's general store and adjacent houses along Liberty Street, Stocek's grocery store, Franz's automobile sales, miniature golf course at site of George Swagger's house, etc.  An owner of such picture need not relinguish it, as it could be copied perfectly by today's technology.  As an example, Boro Historian Steve Royka has had Post Cards copied well enough to be on permanent display in the corridor of the Boro Hall.

Regular monthly meeting (every 4th Tuesday at the Little Ferry Municipal Building.  The public is invited to attend several meetings as guests to observe the official function and hear special speakers prior to becoming members for $10.00 annual dues.   Contact either Steve at (201) 641 - 2842 or society president Frank Zabransky at (201) 641 - 3546.  Artifacts and memorabilia are also on the wish list.

Little Ferry Library [back]

The library had its early beginnings July 11, 1916, when Lewis Pfister, then deacon of the Congregational church, offered to establish a free circulating library for members of the church and Sunday school.  He secured permission to use one of the rooms in the parsonage for this purpose.  As a start, the Library received 9 English bibles, 3 German Bibles, 12 religious books, and 20 others from the church.  Pfister was librarian and Miss Anna Pfister assistant librarian.  Then, in 1925, a group of women conceived the idea to organize a public library in Little Ferry.  The plan was discussed with Mrs. A. R. Bagart, vice-president of the Federation of Women's Clubs, in connection with the organization of a Woman's Club in Little Ferry.  June 7, 1926 was set as the opening day for the new library.  The Little Ferry National Bank officers donated teh use of one of their stores for the library, and women members volunteered their services in handling the books.  When the need for a full-time librarian was apparent, Pfister, who started the library plan more then a decade before was appointed librarian.  When the quarters in the old bank building became inadequate and the library continued to grow in popularity, steps to erect a new modern building were taken.  The library board members donated considerable time in pushing the project.  Members got merchants to donate the equipment and materials, and residents volunteered their services to erect the building.  In October, 1927 the Board felt that the corner of Redneck Avenue and Liberty Street, a centrally located valuable spot, would be ideal for the building.  They approached Henry Clausen the owner, with a view toward buying the plot.  His replay to their requests for a price was, "Take it if it suits you."  On October 20, 1929 the cornerstone for the building was laid.  Philip C. Stalb of Hackensack was the quest speaker.  In later years an addition to the building was built.  (Reprint  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944)

In 1916, Mr. Henry Frank, 310 Liberty Street, presented a book to the Congregational Church in which he wrote his wish for a community library building.  This book was put in a copper box along with the history of the library and placed into the cornerstone which was laid in 1929 by Mr. Lawrence Messner, Board Chairman.  (Reprint: Little Ferry 1964-70th Anniversary).

Little Ferry Mayors [back]

James Pickens               1894-1896        Joseph Srholez                 1940-1957

Irving Felter                   1896-1898       George Merwede      Nov.-Dec. 1957

John Adam Eckel           1899-1903      Margaret Srholez         Jan.-Dec. 1958

Oswald Mehrhof            1903-1905      Emil Tuma          Jan. 1959 - July 1961

William Kour                 1906-1908       Fred A. Heinige                 1961-1969

Herman Muller                        1907       Malcolm W. Hill                 1970-1975

August Heckel               1908-1910       George Zilocchi                  1976-1979

Nicholas Schopp           1910-1912       Eugene P. Barden               1980-1983

Carl Schulz      Jan.1-Feb. 17, 1912       Charles Dipaolo                  1984-1987

Charles Schulz               1912-1914       Louis A. Tedesco, Jr.          1988-1998

Frank E. Herma             1914-1916       Thomas Quirico                  1999-present

Oswald Mehrhof            1916-1920

Charles Schulz                1920-1926

August Stocek                1926-1932

Chester F. Schopp         1932-1936

Joseph Zabransky           1936-1940

(Re: Little Ferry 1994-100th Anniversary).

 

Little Ferry P.T.A. [back]

Formed in 1924, the Little Ferry P.T.A unit had Mrs. C. Raymond Schoop as president, Miss E. Hartwell as vice-president, Mrs. Andrew Bauer as secretary, and Miss Ethel T. Todd as treasurer.  Going forward presidents (to 1944) included Mrs. Schopp, Mrs. Charles Erdman, Frank Zavatsky, Mrs. M. Stross, Mrs. Edward P. Kinchley, Mrs. Frank Wonesh, Mrs. Robert Van Wettering, Mrs. Elsie Karsch, Mrs. Louise Claus, Mrs. Mary Kupilik, and Mrs. Charles Holley.  Among accomplishments (up to 1944) are the sponsoring of the junior safety patrol, raising funds to purchase school room and play equipment, record players for both schools (Wilson and Washington), starting the summer playground, conducting summer roundup, and contributing to local and other organizations in their annual drives. (Reprint:  The Bergen Evening Record - Weds. September 20, 1944)

Little Ferry V.F.W [back]

Petersilge - Velock Post No. 809 - Post Chartered July 29, 1921 - Incorporated November 30, 1948  -  Auxiliary Chartered April 16, 1925

"CPL WM E. PETERSILGE POST 809", instituted by Patrick J. Benson (NJ:'24) of Post 277, Ridgefield Park, NJ honored in the first L.F. veteran killed in WWI; Velock added in 1954 honors brothers Walter and John killed in WWII.  Its debut:  Bazaar & Dance,  Nov. 11-12-13, 1921 in T.J. Sokol Hall.   Meeting places: Wilson School (1921-23), Hose Co. Firehouse (1923-24), D.A. Sokol Hall (1925-28), Washington School (1929-43) Paramont Rec. Center (1943-46) and D.A. Sokol Hall (1946-48).   In 1946, Borough Council deeded Werneking tract at 100 Main Street.  Today's Werneking Place was driveway to barn servicing 2-story house which was moved to Petersilge Drive.  Surrounding undeveloped area provided sites for carnivals, the last sponsored by Post 809 in 1948 while post home was under construction.   Ground-breaking on Sept. 1, 1947 started volunteer construction by young members of WWII.  In May 1948 plans include kitchen, rest rooms, and boiler room were changed to locate them behind the East Wing; not until 1965 were the Main Hall and West Wing expanded to the rear.  In August 1948, it barely accommodated first meeting; in April 1949 was adequate for Joint installation of Officers; and in Dec. 1949 was complete for New Years Eve Party.   From Sept. 3 to Sept. 17,1947, Auxiliary solicited funds House-to-House.  From Aug. 1947 to Aug. 1948 men supplemented with scrap paper drive.  Mortgage obtained Sept. 1948; was burned Feb. 25, 1956, midst celebration.   For 73 years, Post & Aux. have served community as well as veterans.  Building facilities are for hire.  Currently, pancake breakfasts are co-sponsored with town organizations.  Its 416 members strive "TO HONOR THE DEAD BY HELPING THE LIVING" (veterans widows and children in addition to needy, disabled & hospitalized veterans) and achieve that by cooperating with many posts in Bergen County (District 2) and state (Dept. of N.J.). (Reprint:  Little Ferry 1994-100th Anniverary).   

Susquehanna Council #107 Degree of Pocahontas [back]

The Council is a National Fraternal Organization and is founded on Freedom, Friendship and Charity and pays sick and death benefits to its members. Susquehanna Council #107 was established on November 17, 1920 at Holz's Hall, later known as Krieger's Recreation. (Reprint: Little Ferry 1964-70th Anniversary).