|Ramapo Reformed Church
100 Island Road
Mahwah, NJ. 07430
The Ramapo Reformed Church
Organized 1785 - Built 1798
Rev. William F. Grob, Minister
100 Island Road, Mahwah, New Jersey
The Ramapo Meeting House
By Carol W. Greene
Ramapo Reformed Church Historian (c) 2003
In 1713, a small group of eleven German Lutheran families settled at the "Island," so named because of extensive
marshlands surrounding high, dry land. They formed a congregation in 1715, and c. 1720 built a log church. Prior to
1739, they built a larger, frame church.
Dutch, French, English and Scottish settlers of the Reformed faith came to the Island about mid-century and
attended church in Paramus, 10 miles distant. In 1785, they organized The Ramapo Dutch Reformed Congregation
at Ramapough in Bergen County.
After the Revolutionary War (1776-1783), the first task of the new nation was to repair the damages of war and
neglect. Neither the Lutheran nor the Reformed congregation at the Island had sufficient means to build a new
church. In spite of having fought on opposing sides during the War, they agreed to jointly repair and use the old
Lutheran church. The arrangement was so successful that in 1798, they agreed to build the present church together.
Construction began on June 4th, and was finished in November. The last items purchased were "one lock and two
keys" on December 12, 1798. The two congregations shared the church for fifty years until 1848, when the
Lutherans sold their interest and moved to Airmont, NY and established the present Christ Evangelical Lutheran
As soon as its doors opened to the public in 1798, the new Ramapough Meeting House became the heart of the daily
activities. Social gatherings and civic meetings were held here all week long, and personal and official notices were
posted on the doors. But on the Sabbath (from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday) the building became a
Ramapough - or Bellgrove, as it was called at this time - had four mills, several blacksmith shops, a general store, a
stagecoach stop, and U.S. Post Office, one of the earliest in New Jersey (1797). The old Kings Highway of 1703 or
Ramapough Road (Island Road) was part of the ancient 150-mile Albany Post Road from Paulus Hook (Jersey City)
to Albany, NY. Dobbin & Tustin, est. 1797, ran a passenger and mail stage line on this road, right past the door of
the Ramapough Meeting House.
In 1798, when pews and people were smaller, the Meeting House held 385 people. (Today, it holds 250). Though the
old box-type pews are gone from the sanctuary, the gallery seats above, where the slaves used to sit, still exist.
The Island Church held an important place in the railroad hamlet of Mahwah throughout the 1800s. It was known
simply as the Community Church until the 1950s, when suburbanization brought many other faiths to Mahwah.
One of the earliest public schools in the area, c. 1815, was operated on the church property until 1906, when the
church sold land to the Township for the Commodore Perry School. In the cemetery is a roadbed of the old Kings
The Ramapo Reformed Church is the oldest public building in Mahwah, and a repository of more than 200 years of
local and regional history. It is the older of only two remaining frame Federal-period churches in Bergen County, and
is on the National Register of Historic Places.