Weavertown: A Small Popularly Named Section of Paterson

 

From The History1 of the Garlick Family
by William Devine
 The Historic County, Vol. 3 Issue 3, December 2001

 

The name “Weavertown” means little to the present generation of Paterson, but to the two preceding generations, the name was a household word, more or less. It played an important part in the history of Paterson, for the quaint folks who established “Weavertown” were really the pioneer weavers of this city, even in a most humble way. Much could be said of them and their manner of living. From them have sprung many of Paterson’s fine citizens, rich silk manufacturers and dyers and other lines of commercialism and the professions.

By the death some weeks ago of Jeptha Garlick 2, the name “Weavertown” has been revived again, so it seems appropriate to tell the folks about the early days of Paterson and the dear old English people who constituted the population of Weavertown.

Dr. William H.Rauchfuss 3 – 1930

Family history tells us that Weavertown was named after a small number of English-born handloom weavers who settled here in the mid-1800s.  Included in this early group were Henry and Joseph Garlic4.  who came to Paterson in the early 1850s. Both Henry5 and Joseph operated small handloom weave shops in the area around East Eighteenth Street and Twelfth Avenue. In the early days they wove cotton6, 7, 8, products but in later years wove both cotton and silk. Weavertown probably got its name in the 1850s and by 1868 it was already an established section.  It was in that year that the Weavertown Mission School was dedicated9. The School was organized so Weavertown children would not have to travel outside the area to receive religious instruction. Weavertown began to lose its identity a little before or after the turn of the century (1900) and today few people will remember the name or location10.

It is difficult to talk about the location of Weavertown without mentioning the Weavertown Mission11 and Joseph Garlick. It is these two names, which provide us with many, of the documented sources as to its location.
–The Weavertown Mission was organized in the weave shop of Joseph Garlick in 1868 on E 18th Street near 12th Avenue12.
–The first session of the Sunday school was held 9:30 a.m. on May 31, 1868, in the weave shop of Joseph Garlick13.
–The Weavertown Mission Sunday School located on Twelfth Avenue and East 18th Street was dedicated in 1869.  Dr. Joseph Banvard preaching from Mark IV, 1414.
–The Weavertown Mission School, as it was originally called, was begun in the weave shop of Joseph Garlick, East Eighteenth Street near Twelfth Street, in the year 1868.  The work grew so that a chapel was built on the corner of East Eighteenth and Twelfth Avenue, which was dedicated on May 9, 186915.
–The Winfield Manufacturing Company carries on the same business on a larger scale at Weavertown.  Albert D. Winfield, the president, having been engaged in that branch of the silk manufacture for several years16.
–Once a year they held the Oldham Wake17 and other games like in England. They were held near the engine house.  History clusters around the old Engine House No. 718.
–Memories of old-time Paterson were recalled at the death on Thursday, of Jeptha Garlick, in his eighty- sixth year.  He was the last survivor of the family who in 184419  started a small hand-weaving shop and who, with two other families was responsible for the name “Weavertown” being applied to the district in which they lived and worked. It is an interesting sidelight on the life of Paterson in those days to learn that the Broadway Baptist Church, then known as the Fourth Baptist Church, was first formed in the same building where Joseph Garlick wove his cotton goods20.
–When the flood came, a man named Uriah Van Riper, living then on or near the site of the present residence of Smith Hill, near Weavertown21, 22, 23.

There have been at least three papers that attempt to define the boundaries of  Weavertown. The earliest is the 1930 article Little Old Weavertown24 written by Dr. William H. Rauchfuss. Rauchfuss was a historian recognized for his knowledge of Paterson and its people. His article was based on interviews with the “older folks” who knew the early settlers.  Little Old Weavertown was never intended to be a historical document and therefore no sources were named.  But it does provide the reader an insight as to life in Weavertown. Rauchfuss describes Weavertown as the area about Carroll Street and Twelfth Avenue up to above25 the old Midland Railroad and over to Division Street.

Next was the 1932 State Normal School report.   The section around Twelfth Avenue and Godwin Street, near the Susquehanna Railroad, was at one time the scene of certain activities connected with the silk industry in Paterson.  This section, called Weavertown, consisted of a group of one-story brick houses.  The houses were similar in plan: one room was used for general living purposes, the other for the hand-weaving of silk.  The woven silk was later sold to neighboring dealers.  This group of English people carried on its activities quite apart from the rest of the city.

As industry progressed, the factories with their machinery eliminated the necessity of hand weaving.  This furnished work for more people and soon the inhabitants of Weavertown could no longer enjoy their former isolation.  Gradually these one-story brick buildings gave way to the more modern homes until today very few of the original structures exist. This area closely matches the location provided by Rauchfuss.

The most recent are the 1985 Richard D. Margrave27 paper28,  part of which discusses Weavertown, published in the Spring/Summer issue of New Jersey History. He analyzes data contained in the 1880 census and his Weavertown is considerably larger than the area described by Rauchfuss and the State Normal School report. He states, the exact location of Weavertown in the city was never adequately defined by contemporaries, but later historical studies have pointed to an area to the east of the modern historic mill district and downtown area, which extended as far as the Susquehanna Railroad.  He refers to the Normal School report and comments there are now no traces29 of the sources upon which the normal school study was based and one suspects that the findings depended upon local reminiscences. He goes on to say, the exact location of Weavertown and some measure of the amount of residential segregation among the English immigrants along occupational lines may, however, be determined by an analysis of the addresses of the English in the city as recorded in the 1880 census manuscripts. In 1880 over half of the known addresses of English-born silk weavers were concentrated in a small area of the city bounded by Tyler Street (now 12th Avenue) to the north, Cedar Street to the south, the Erie Railroad to the west, and the Susquehanna Railroad to the east.  Within this locality, there was a further concentration of weavers, within an even smaller neighborhood.  Over one-third of the total resided in an area of about only one-mile square which had Mechanic Street, below the Paterson extension Railroad, as its northern boundary; Cedar Street to the south; Straight Street, alongside the Erie Railroad, to the west; and Lewis and 18th streets to the east.  Concentrated along Mechanic, Vine, and sections of Straight, Market, and Willis streets, it was this neighborhood that formed the core of the English silk-weaving community.

But what Margrave actually defines is the Concentration of English Born Silk Weavers in Paterson Based on Data in the 188030 Census – and not the boundaries of Weavertown. It becomes apparent that Margrave was not aware of available published sources that support the Weavertown described by Rauchfuss and the State Normal School report.   And one might question the use of 1880 statistical data to determine the exact location of Weavertown – when it was already an established section by 1868. And I would have to believe that the mansions along Broadway helped to keep Weavertown isolated from the residents to the south. But the strongest argument against Margrave’s Weavertown is that much of the area he describes was actually a popularly named section known as Sandy Hill31. Sandy Hill was defined32 by a mid-twentieth century city map as the area between 16th33 Avenue to the north; a little beyond 21st Avenue to the South34; Straight Street to the west, and Madison Avenue to the east. The Roman Catholic, Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Episcopal cemeteries, collectively known as the Sandy Hill cemeteries35, 36 were all located in the Sandy Hill section – an area that Margrave describes as Weavertown. We also know that the Willis Street (now Park Avenue) Baptist Church property (near Straight Street) was in the Sandy Hill37,38 section as early as 1856.

Unfortunately, most people will probably remember the Weavertown defined by Margrave and published in the prestigious NJ History – and not the Weavertown of Rauchfuss and the State Normal School report and a part of Paterson history will be lost forever.

Endnotes:
1 Extracted from The History of the Garlick Family by William G. Devine. A condensed version.
2 Jeptha Garlick was the son of Joseph Garlick and Susanna Kershaw.  As a youth he worked in his father’s weave shop, but later became a successful carpenter and contractor, building homes in Paterson and its suburbs.
3 Dr. William H. Rauchfuss was born in Paterson in 1871.  He was a member and on the state board of the Sons of the American Revolution, curator of the Dey Mansion, historian for the Passaic County Historical Society, a member of the New Jersey Historical Society, a prominent writer and poet. He was a fountain of information about the background of Paterson and surrounding territory.  As a writer his products were bolstered by his wide knowledge of people and affairs hereabouts.
4 Henry and Joseph were handloom cotton weavers from the area in and around what is today Oldham, England. As were some of the other early immigrants.
5 Henry earlier lived on Centre Street.
6 The year 1840 found the cotton industry fairly active, though there was not just at that period so surprising an increase, as during some preceding years.  It was about this date, or a very few years later, that the zenith was reached.  For the space of a quarter of a century King Cotton was proudly regnant, without a textile brother near the throne to suggest aught of disaster or future abdication.  So commanding was the cotton interest of Paterson at this period that it was pronounced by a British book of reports on the subject to be “the leading manufacturing city of the Middle States, in cotton, and exceeded only by Lowell in America. “ 1882 -History of Industrial Paterson.
7 King Cotton Dethroned.  The term dethroned is used in a comparative sense only.  The status of cotton manufacture even at this date will compare favorably, in the number of spindles and looms running, number of hands employed, amount of wages paid and value of production, with that at the period of its highest prosperity; but there has not been a growth at all commensurate with that of the city, nor in proportion to other industries.  The falling off………. And the silk business, attracted here by the abundant skilled labor the cotton mills had gathered, offering better wages than the parent industry could pay, and more profitable returns to the investor, have, step by step, so entrenched themselves that the cotton manufacturer has, to a considerable extent, been uprooted in its native soil.  1882-History of Industrial Paterson.
8 The cotton industry was the principal industry of the City of Paterson during the ’40s and ’50s, the factories being established along the race-ways below the Passaic Falls, from which they derived their power.  There were also machine shops for the manufacture of cotton machinery, among which was one, the Charles Danforth Company.  From History of Cooke Works by Frederick W. Cooke, published in the June 1920 The Headlight – American Locomotive Company.
9 Weavertown residents at a cost of $1000.00 built the school.
10 Eightieth Anniversary Bulletin of the Broadway Baptist Church.
11The Weavertown Mission property was transferred to the Fourth Baptist Church in 1883.  A new church was built on Broadway and dedicated in 1891.The Fourth Baptist Church became the Broadway Baptist Church in 1915.
12 May 9, 1869 – May 9. 1909 Church Bulletin celebrating the Fortieth Anniversary of the Weavertown Mission and the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Fourth Baptist Church.  1869 – 1919 Church Bulletin celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Weavertown Mission and the Fortieth Anniversary of the Broadway Baptist Church.
13 Undated record of the Broadway Baptist Church.
14 Church Bulletins.  See above reference.
15 Golden Jubilee edition of the Paterson Evening News.
16 Clayton History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey 1882.  Page 482. Editor: In 1882 Winfield Manufacturing Company was located at E 18th Street near York.
17 Margrave talks about the Macclesfield Wakes- In common with the Aston-born Fall River cotton workers and the Oldham-born Paterson cotton worker before them, the residents (Macclesfield born) of Paterson quickly reestablished the annual celebration.
18 William H. Rauchfuss article dated 1930. Editor: Engine House No. 7 was located on Tyler Street between Graham and E. 18th Street. Location determined from old city maps.
19 Contrary to family beliefs Joseph and Henry Garlick did not arrive in Paterson until the early 1850s.  John and Ann Garlick who arrived about 1844 preceded them.  Little is known about John except that he was born about 1810, was a weaver, included in the 1850 Paterson census, became a citizen in September 1849 and died prior to 1855. He would be the family member mentioned in family histories. His widow Ann remarried in 1855. Editor.
20 1930 obituary of Jeptha Garlick. Editor.
21 History of Industrial Paterson – 1882.
22 In 1882 Mr. Smith lived at Lafayette at York.  1882 Paterson City Directory.
23 This location helps define the northern boundary of Weavertown
24 This article was contributed by Ralph Garlick (son of Benjamin)
25 Above would include East Nineteenth Street.
26 Later called the Susquehanna Railroad. Editor.
27 Richard Margrave holds a Ph D in history from the University of London.  He is author of Technology Diffusion and The Transfer of Skills:  Nineteenth-Century English Silk Migration to Paterson.
28 A North Country Community Transplanted:  Immigrant English Silk Workers in Paterson, New Jersey, 1860 – 1900.
29 Like the Normal School report Rauchfuss provides no documentation of sources.  But unlike the Normal School report his article was never intended to be an historical document. Editor.
30 Margrave notes that the basis of an English ethnic neighborhood had been formed long before the arrival of the great mass of silk workers in 1879 and 1880.
31 Named after the mineral deposit in the area.
32 The boundaries of Sandy Hill probably remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years-from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s.
33 This is about the location of the Paterson Extension Railroad.
34 Some “old timers” that I talked to said the Sandy Hill southern boundary may have ended at Cedar Street.
35 The cemeteries lying in what is known as Sandy Hill, Paterson, N. J.  Sandy Hill Cemeteries of the City of Paterson, Oswald Warner, M.D., quoting an 1888 article from the New York World of July 16, 1887 titled Neglecting their Graves.
36 As defined on many old maps the cemetery boundaries ran from Mechanic Street to the north, Cedar Street to the south, almost to Madison Avenue to the east, and Vine Street to the west.
37 In 1856, for instance, the Park Avenue Baptist Church was formed to deal with the “rough” elements on Sandy Hill.” 1985 Richard Margrave report.  Editor:  It was called Willis Avenue Baptist Church in those days.
38 Golden Jubilee Edition of the Paterson Evening News 1890 – 1940.  As early as 1856 the First Baptist Church began to expand and a mission was started in what was known as the Sandy Hill Section.  A lot was purchased on the east side of Straight street, between Market and Willis streets, the later now being  known as Park Avenue.

Copyright © January 2001 William G. Devine.
All rights reserved.