O THE RIGHT is the house in which my mother grew up. When the
McWilliams brothers acquired a steel forging factory on the southeast bank of the
Rockaway River, and moved their operations to Rockaway, my father, Marijan, Sr.
took up residence as a roomer in a house owned by a widow next to the Verkey home.
So, dad was the "boy" next door, in that fine old romantic tradition...The house
became a duplex after grand-dad Verkey died, and in 1950, we moved into our own
house halfway up the ridge on the north side of town. That house was sold in
Rockaway, New Jersey
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too clear in the thumbnail above are clear in the larger image. As a
child, a teenager going to middle school to the immediate left in this view, and
an infrequent visitor since then, I realized when I gazed upon this photo why home
towns draw those who leave back. I now see this sight as a stranger to these parts
might. Mt. Pleasant Avenue climbs over the ridge in the background. Originally,
the road went five miles out to an iron mine. Now the Interstate 80 highway has
changed the sparse population and the whole area is within the Metropolitan New
York designation for federal funding purposes...I suppose many other people born
in the forties have much the same memories I have. Images of finding creeks and
springs as we were out bending birches in our heads, but houses, streets,
plastic backyard swimming pools are there now...
Early 19th century Style
Stephen Jackson, a captain in the NJ militia during the Revolution was involved in
the early days of the iron forging industry that sprung up around this area after
iron was discovered in 1710. It was, as I've mentioned my journals, his son
Joseph Jackson who built this dwelling. The house is only yards from the Rockaway
River's course through the center of town. Early in the history of the iron mining
in this area, the company that opened the mine in Hibernia - where my mother's
father would work - built a rail line to the old Morris Canal, as it cut through
Rockaway. Eventually, the rail line was extended to meet up with the Delaware,
Lackawanna, and Western (now part of the recently bought up Conrail system). The
tracks run right by the corner from which this photo was taken. Main Street
crosses the tracks just about where they come to a "V" in this photo.
Here's an online history of iron mining in
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This is the
trestle depicted in the pictures on the journals page. It was the
location of many Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer adventures I had with my brother,
John. Main Street crosses the river right past the Railroad. From the looks of the
iron, the bridge must have been built in the 19th century. Here is the sight that
greeted me as I looked downriver.
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climbs a slight rise from the river, and turns as it goes through what
passes for downtown Rockaway - or, is it really "uptown"? If you sneeze or
you could miss it...all the buildings remain from my childhood days in the
fifties. It was quite an adventure to ride bikes into "town" to buy ice cream,
bubble gum, and comic books. Such were the innocent pleasures of the fifties in
small town America, back then...One thing that caught my raconteur's eye,
when I looked at the photo print, was the view of the trees toward the
other side of town, as one looks east. Obvious in the photo, but not
necessarily anything five to ten year olds might remember if they were
leaving their home town for good at that age...
Rockaway Boro Center
Visit a Zinc Mining Museum
the red ore car to take a tour of a zinc mine, guided by my brother,
John, who set tonnage records, and discovered Kolicite (pronounced ko-li-kite). You can also visit the
online website of the Museum at Sterling Hill Zincmine
Museum. The artistic rendering on the Museum icon looks strikingly like