Excerpts from: From Pioneer Settlement to Suburb: A History of Mahwah, New Jersey, 1700-1976 by Henry Bischoff and Mitchell Kahn
assembled by Elaine Winkler, Covington, KY
July 19, 2010
"Another wealthy person who came to Mahwah in 1872, was Alfred B. Darling. He purchased his first piece of land, 516 acres, on November 25 of that year, in the section of the Ramapo Valley that later would be named for him, Darlington. In 1863, Alfred married Lydia Annie Nye of Ashtabula, Ohio. They had an expensive and well-furnished residence at 15 North Madison Square. In 1882, Darling was said to be worth $2,000,000. The Darlings did not have children.
The 516 acres that Darling bought in the Ramapo Valley in 1872, cost him $50,000. They were purchased from Elisha Teackle, but had earlier belonged in part to Hugh Maxwell and in part to the Hagermans and Bogerts. Additional purchases increased Darling's Mahwah estate to approximately 1,000 acres by 1896.
Although the Darlings continued to maintain their New York City home, and A. B. remained active in his many business enterprises and despite frequent trips to Europe, they spent much time at their Mahwah estate. The homestead was a rambling mansion built on the flatlands between Valley Road and the Ramapo River, a little south of the old Darlington schoolhouse. The house stood in a grove of elms and maples surrounded by a well-kept lawn. Between the residence and the schoolhouse, the Hopkins and Dickinson bronze and lock works was built at about the same time. Darling was a major investor in this enterprise. The outbuildings surrounding the home included a bowling alley, stables, a dairy, a carpenter shop, a coach bar, and a laundry. After the Hopkins and Dickinson Company moved to Newark in 1882, the factory buildings were converted into a large cow barn, a silo, and a storage place. On the hill east of Valley Road an extensive building was constructed that housed a large number of horses and cattle with conditions particularly suited to breeding. Close by, a half-mile track was constructed for the training of trotters, which attained national fame. There was a silo that held 200 tons of hay and a residence for the superintendent of the farm. Darling acquired a number of houses in the neighborhood for some of his other workers.
Darling was determined to develop one of the leading stock farms in the country. In that he succeeded. His interest undoubtedly was rooted in his agrarian background, but it was particularly stimulated by a desire to out do his benefactor, Paran Stevens, in the producing of dairy products. Darling was a highly competitive person. In 1873, he imported two fine Jerseys and became a pioneer in the breeding of them in the United States. By 1874, he had twenty head of cattle on the farm and by 1883, there were seventy. When Stevens died, Darling bought the best cattle from his herd. Daily, he sent milk and butter by wagons and trains to supply his Fifth Avenue Hotel. His stock also began winning prizes. In 1875, he had the best six-month Alderney bull at the New Jersey State Fair. In conjunction with the American Jersey Cattle Club, he began measuring the butter output of his best cows. One of them, Eurotas, produced a record of 778 pounds of butter in eleven months and five days, which made her the most celebrated cow in the country. Her granddaughter, Bomba, produced twenty-one pounds in one week. The bull, Duke of Darlington, was very famous. These achievements enabled some of Darling's cows to become among the highest priced Jerseys in the world. Eurotas was valued at upwards of $15,000. The last calf she dropped sold for $12,500, the highest price ever paid for a Jersey yearling. The bull, Pedro, was sold for $10,000. There was an annual sale of blooded cattle at the farm.
Darling also was very interested in training and breeding horses, especially trotters. His horses did well in the eastern circuit and especially in Goshen. Axworthy, with a record of 2:151/4 as a three-year old, was considered one of the greatest sires in the country. His daughter, Hamburg Belle, was a big money winner. Kingmond, Starlight, Duke of Wellington, and Prince Lavalard were other championship horses. Darling's stock also did well at showings, taking premiums at the New Jersey State Fair and at the National Horse Show in New York City. Darling also sold many horses, with some of them bringing very high prices. Many prominent horsemen began visiting the Darling farm.
On the estate, chickens and pigs also were raised. In 1880, there were thirty sheep. In one twelve-day period in 1893, ten men brought in 200 tons of hay. To manage his farm, Darling hired Edwin Carpenter, the son of a dry-goods merchant from East Burke, Vermont, located four miles from the farm on which Darling was raised. Carpenter entered the employ of Darling on September 18, 1874, at the age of twenty-four. His efforts were an important part of the success of the Darling farm. He and his wife became leaders in the Darlington community and later in Ramsey. There were a good number of workers on the estate under Carpenter. Most of them came from the area, but several of the maids came from New York. Some of the workers lived in the big house, some in rooms above the coach barn, some in houses on the property, some in the Haight house, and many in their own homes in Mahwah.
While A. B. Darling took a very active interest in his farm, which by 1881, was considered one of the best in the state, there is no record of his taking part in local politics or socializing with the people of Mahwah. He did help improve the roads in Darlington, and he helped to rebuild the Darlington school in 1892. He was elected president of the New Jersey Breeders Association - for the improving of trotting stock - but declined the position. In 1889, the Bergen Democrat reported that Darling was in good health, but he was reported ill in 1891, and died in 1896.
Mrs. Darling continued to spend much time at the Darlington estate. One nephew, Elmer Darling (see below), helped with the property while Mr. Carpenter continued as superintendent. Much of the stock was sold. The cattle became the foundation of a herd started by Isaac Guggenheim. However, some of the dairy operations were continued at the Mahwah estate. Mrs. Darling finally left Darlington when the estate was sold in November, 1901. She then lived in her New York City house until her death in March, 1903. It was George Crocker who bought the Darling estate on November 1, 1901. Crocker obtained approximately 1,100 acres and the considerable number of buildings for $96,500. He retained E. F. Carpenter as manager of the estate.
George Crocker had come from California. He was born in Sacramento, on February 10, 1856, the youngest of four children of Charles Crocker, a railroad pioneer on the West Coast with Stanford and Huntington. The father died in 1888, and left an estate of $30,000,000. At this time son George was living in San Francisco and was, according to the New York Times, "one of the most reckless young men about town when reckless young men thereabouts were common." George was left $6,000,000, but he was not to come into it until "after the space of five years continuously he shall abstain from the use of spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors to the extent that he shall not during this period have been intoxicated. “George continued his accustomed way of life for the next three years. Then he announced to the executors of his father's estate that he was ready to start his probation. He first went to a sanitarium, and then he took over an unsuccessful ranch near Promontory, Utah. By the end of his probation he had turned the ranch into a valuable property, gained the confidence of the executors and the family, and came into his inheritance.
He moved to New York City and opened an office. His main endeavors were directed to running and expanding many of the businesses in which his father had invested, including banks, railroads, and chemical, sugar, gas, coal, iron, and land companies, he was listed as a capitalist in Who's Who in America. In this vocation, Crocker was successful, for by 1909, he was valued at between ten and twenty million dollars.
In 1894, soon after coming to New York, Crocker married Emma Rutherford. She was a California widow with three grown children. The couple bought a villa in Newport and a town house in New York City at 1 East 64th Street. Mrs. Crocker became a well-known hostess, entertaining lavishly. She moved in the same set as Mrs. Hermann Oelrichs and Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont. The Crockers decided that they should have a country seat outside New York. George had been to the Ramapo Valley a number of times before July 1901. He looked at the Darling property, then for sale, and liked it very much. Crocker could see a mansion on the hill to the east of the River. He called it the finest site for a residence in the country. The Ramsey Journal, hearing rumors of the possible purchase, wrote: "The coming of such a man would mean much to our town."
Crocker did buy the Darling estate in November 1901, and he soon had E. Carpenter going through New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, buying high-quality horses and cows. Toward the end of December, Carpenter returned from Albany with ten Jerseys. Early the next year he acquired the well-known trotter King Muscovite. By September 1902, several of Crocker's horses had won premiums at the Hohokus Fair. In the spring of 1903, four thousand trout were brought from Plymouth, Massachusetts, for the pond on the property. Bass were added. By the following spring the old Darling racetrack had been put into usable shape for the exercising of Crocker's string of horses. By 1909, there were sixty head of fine Jersey cattle on the estate and a large number of work and carriage horses. There were sheep, chickens, and a kennel. Vines were planted and vegetables were raised. In the spring of 1909, a truck was purchased to bring the farm products to the city.
However, the major effort of Crocker was put into the building of the mansion. It was to be the most magnificent the valley had yet seen. Some people have said that Mr. Crocker, not being accepted in all the social circles that he wished, was determined to express his wealth and taste through this structure. The site was 185 feet above the old Darling home, "situated on the brow of a hill, which slopes off abruptly at the rear, while in front as far as the eye can reach, stretches the historic plains of the beautiful valley of the Ramapo, and in the dim distance can be seen the clove at Suffern. On the left side are the mountains which seem near at hand, but are in reality over a mile distant. At the foot of these silent sentinels, stretches the broad meadows with the rippling waters of the Ramapo river winding in and out."
For his architect Crocker chose James Brite, who had worked for the leading firm of McKim, Mead, and White. Brite decided to model Darlington after Pramshill in Hampshire, England, one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture whose original sections were built between 1605 and 1612.
Workers began to arrive in the spring of 1902. Many of these were Italians "with their little dress suit cases." They were to build the roads, winding ones from the valley to the site of the residence and one across the river into the mountains to the site of a new large reservoir. These workers were "domiciled in a 'hotel' which Mr. Carpenter jokingly says was built and filled with guests in two days." The work was under the direction of Theodore Shuart of Ramsey.
In April 1903, the workers began the excavations for the foundations of the mansion, but it was another year before construction would be in full swing. Many of the farmers in the area were employed in carting materials from the railroad station to the building site. In May 1904, James Ramsey was transporting steel beams. In the same month a large number of masons were at work.
It was not until 1907, that the mansion was completed and furnished. Much time was expended on the extensive amount of stone and wood carving that was done. "No private house in the United States, perhaps, is so rich in carving wrought by hand out of solid wood. Many varieties of wood contribute to the rich, somber beauty and solidity of the whole." Many of the fireplaces were elaborately carved stone, some inlaid with marble. The ceiling of the library was painted in great detail in the style of the Italian Renaissance. The furnishings contained many objects of art from Europe, yet it also was supplied with the latest mechanical conveniences.
The three-story building had some seventy-five rooms. Its outer surface was of Harvard brick and Indiana limestone. On the first floor was the great hall, one of the outstanding rooms in the country. It had balconies on the inside second floor, a vast fireplace, an aeolian organ, silver chandeliers, and windows that over looked the valley. The house was heated by steam, there were elevators and a switchboard. The rooms were furnished with paintings, tapestries, bronzes, rare plants, and expensive furniture.
Beyond the main building there were a number of other structures. The most impressive were the greenhouses, three large buildings plus thirteen others. In all there was 16,000 feet of glass. Here palms, rare plants, vines, fruit trees, melons, and other foods and flowers were raised. Martin Henion of Darlington, was the builder. A two-story house was constructed for the head gardener. He was Edmund Daches, who had been with the Dormers. There were terraces and an extended parkway together with a pond and fountain between the greenhouses and the mansion. In front of the mansion were other terraces and extensive flower beds. There also was an outdoor gazebo, a gatehouse, a coach stable, garage, and many animal houses, workshops, and dairy facilities. The old factory and mill were still used for cutting and storing silage. A new bridge was built across the Ramapo. There were bathhouses at the deep swimming hole of the river. Nine single houses and four double houses existed for employees.
Across the river and into the mountains was a reservoir formed by a stone dam. The lake covered 11 1/2 acres and contained an estimated 100,000,000 gallons of water. The trunk pipe was six inches in diameter and carried the water under the Ramapo River and up to the property with enough pressure to supply all the rooms and run the fountain. Smaller pipes were laid throughout the grounds with nozzles for watering purposes. As much of the natural vegetation was preserved as possible, and special trees and shrubs were added to the grounds and driveways. It was estimated that the buildings, landscaping, and furnishing of the estate cost approximately $2,000,000.
Until the mansion was finished Crocker used the old Darling residence, which had been refurbished. For transportation Crocker had the most advanced French automobile imported from Paris in 1902. Early the next year he had a special shed built at the Suffern station for his private railroad car.
However, before much progress had been made on the mansion, Mrs. Crocker became ill with cancer and died in July 1904. As a memorial George built St. John's, a small church in early Norman style, in Ramsey dedicated to his wife, Emma. It cost $14,000. The Carpenters gave the land and Mrs. Crocker's children gave the organ. It was completed in June 1906. George Crocker continued to finish the mansion. He contributed to the Christmas parties and to the Fourth of July celebrations. In 1908, he was a large donor to the Reformed church for an organ. Then he, too, got cancer. Although already quite sick, he gave a particularly effective fireworks display on July 4, 1909. Costing several hundred dollars, it featured rockets that lighted up the Ramapo hills and a final piece of some 20,000 firecrackers. Cheers went up for Mr. Crocker.
Then on December 4, 1909, George Crocker died. Proceeds from the sale of his New York City and Darlington homes went to the George Crocker Special Research Fund given to Columbia University for the search for the cause, prevention and cure of cancer. When examining the Darlington mansion, one of the things found were 60,000 custom-made cigars with Crocker's monogram stored in a large humidor. They were worth between $20,000 and $30,000.
The next owner of Darlington was Emerson McMillin. He, too, was a businessman from New York City. However, his origins were in Ohio, being born in the town of Ervington (Ewington) on April 16, 1844, in rather poor circumstances. He had about five years of elementary schooling and then worked at cutting wood, making charcoal, tending furnaces, and working on engines. He was a veteran of the Civil War.
On returning to Ohio, McMillin became involved in merchandising, contracting, scientific investigations, iron and steel manufacturing, and in the financing of gas works. In 1891, he moved to New York City and founded the banking house of Emerson McMillin and Co. In 1901, he organized the American Light and Tractions Co. McMillin also became president of the Arbitration Society of America, president of the New York Academy of Science, a promoter of aviation, an active member of the National Civic Federation, and was involved in many charities, he was a big-game hunter and belong to many businessmen's clubs.
In July 1901, he acquired Darlington and paid over $1,000,000 for its 1,100 acres, buildings, and the fully furnished mansion. His wife was related to the wife of Charles Kohler, who had bought the Dormer property in the previous year. (Correction: Emerson McMillin III, grandson of Emerson McMillin, married Olga Kohler, daughter of Charles Kohler. ew) The McMillins had four children: Stella, Maud, Emerson, Jr. and Marion.
While in Mahwah, McMillin was active in the local home guard during World War I, donated $1,000 to the beginning of the Ramsey Library, allowed young people to camp on his property, and held picnics for local people. In the mansion was his distinguished collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelains. He maintained a herd of Jerseys and did some farming, not for sale, but for personal use. Emerson McMillin died on May 31, 1922. In his obituary the Ramsey Journal wrote:
"Being what is commonly called a self-made man, Mr. McMillin has had a varied experience, perhaps, only possible in this country of unlimited opportunities for the man who is able to grasp them, and his successful career should be an inspiration to any man or woman who is seeking to win fortune's favors by their own personal efforts."
Mrs. McMillin and her children decided to sell their Darlington estate. (Correction: Isabel McMillin died October 5, 1922. Darlington was not sold until 1924. ew) After finding a buyer for the property and the buildings, an auction of the furnishings was held in October, 1924. Tapestries, paintings, rugs, bronzes, porcelains, period furniture, and objects of art were sold by the auctioneers. Paintings included some by Romney, Sully, Millet, Inness, Lawrence, and Lely. There were ancient Greek pottery and statues, Renaissance tapestries, and elegant French and American colonial furniture. These items brought $365,000. (Correction: The furnishings sold for $342,000 and the Michaelyan Rugs and Tapestries sold for $61,699. ew) The estate was sold for $685,000 to the Darlington Development Company, which in turn made it available to the Darling Golf and Country Club.
It was Gordon Hall of Jersey City, who developed the idea of the country club. He gathered together an impressive group of supporters. L. Lawrence Weber, a New York theatrical man, was named president of the club, and its board of governors included Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City, United States Senator Edward Edwards, Judge Charles Egan, Jacob Ruppert, State Senator William Mackay, Judge George Van Buskirk, John Emerson, the president of the Actors' Equity Association of New York, and Paul McMillin Butterworth, trustee of the McMillin estate. The mansion was turned into a hotel and the great hall into a restaurant. A private landing field for planes was constructed. Two eighteen-hole gold courses were to be built, as well as a number of tennis courts. The opening was held on May 23, 1925. The swimming pool had been completed at a cost of $27,000. The first nine holes of the new course were ready. "Roxy" of the Capitol Theatre, a group of bathing beauties, an airplane stunt show, and fireworks, plus a banquet, were part of the opening fete. The program was broadcast through station WMCA. The guest speaker was Royal Copeland, senator from New York, who had formerly been a resident of Cragmere. The Darlington Golf and Country Club promised to offer a new dimension to life in Mahwah.
However, both the development corporation and the club were soon in financial difficulties. Apparently, they did not have enough capital, and all the political clout on their board of governors was not able to save them when the McMillin estate pushed for payment of interest on the mortgage. In addition, they had not paid taxes. Thus, soon after its grand opening, the club had to close its doors, sell at auction the furnishings it had bought, and after court action, allow the McMillin estate to regain possession of the property through foreclosure.
The estate now had to find another buyer. At this time the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark was looking for a new site for its theological seminary. It was then located on the campus of Seton Hall College in South Orange. Increasing rapidly in communicants and with a growing number of seminarians, the diocese, not wishing to put further stress on the facilities at Seton Hall, decided on a separate location for the seminary. The were attracted to Darlington because of its existing facilities, extensive grounds, beautiful natural surroundings, isolation that would aid meditation and undistracted study, and its not excessive distance from Newark. The purchase was made in June 1926, for $478,000. Darlington became the first of the large Mahwah estates to be transformed into institutional use. Classes began in 1927, with 53 students and grew to 112 by 1938. The seminary, thus, became one of the largest organizations in the township.
Darlington in Detail - Architect, Wood Carver & Muralist
James Brite - John H. Elliott - James Wall Finn
The architect for the mansion, James Brite, started his career as an apprentice in McKim, Mead, and White, which was the largest and most important architectural partnership in America, if not the world, and the firm of choice for the elite of New York society of the time. Brite and his architectural partner, Henry Bacon, later prospered with notable works including the original Madison Square Garden, the Public Library in Jersey City, the American University and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. In 1912, Brite designed another grand Jacobean country estate for Herbert L. Pratt known as “The Braes”. The largest of the Pratt mansions, the Braes, was built in Glen Cove, Long Island. The name Braes is Scottish for "hillside", and a notable landscape feature of this estate is the terraced grounds facing Long Island Sound. The Braes now houses the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture.
Famed architect James Brite modeled Crocker Mansion directly on Bramshill Manor, Hampshire in Kent, described as “one of the finest examples of English Jacobean architecture”. Bramshill, attributed to architect John Thorpe, was built in 1612 for Prince Henry, the son of King James I, whose coronet in carved stone hung over the main entrance. An identical stone coronet is set into the exterior of the Great Hall fireplace of Crocker Mansion above the main terrace. Bramshill House was owned by Sir William Cope, the sixth baronet, whose family occupied the house from 1699 until 1935, when Lord Brocket purchased it. Lord Brocket then sold Bramshill House to the British Home Office that has maintained it in its original condition as the Police Staff College.
The elaborate interior wood carving throughout the mansion is the work of John H. Elliott, a master wood carver who lived and worked in Philadelphia from the 1880’s to 1930’s. Elliott worked on the mansion for four years and was one of his major commissions.
The ceiling of the library is painted after the style of the Italian Renaissance by Tiffany Studios, James Wall Finn, who was a muralist of note in the early nineteenth century. Other recognized works by Finn include the Payne Whitney NYC Townhouse at 972 Fifth Avenue near 79th Street, Vernon Court in Newport, Rhode Island, and the New York Public Library at 42nd Street in New York City. *(Internet)
Darlington - Critical Acclaim
Crocker Mansion received the critical acclaim of L. R. McCabe in a review entitled “Darlington - a Jacobean Manor in New Jersey” in The Architectural Record, Volume XXXII, July-December 1912, and was featured in 1909 in American Homes and Gardens.
In 1990, The Atwater Kent Museum, The History Museum of Philadelphia, exhibited the life and work of John H. Elliott, master carver of the woodwork of Crocker Mansion and other fine homes in and outside of Philadelphia. Elliott worked on Crocker Mansion for four years and was one of his major commissions
The mansion was a futuristic marvel of modern technology of its time, and remarkable systems of luxury for the period including “boilers to radiate steam to heat, ice to cool, there is electric plant distributing power to turn laundry machines, ice cream freezers and vacuum sweepers that connect on every floor.” The mansion had a telephone system for communications to every outlying house on the estate and an elevator of vintage design that is still in operation. The service level of the mansion contained two laundries, a wine cellar, a humidor for the special 60,000 cigar collection of George Crocker, full kitchen and storage facilities. *(Internet)
The restoration of Crocker Mansion was completed after many years of detailed craftsmanship and special arrangements. The renovation includes the complete reconstruction of the original fireplaces, pergolas, exterior brickwork and extensive terraces, walks and walls of the mansion. The interior restoration of the mansion includes the replacement of all plumbing systems and fixtures, new heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and controls, repair and restoration of the elaborately carved wall paneling, ceilings and other decorative features. The gate entrance on Ramapo Valley Road has been restored with site and drive lighting installed in the style of the period of the mansion. Conduits for communication and security facilities to each gate entrance have been installed to afford privacy and security arrangements to the mansion. The long and winding drive leading to the mansion is landscaped and paved. New utilities including power, gas, sewer and water have been extended to the mansion. *(Internet)
The People of Darlington
Alfred B. Darling
Alfred B. Darling, senior member of the firm of Hitchcock, Darling & Co., proprietors of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, died Sunday at Richfield Springs. He was born in Burke, Vt., in 1821, and lived on a farm until of age, when he went to Boston and was employed by Paran Stevens at the Revere House. In 1852 he opened the Battle House, In Mobile, Ala., as partner of Mr. Stevens, and in 1859, with Messrs. Stevens and Hitchcock, he opened the Fifth Avenue Hotel, this city, where, for thirty-seven years, he was a striking and prominent figure and endeared himself to a vast number of friends.
Mr. Darling was of decided convictions and of broad views upon all questions of public interest. He became one of the highly esteemed citizens of the metropolis because of his sterling integrity, inherent force of character, and business ability. His ample fortune was earned in a life of untiring industry.
He served from time to time as Director in important institutions, among them being the Second National Bank, Fifth Avenue Safe Deposit Company, and the Union Dime Savings Bank. He was one of the first members of the Union League Club and of the New England Society. All patriotic and honorable causes received his sympathy and approval.
Mr. Darling was thrown from his carriage at his country seat in New Jersey several months ago, and his system received a shock from which he never fully rallied. Mr. Darlings interest, as well his name will remain in the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Arrangements for the funeral will be made today when the body arrives. *(The New York Times, September 8, 1896)
Mrs. Alfred B. Darling
Lydia A. Darling, widow of Alfred B. Darling, who was one of the founders of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, died yesterday in her home, at 15 Madison Square North, after an illness of eight weeks. She was nearly eighty years of age, and was born in Ashtabula, Ohio.
For many years she was interested in benevolent and charitable work, and was associated with the management of the Hahnemann Hospital, the Hospital for Crippled Children, the Stony Wold Association, the Manassas Industrial Training School, Pascal Institute, King’s Daughters’ Settlement, the Little Mothers’ Aid Association, and many other societies.
Mrs. Darling’s nearest surviving relatives are her brother, N. F. Nye of Auburndale, Mass., and her sister, Mrs. Gardner Wetherbee, wife of one of the proprietors of the Hotel Manhattan. Elmer A. Darling of the Fifth Avenue Hotel is her nephew. *(The New York Times, March 1, 1903)
Elmer A. Darling
Elmer A. Darling Dies on Estate in Vermont - Part Owner of Old Fifth Avenue Hotel Here - Became Breeder of Pure-Blooded Cattle - St. Johnsburg, Vt., April 11 - Elmer A. Darling, one of Vermont’s most noted citizens, died this afternoon after an lingering illness at the age of 83. He was born in East Burke, near here, the son of Henry G. Darling, but laid the foundation of his fortune with an uncle, A. B. Darling. His estate was worth $1,956,326. Funeral services at his late resident Burklyn Hall, East Burke, Vt. *(The New York Times, April 12, 1931)
Elmer A. Darling was born and brought up in East Burke, received his college education at MIT and made his fortune as part owner of America’s famous Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City. He purchased a dairy farm in 1883, and gradually increased his holdings by buying all of the farms along the ridge south of his first purchase. The farmhouses were all painted yellow and the barns were painted red. Milk from the purebred Jersey cows was processed at a central creamery and much of the dairy products (including 70 pounds of cheese per day) were shipped to Darling’s hotel in New York. Darling personally designed a 35-room mansion called Burklyn Hall because it straddled the Burke-Lyndon town line. Construction was completed in 1908, and Darling retired to live in Vermont full time, where he was active in the community. *(The New York Times, April 12, 1931) *(Note - Elmer Darling helped Mrs. Alfred B. Darling with the farm, which would become Darlington, after the death of her husband. ew)
George Crocker’s Big Land Deal - George Crocker, a millionaire of this city, is negotiating for the purchase of about 11,000 acres of land near Ramsey’s in Bergen County, N.J. This property was formerly owned by the late A. B. Darling, who was one of the proprietors of the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
Mrs. A B. Darling, the widow, has used the place to give fresh-air outings to the poor children of New York. It is said to be Mr. Crocker’s intention to erect a spacious mansion on the grounds. *(The New York Times, September 3, 1901)
George Crocker Dies of Cancer - Malady That Killed His Wife Fatal to Son of California - Pioneer Worth $30,000,000 - Probation Clause in Will - George Crocker, youngest son of Charles Crocker, who as a California pioneer made a vast fortune in the West, died yesterday at his home, 1 East Sixty-fourth Street, of the same disease which killed his wife five years ago. For several years he had been a victim of cancer of the stomach. Two operations had failed to bring any relief, and for the last few weeks he has lain in agony waiting for death.
But at the last the pain left him almost entirely, largely from the use of anacsthetics (sic), and it was said at his house last night that his death was calm and peaceful. He was conscious almost till death and recognized his brother, William H. Crocker, Mrs. C. B. Alexander, his sister; his niece, Miss Jennie Crocker, and his nephew from California, C. Templeton Crocker, who were at his bedside then and have been with him constantly for more than two weeks.
George Crocker was born in Sacramento, Cal., about 55 years ago. He inherited from his father one-fifth of the estate of $30,000,000 in the early nineties, and since then, except for such times as he was traveling abroad, up to the day when his illness made activity of any kind impossible, he has devoted himself mainly to looking after the companies founded by his father. His office has always been in this city. Besides being a member of the banking house of Tailer and Company, he was director of the Trust Company of America and other corporations, and 2nd Vice President of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Mr. Crocker’s father, Charles Crocker, entered into the daring enterprises of pioneer times in California with such colleagues as MacKay, Flood, O’Brien, and Fair. He was one of the founders of the first railroad across the Sierras, and rapidly amassed a fortune. At the time of his death, in 1888, his youngest son George was living in San Francisco a life which had given him the name of one of the most reckless young men about town, when reckless young men thereabouts were common.
Charles Crocker left to his children $30,000,000, but with this stipulation regarding his youngest son: That he should have no share till “after the space of five years continuously he shall abstain from the use of spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors to the extent that he shall not during this period have been intoxicated.”
For three years George Crocker took no step toward gaining his fortune. Then he announced to his brothers, Col. Fred and William, named as trustees, that his time of probation had begun. He went first to a sanitarium to get a start, then to a ranch of 375 acres in Utah that had never paid. At the end of the five years he had the full confidence of his friends and family, who had before almost despaired of him, and, besides, he had developed the ranch into a valuable property. His share, $6,000,000, was then turned over to him.
He married Mrs. Emma Rutherford of New York, almost immediately, and through his life with her here and in Newport his devotion to her was a matter of comment. But she died in 1904 in Newport, after the failure of an expensive operation in Paris to have any effect on her hopeless disease - cancer of the stomach. Sometime after her death alleging that “veritable moral violence” had been used to convince him a cure was possible, Mr. Crocker sued Dr. Doyen of Paris, the operating physician, for $20,000, but he lost his suit.
Some time in 1907 Mr. Crocker, living in this city, found that he himself was a victim of the disease. More to bring relief from pain than in the hope of actual cure, he was operated upon the next year by the late Dr. William T. Bull.
Some of his relatives had hoped for a recovery till that time, but as soon as the knife disclosed the true extent of the disease no hope remained. A second operation was performed by Dr. Bull within a few months, merely to ease the patient, but then it was plain that death was but a question of time.
Last Spring, while in his country home, Ramsey, N.J., Mr. Crocker grew much worse and seeing that he must soon take to his bed for good, he came to his town house in early September. He grew steadily worse, and on Nov. 17 last, in answer to his request, the brother, William H. Crocker, cut short a trip to Europe to come to his side. At the same time his nephew, C. Templeton Crocker, and his niece, Miss Jennie Crocker, came on from San Francisco. Mrs. Alexander, who lives in the city, was already with him.
The funeral services will be held at 10 o’clock Tuesday at St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street. The body will be taken to San Francisco for burial in the family plot, where lie his parents and his wife. *(The New York Times, December 5, 1909)
Mrs. George Crocker
Mrs. George Crocker Is Dead - Her Daughter’s Marriage to J. J. L. Erving Postponed Indefinitely - Special to the New York Times - Newport, R.I., July 6 - Mrs. George Crocker of New York and San Francisco died at Shields Villa, at Ochre Point, the summer home of the family, today, after a prolonged illness.
Because of ill health, Mrs. Crocker sailed last February for France, where an operation was performed. About a month ago her condition became so serious that anxiety as to the outcome of her sickness was felt.
Mrs. Crocker arrived her last Thursday morning from New York. Upon her arrival from Europe, she occupied a suite on the fall River Line boat to avoid changes and to make the journey as easy as possible. She was then in a critical condition. She had been under the constant care of physicians and nurses since her arrival. She gradually became weaker, and within the past two days had been unconscious and steadily failing.
Mrs. Crocker’s death will cause a change to the plans for the marriage of Miss Rutherford to J. J. Langdon Erving, which was to have taken place here and which would have been the leading social event of the season. The plans for the wedding will now be discontinued, and all arrangements for the future movements of Mr. Erving and Miss Rutherford will he held in abeyance. It is expected that Mrs. Herman Oelricha, who was an intimate friend of Mrs. Crocker, will recall her invitations for her early social entertainments.
The arrangements for the funeral have been completed. A brief service will be held at the Shields Villa tomorrow, the Rev. E. H. Porter, D. D. of Emmanuel Church officiating. The body will be taken tomorrow evening direct to California, where the interment will take place.
At the bedside when Mrs. Crocker died were her husband and three children, Miss Alice Rutherford, Mrs. Phillip Kearney, and Alexander H. Rutherford, Mr. Erving, Mrs. Crocker’s sister and her husband were also present at the end.
Mrs. Crocker’s maiden name was Emma Hanchett, and she was long famous as one of the beauties of her native state, California. She was first married to a Mr. Rutherford, who was the head of one of the departments of the Southern Pacific Express Company. By her first husband she had three children. For some years after Mr. Rutherford’s death his widow did not remarry but finally, in 1894, she became the wife of George Crocker.
The marriage too place in this city, and soon after Mrs. Crocker began a brilliant social career. She had a cottage at Newport and a town house and entertained lavishly, the affairs at the Crocker house generally taking the form of musicals and large dinners. She moved in the same set with Mrs. Herman Oelricha and Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont.
Her last entertainment was given a year ago last winter when she opened her new town house at 1 East Sixty-fourth Street. This was a musicale at which Nordica sang. *(The New York Times, July 27, 1904)
Children: Alexander Hammond Rutherford, Jr. married Helen Dunnell Smyth; Alice Hanchett Rutherford married J. J. Langdon Erving; Emma Wallace Rutherford married Phillip Kearney. *(Roots)
Emerson McMillin, New York banker and capitalist, patron of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts and patron of the Ohio State University Astronomical Department, has purchased the magnificent George Crocker estate at Darlington, N.J., one the finest country places in America. It is said that there are few in Europe that equal it for artistic beauty. At any rate, it is one of the show places of northern New Jersey. While it is not known how much Mr. McMillin paid for the estate, the former owner made no secret of the fact that it cost him $1,000,000 says the Columbus Dispatch.
This magnificent country place is in Bergen County, 30 miles from New York City, and near a village called Ramsey. McMillin acquired the entire tract of 1100 acres, all the live stock and the residence with all its fixtures. The sale was conducted by executors of the late owner’s will, in accordance with the terms of that instrument.
Mr. Crocker provided that the estate and his residence in New York as well should be sold by the executors, and the proceeds of the sale devoted to the fund which he gave to Columbia University to endow research work in the hope of finding a cure for cancer - all for the benefit of the human race. The executors lost no time in complying with the terms of the will, and the estate and town house were advertised for sale.
Mr. McMillin, familiar with an artistic beauty of the country place, entered into negotiations for the purchase of it, and the papers were signed, the money paid over and the deeds delivered in due time. It is understood that the price was practically what Mr. Crocker had invested in the property, fully a million dollars. Columbus friends of Mr. McMillin are much pleased over the satisfaction Mr. McMillin feels in acquiring a country place that so appeals to his sense of the beautiful and the artistic. *(The Ironton Register, May 3, 1910)
Emerson McMillin Dies Of Pneumonia - Banker Fails to Rally From Brief Attack After Two Years of Ill-Health - Emerson McMillin, head of the banking house of Emerson McMillin & Co., 120 Broadway, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Light and Traction Company and President of a dozen other lighting and traction concerns throughout the country, died Wednesday night at his country home, near Mahway, N.J., after a two days’ illness of pneumonia, following two years of poor health.
Born April 16, 1844, at Ewington, Ohio, the son of a manager of iron furnaces, Emerson McMillin went to work in a furnace when a boy of 12 and spent four-year apprenticeship. He managed by hard study after hours to acquire a good education, and to his habit of scientific research he attributed much of his success. He made a practice of thoroughly examining the application of the scientific principles in the iron and gas industries, to which he mainly devoted himself.
Entering the Union Army at 18, he fought throughout the Civil War, being wounded three times and winning a commission through gallant conduct under fire. Of his five brothers, also in service, three were killed. (Note - One was killed in the war and two died after returning home. ew)
For ten years or so after the war he engaged in iron and steel manufacture, becoming manager or President of several works in the Ohio Valley. Thereafter, for the rest of his life, he bent his energies to the acquirement, development and consolidation of gas properties. The banking house that he established here in 1891 was a sort then rather new in banking circles, specializing in the purchase and merging of gas interests.
He was always a strong believer in the consolidation of competing concerns, on one occasion citing the instance of a merger he brought about in St. Louis, by which four gas companies selling their product at from $1 to $2.50 a thousand feet, combined and made double their former net profit at an average price of 93 cents a thousand feet.
Mr. McMillin was an art collector of unusual discernment. His paintings that were sold in January, 1913, for $442,395 were described by Thomas E. Kirby as the finest collection of American and foreign pictures ever sold in this country. At this sale the “Orpheus and Eurydice” of Corot brought $75,200.
He supported with his own efforts and fortune many enterprises for civic betterment, notably the Arbitration Society of America, which recently inaugurated a process of the arbitration of civil disputes, free from the delay and expense of the legal tribunals.
Mr. McMillin was President of this society and it Board of Governors yesterday adopted memorial resolutions that termed his work with the society “the valedictory of his splendidly useful life.”
The near relatives of Mr. McMillin surviving are his son, Marion McMillin, and three daughters, Miss Maud McMillin, Mrs. Estelle Traverso of Florence, Italy, and Mrs. Marian (sic) McMillin Norton of Santa Barbara, Cal. *(The New York Times, June 2, 1922)
Children: Emerson McMillin’s daughter, Mary, by his first marriage married 1. Irvin Butterworth; 2. Dr. Oliver Dwight Norton; 3. Charles Van Rennselaer.
Mrs. McMillin Died Thursday at Ramsey, N. J. - Widow of Emerson McMillin Dies - After Brief Illness Following the Death of Her Husband Several Months Ago - Mrs. Mary White Slater received a telegram this morning from Marion McMillin, of New York, announcing the death of Mrs. Emerson McMillin, who died at 9 o’clock, Thursday night. Mr. McMillin died several months ago and his passing was a source of great grief to his widow who failed noticeably. The McMillins formerly resided in Ironton and they will be kindly remembered by many of our citizens. *(The Ironton Daily Register, October 6, 1922)
Children: Stella McMillin married 1. Stanley G. Stewart, 2. Baron Ubaldo Traverso; Maud McMillin never married; Emerson McMillin, Jr. married Helen Frisbie; Marion McMillin married Jane Mcguire.
Neighbors of Darlington
Just south of Darlington the 235-acre estate and farm of the bankrupt Countess Seckendorff was bought by Charles Kohler in April 1909. He was a native of New Jersey, having been born in Newark in 1868. Kohler attended Princeton, and after marriage to Veronica Byrnes of New Rochelle, learned about the piano business from his wife’s brother. In 1896, he formed, with a partner, the Kohler and Campbell Piano Company in New York City. An original $6,000 investment was worth $4000,000 by 1904. He then formed a network of piano, autopiano, and musical instrument sales companies.
Despite his active business life, Charles Kohler was able to become a well-known sportsman. He was a member of the New York Yacht Club and the New York Athletic Club and was elected president of the Saratoga Association. His particular interest was racing horses, and he put much of his wealth into purchasing and breeding them. this seems to have been his main reason for buying the Seckendorff property in the valley. He renamed it the Ramapo Stock Farm.
Over the next three years Kohler made several purchases of property in the area including one from Henry Furlong in 1912, that enabled him to join the former Price estate with the former Donner farm under his ownership. This made the Ramapo Stock Farm 547 acres. In 1910, one of his horses, Novelty, won $80,000, the largest winner for that year in the United States. In 1911, he bought the entire stock of racing horses of Sam Hildreth, one of the best-known owner/trainers in the United States. Kohler retained Hildreth as his trainer. In the same year Kohler bought the entire crop of female foals (thirteen) of Casteltos studs from David M. Cook. This cost him $15,000. In the spring of 1913, he bought a string of sixteen yearlings from August Belmont. At Mahwah, Kohler turned an old barn over 200 feet long into a “maternity ward.” It is still standing as a home. In 1913, the piano manufacturer had thirty horses in America, twenty in England, and twenty at Maisons Laffitte, as well as seven he was privately rearing in France.
Then while crossing from England to France in late May, 1913, Kohler became seriously ill and died in Paris on June 4. The diagnosis revealed a general breakdown, for he was suffering from rheumatism and kidney and liver troubles. He was forty-five years of age and had a wife and two daughters. (Note: Charles Kohler had three daughters, Olga, Vera, and Rita. ew) His body was brought back to the United States and the funeral was held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Although the family had a town house on the West End Avenue in New York City, and although the horses were sold, Mrs. Kohler continued to hold the valley farm and live there until about 1940. At that time, Fred Wehran bought about 250 acres of the estate, including the old Price homestead. R. Merrill and others obtained other sections of the Kohler property. *(A History of Mahwah, New Jersey, 1700-1976)
Note: Emerson McMillin III, the grandson of Emerson McMillin, was the third husband of Olga Kohler.
Beginning with property purchased by A. B. Darling in 1872, to the newly restored mansion of today, Darlington holds endless history within its 75 rooms. From leaders of industry in the early 1900’s to the men and women who visit in the present, all have entered the grand hall with a warm welcome. The Crocker Mansion was placed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1995, and on the National Register in 1997. Thus, Emerson McMillin’s wonderful and much loved home, Darlington, lives on as a framework for time in the Ramapo Valley of New Jersey.
Note: As with most historical sources, information may vary from source to source but everything appearing in this article was typed as it was printed in the original documents unless otherwise noted. Elaine Winkler