from Bergen County Historical Society
Ridgewood NJ, from the Bergen County Historical Society ,anyone driving along Route 17 in Ridgewood recognizes Old Paramus Church on the west side of the highway, just above Paramus Road. This iconic structure is one of a number of stone churches scattered throughout the county, the buildings today being just post-Revolutionary, but having their roots earlier than the present buildings. Old Paramus Church that stands today was built in 1800, but its history and founding go back three quarters of a century before that. Did you know that the church and environs were used as a post of one sort or another by militia and continental troops off and on between 1776 and 1780?
As many as 250 Continental Army troops at a time garrisoned the post in the first half of 1780, drawn in monthly rotations from the main army at Morristown. While the post was withdrawn after June 1780, there was a plan to fortify the church and surrounding buildings with earthworks, making it a strong fort. Using churches for military purposes was nothing new for either side and Paramus Church itself may have even held stores or served as a hospital to Fort Lee in 1776. While there is no evidence the plan below (shown in the illustration) was ever acted upon, it is nonetheless another fascinating peak at Bergen County’s Revolutionary history, nestled amid today’s highways and malls. The church would be at the center of the star-like image to the right, while “covered way” extends around the houses to the left.
“The church being the strongest building & on the most commanding ground, the surrounding it with a redout appeared to me most proper, for being compact it would serve the soldiers as a retreat from the other works upon necessity. The above contains about 60 fathoms interior parapet, & will be tiered two deep with 225 men: The other houses I would surround with a covert way, the glacis of which being only picketed would be sufficient against any sudden assault, & have this advantage, that should the enemy drive the besieged from behind it, they will not leave the cover of a parapet to protect them in keeping up a constant fire on the redout, & because surrounding the houses & church with one continued work, by making it more extensive, would require too many men to defend it, but could the convenience of the houses as barracks be dispensed with work might be made more secure & compleat by taking them down.”
[John W. Watkins to Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 10 November 1780.]
Source: Library of Congress, George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence, 1697-1799, MSS 44693, Reel 072.