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Painmaikapuka, the Great Rock, of Glen Rock

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Researched and written by historian Kevin W. Wright, 2015
Glen Rock NJ, the rocky residue of glaciation comes in all shapes and sizes, from sand grains and clay particles up to abandoned boulders of often wondrous size. The most conspicuous glacial erratics in our neighborhood, seated in isolated splendor, earned names and had their likenesses published on postcards. Such is the story of the lonely stone-faced giant, Painmaikapuka, better known as the Glen Rock.

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Even when assisted by native speakers, colonial traders and surveyors were often barely literate in their own tongue, no less in poorly understood unwritten languages unrelated to their own. Orthography was also haphazard at best. For these reasons, Indian vocabulary, as recorded in early land transactions, is difficult, if not impossible, to translate with any assurance of certainty. To an untrained eye and ear, “painmaikapuka” closely resembles ‘mechekupuchk’, which means ‘great stone or boulder,’ based on the Algonquian root word ’pemapuchk’, signifying “a rock.” Indeed, one can almost hear the exaggerated syllabification of someone slowly pronouncing the word for another to spell.
A deed for the Ramapo Tract, covering northwestern Bergen County, dated November 18, 1709, seems to confirm this interpretation, for its southwest boundary line ran from the junction of Ho-ho-kus Brook and the Saddle River “northwesterly just by a Great Rock or Stone called Painmaikapuka, distant from said River about two miles….” This great rock would later be memorialized in the name of a Bergen County borough as a lasting testament to the last glaciation. To avoid assessment for a new $47,000 schoolhouse in August 1894, residents of South Ridgewood decided to form their own municipality under the name of Glen Rock, honoring the 570-ton glacial erratic, measuring 42 feet by 22 feet by 11 feet, located at the intersection of Rock Road and Doremus Avenue.
There are other glacial erratics that have earned names besides Glen Rock. Samson’s Rock, described in 1865 as residing in the rear of William B. Dana’s Englewood mansion, is a sandstone boulder, measuring 10 by 7 by 9 feet. Haring Rock, named for local physician Dr. John J. Haring, is a 15-ton erratic, thoughtfully relocated to prevent its destruction to the Lost Brook Preserve in Tenafly.

3 thoughts on “Painmaikapuka, the Great Rock, of Glen Rock

  1. Dr Haring was the inspiration for the name of the boro of Harrington Park.

  2. Nice Mormon family !

  3. It’s been said, Paul Simon (born in Newark, NJ) was inspired by the Glen Rock when he wrote the song “Loves Me Like a Rock”

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