Editor’s note: The following letter refers to a letter by Andrew and Sharon Chamberlain, “Family announces death of beloved deer,” published in a recent edition of The Sparta Independent.
To the Editor:
I send my condolences for the loss of Delilah the deer. Unfortunately, the remaining information provided about Lake Mohawk and Princess White Deer has no basis in fact.
The Arthur D. Crane Company did not purchase the land from a local Mohawk tribe. It was purchased from 14 farming families and those holding an interest in the land called Brogden Meadows that became the lake. Before European settlers, the Minsi people of the Lenni-Lenape, Delaware Nation were the most prevalent in our area.
A third generation Mohawk entertainer, Princess White Deer’s career began with her family in Wild West shows that traveled to South Africa and Europe. She gained acclaim on the U.S. stage as a Ziegfeld headliner and starred in four Broadway musicals before Herbert Closs of the Crane Company contacted her to dedicate the lake to the Mohawk People in 1927. Closs had an affinity for Native American culture; many of the Arthur Crane real estate developments bear native names. White Deer Plaza was named in her honor.
Princess White Deer was not named for a piebald deer. On stage known as Princess White Deer, her legal name was Esther Deer. Many families with that surname can be found in the Akwesasne and Kahnawake Mohawk Nations.
In the autumn of 2017, the Sparta Historical Society hosted the exhibition “Princess White Deer: A Woman, A Mohawk, and A Legend.” Selected books about or related to Lake Mohawk are: “Against All Odds. The Story of Herbert L. Closs” and “Lake Mohawk, NJ” by Douglas Hanks, Jr.; “Lake Mohawk Reflections” by Judy Dunn; “In Search of Princess White Deer, The Biography of Esther Deer” by Patricia O. Galperin and “Images of America Sparta” by Gwen Donovan.
Quoting the Chamberlains does not excuse The Sparta Independent from fact checking historical information, especially about the town in which the newspaper is located. The perpetuation of falsehoods dilutes the credibility of the newspaper and muddies the research of future historians.
Patricia O. Galperin
Author, biographer of Princess White Deer
Lake Mohawk Historic Committee
Past curator, Sparta Historical Society