Did you know that White Deer Plaza was named for an actual person? And did you know that person was a real princess? Princess White Deer was a member of the Mohawk Tribe of the Iroquois and was the beautiful granddaughter of Chief Running Deer, the last hereditary chief of the Mohawks. Her father, Chief Ar-ha-ken-kia-ka (Cutting the Forest) or James Deer, was nominated for life as honorary chief of the Mohawks. He was also decorated by Queen Victoria for his service as principal scout for Lord Woolsey in Egypt. Esther Deer was born on the Indian Reservation in St. Regis in Canada around 1900. Renowned for her beauty, the Princess was one of the leading professionals in early American Indian dances and ceremonies in the country. Talented in all types of dance, she played in many Broadway productions, including the Ziegfeld Follies, and also sang on the radio. She was world-renowned and performed for the Dowager Zarina of Russia, Queen Victoria and King Franz Josef of Austria. Once married to a Polish count, she lived in a beautiful castle there, but left Poland when the Count was killed six months after the wedding. In early 1927, the Arthur Crane Company, the developer of Lake Mohawk, had begun the selling of lots in the Reservation. By May 1927, the first house was started on a soon-to-be waterfront lot on East Shore Trail beside the Sunken Garden. It took a great deal of imagination to think of Lake Mohawk in long range terms. Although tens of thousands of dollars had been spent beyond the purchase price, the area was still rough and crude. The half-full lake was filled with floating debris, the shoreline was swampy, the roads were rugged, and there was lots of clay everywhere. Needing a name that would attract people to the community, Herb Closs, the President of the Crane Company, decided it was time for a formal opening and a formal naming of the lake. Inspired by the beauty and reputation of Princess White Deer, he persuaded the Princess to attend the opening as guest of honor and to officially name the lake after her tribe. On June 26, 1927, in a well-attended ceremony in the plaza with a band, an escort, Campfire Girls, Boy Scouts, the American Legion, and many speeches, she dedicated Lake Mohawk to posterity. The White Deer Plaza was then named in her honor. The event generated much statewide publicity, both for the development and the Princess. She returned to the lake on several occasions and became friends with Gertrude Colburn, a sculptress who lived on West Shore Trail. Mrs. Colburn modeled five studies of the Princess in 1963 and one of those, a restored life-sized bust, is currently on display at the Lake Mohawk Country Club. Article by Judy Dunn The above information was taken from old articles in the monthly magazine of Lake Mohawk, the Papoose. To suggest a topic of local interest, please call the author at 973-729-4325. The next meeting of the Sparta Historical Society will be on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sparta Ambulance Building, 14 Sparta Avenue.