Deal Lake – A Historical Perspective
Researched By Carl Robinson of Ocean, NJ
Sitting on a knoll, overlooking Deal Lake, I became absorbed in the beauty of nature unfolding around me. A variety of birds were fluttering and darting about, singing their timeless songs, in search of a mate. Temporarily lost in my indulgences, I wondered about the history of our lake. Making a trip to the Ocean Historical Museum and Library, I learned that the early residents living along the banks of our lake, which they named Lake Uliquecks, were Native Americans known as the Lenapi Indians. Sovereign in this part of the country, the Lenapes could trace their ancestral home from New York Bay to Delaware Bay, between the Hudson and Delaware River Valleys. With the arrival of the Europeans in the early 1600’s, their numbers were estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,000. The Lenapes may have seen their first Europeans when Giovanni de Verranzaro sailed along the eastern coast of North America in 1524.
Following the seasons, a large group of Lenapes would congregate along the banks which became known as Deal Lake. After a busy autumn of harvest and winter of hunting, these Lenapes would travel eastward to the shore as late spring turned into summer. There is no doubt that the same beauty of our lake and ocean which attract so many visitors today, provided the same impetus for the Lenapes yearly trek. Here, they would fish, make shell beads (Wam Pum), trade, and hold community ceremonies. From the tributaries of Deal Lake, which originally opened to the ocean, the Lenapes would take to their canoes, traveling to the sea to enjoy swimming, frolicking and sun at the beach. It was not until the early 1890’s when a flume was built, that the lake was closed to the sea.
Archaeological findings provide evidence of an established Lenape campsite located at the intersection of Cold Indian Springs and Bowne Roads, in the Wayside section of Ocean. These Native Americans believed in the healing powers of the nearby spring. In 1749, Benjamin Wooley deeded this section even then known as Cold Indian Springs, stipulating “no matter who the owner may be, an Indian may partake of the healing water or camp, as was their wont years ago”. In 1873, a company was formed which began bottling the water of Cold Indian Springs. Still operating today by the owners of Kepwel Springs, it is Ocean Township’s oldest continuous business.
Native American historians surmise the Lenapes’ established culture changed little for over a thousand years before the Europeans arrived. In 1670, Thomas Potter, generally considered the area’s first settler, built his primitive mound home in the bank of Harvey Brook, a tributary of Deal Lake’s northern branch. From these humble beginnings, Potter went on to acquire more than 1,000 acres of land. This area encompassed the entire territory from Sea Bright to Shark River including all of Deal Lake. At this time Deal Lake was probably known by its Indian name, Lake Uliquecks. With each map published the name changed to Whites Pond, then Corlies Pond or Great Pond, then Boyleston Great Pond and finally Deal Lake. This entire region was originally part of the vast Shrewsbury Township taking the name Ocean Township in 1849. This land has since been sub-divided to include the seven communities bordering Deal Lake; Asbury Park, Allenhurst, Deal, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Neptune Township and Ocean Township.
Some of the land bordering the lake was purchased by Gavin Drummond directly from the Lenapes. In 1687, Wanamassa was one of the three chiefs signing the deed which indicated that Drummond purchased the land for one gun, five coats, one kettle, and two pounds of gun powder. According to local legend, Chiefs Wanamassa, Wallammassekaman and Waywinotunce sold the land for practically nothing because Drummond was married to the Lenape princess, Nissima. The story persists that while surveying the area, he happened upon the teepee where Nissima was taking a nap. Peering at Nissima, he was captured by her beauty and she became enamored with him. Although such makes for good tales, historical records establish that in 1694 Drummond married Mary Clayton.
One only has to look at the facsimile bearing the proud and bold Indian Chief which adorns the Wanamassa Fire House on Sunset Avenue to be reminded of the influence the Native Americans had during our area’s early history. The likeness is presumably Chief Wanamassa who signed the deed and for whom this section of Ocean Township is named. How fortunate for all of us that Wanamassa was not named after one of the other two chiefs.
It is hard to imagine Deal Lake as a salt water bay open to the sea. Yet during the Revolutionary War, patriots hiding in the shoals, would launch raids on the British ships. From the Drummond family comes the story of patriots building a schooner within the confines of the lake. Word spread that the British found out and were sending troops from their garrison at Sandy Hook to seize the ship. With the schooner nearly complete and ready for the stepping of masts, the Americans removed the caulking from the ship’s seams and sank it into the depths of the lake. Finding the vessel gone, the British moved on after which the patriots re-floated the boat. Sailing out of the inlet, the schooner reportedly inflicted considerable damage on British shipping.
After the Revolution, the lake maintained its prominent role in the lives of local families. Farmers fertilized their land with marl taken from its banks and residents made charcoal in pits dug along its shores to sell to local foundries. In response to the dozen or more shipwrecks each year, Congress authorized life saving stations at three mile intervals along the Jersey Shore. Life station No. 6 was located in Loch Arbour along Deal Lake.
As the 1800’s ushered in a time of growth for communities developing along its borders, Deal Lake remained important in terms of recreation and industry. Mills and farms continued to flourish, providing food and services for businesses. By the late nineteenth century, descendants of the original Drummond family were operating a thriving brick business on the site of what is now the Asbury traffic circle. This business remained prominent into the twentieth century. The Drummond brothers, ardent equestrians, established a track adjacent to their business around 1890. A Monmouth County fair was held the following year at the entrance which is now Colonial Avenue, leading from Asbury Avenue into Colonial Terrace. The fair and especially the racing were highly successful, but politics interfered and the activities stopped.
Shortly before the turn of the century, the successful vaudeville team of Charles Ross and Mabel Fenton, then performing on Broadway, invested in a rustic restaurant across from Asbury Park nestled in the Wanamassa Woods. The team turned the restaurant into a thriving night club which they named the Ross-Fenton Farm. From the initial opening on July 1,1899, the Farm attracted many celebrities. Ross-Fenton Farms became so famous that during the summer season, over 100 trains would stop daily, leaving their guests at the Interlaken gates on Grassmere Avenue. From there, they boarded a boat which motored under the Sunset Avenue bridge to the Farm’s dock. Local couples would sit in their canoes as music from the likes of John Philip Sousa and John McCormack (the great Irish tenor) drifted across the lake. Ross died in 1918 but his wife continued to operate the business until her death in 1931. By this time, a boat company would taxi passengers from their homes along the lake to Eighth Avenue in Asbury Park. From there, they caught the trolley which traveled along Main Street through Allenhurst and to the shops in Asbury Park.
A good friend, Mark Garber, related how as a youth growing up in Interlaken, he took full advantage of Deal Lake’s resources. A long time hockey enthusiast, Mark sharpened his skills by playing hockey and ice skating on all reaches of the lake. Sadly, we discussed the remote areas near the second and third holes of the Colonial Terrace Golf Course that he is no longer able to skate to because of extensive siltation. Almost 500 feet of the Western end of Terrace Pond had large tress growing that 25 years earlier was lake water. Fortunately, a large dredging project, completed in 2003, has restored the Terrace Pond section back to its 1969 lake boundaries.
The Colonial Terrace Golf Course was purchased in 1925 by Celio Gonzales, on the site of a 50 acre farm and bordered the site of the famous night spot originally known as The Patio and later known as Wanamassa Gardens. The likes of Nat King Cole and Jackie Gleason performed at this famous night club. Remaining in the family, the golf course was operated by the niece of the original owner, Connie Gonzales Cesario, and now is run by her three daughters Regina, Maria, and Consuela. It is interesting to know, that when the original and renowned Harlem Globetrotters were touring the shore area, Colonial Terrace was the only area golf course that allowed to them play.
I am often asked by friends as to what purpose and interest is there to studying history. The pat answer I normally give them is so we can learn from our past and prepare for our future. For without doing so, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. I feel at no time in our history is the future of Deal Lake more critical. By continued cooperation of government and citizens we can restore the lake to its former health. How nice would it be for our descendants to one day learn how we made a difference.
Written in 1997 by Carl Robinson
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