Friday, September 18, 2009

White Stag of Shamong

White Stag from Quark

Now we're off to New Jersey. We've already posted about the Bad Boy of the Pine Barrens, the Jersey Devil.

being an equal opportunity blog, we thought we'd try to offset some of the bad press the Jersey Devil has given the state by relating the tale of a Dudley Do-Right creature, the White Stag of Shamong, in Burlington county.

To get to their Meeting House in Tuckerton, local Quakers had for decades traveled an old trail, barely more than a path, through the pine barrens. The road crossed the Batso River, which had to be forded. In 1772, several travelers drowned in its roaring waters.

After the disaster, the Friends rolled up their sleeves and built what became known as Quaker Bridge. Their trail, Quaker Bridge Road (which still exists, somewhat rerouted), soon became the most traveled route to Tuckerton, then a busy ship building town.

One rainy, lightning filled night, a stagecoach was attempting to reach a tavern, the Quaker Bridge Inn, on the other side of the river to ride out the storm. The driver breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a light in the distance from the Inn. He was close enough to the bridge to hear the rushing water roar past.

Suddenly, a White Stag appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road, frightening the horses and blocking the stage.

With the horses snorting and rearing, the driver tied down the reins and got off the coach, trusty rifle in hand, hoping to shoo the creature away and get his passengers to the warmth and safety of the Inn. He hit the ground and tried to cluck the stag off of the road.

Then, in front of his eyes, the animal disappeared. The teamster slowly walked the approach to Quaker Bridge, looking for the White Stag. He not only couldn't the find it, but discovered that the bridge had washed out during the storm.

Had it not been for the White Stag, the stage and everyone on it would have plunged into the angry waters of the swollen Batso River.

The local Lenape tribe considered a white stag an omen of good luck. Since that day, everyone in the Barrens agreed. It's been spotted several times since, always as a warning of impending danger.

Though Shamong Township and the area is brimming with deer hunting clubs, no one has ever tried to bag a white stag thanks to that long-ago night. The last live one was spotted in 1953, but its spectral cousin is still thought to be in the Pine Barrens, watching over its travelers.

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