The “Report to Dr. John Fothergill,” by William Bartram (1739-1823), recounts the naturalist’s adventure through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, which he related back to his London patron. Fothergill funded Bartram to explore the pre-Revolutionary South in order to gather and artistically document specimens. During this period, Bartram drew animals and plants, while also collecting “nondescript” (undescribed) flowers and seeds, and Fothergill related information about how to properly package and ship the parcels overseas. The “Report” represents a record of an active communication between two naturalist and patron, and the samples and advice were tools of acknowledgement and admiration between them.
Bartram is known for being the first natural history author to use both prose and scientific explanations in his literature. The “Report” begins with Bartram heading out to East Florida, where he travels along the St. Johns River and records his meetings with Native Americans, close encounters with alligators, and detailed descriptions of untamed eighteenth-century landscapes. The variety of specimens that Bartram discovered were recorded with eloquently-worded prose that refrains from using overwhelming scientific descriptions. Bartram closed the “Report” with extensive plant and animal lists that we did not include here, but can be found in the full text. An earlier version, edited by Bartram scholar Frances Harper, has also inserted periods that were absent in the original text to increase clarity.
Upon finishing his voyage for Fothergill, Bartram went on to publish an account of his entire journey, commonly known as Travels (1791). The “Report to Fothergill” is an entertaining historical document that takes the reader on a journey to discover these early American wonders alongside Bartram.
Edited by Devin Pallone, Rebecca Givens, Erin Pollack and Rebecca Decenzo (University of South Florida St. Petersburg)
Bartram, William Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country,…Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of those Regions …. Philadelphia: James & Johnson, 1791.
Harper, Francis. Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74: Report to Dr. John Fothergill. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1943.
TRAVELS IN GEORGIA AND FLORIDA, 1773-74: A REPORT TO DR. JOHN FOTHERGILL (Volume 1)
August or September 29th. From Broughton Island, near the mouth of the River Alatamaha, a vast rice plantation belonging to Col. Lawrence, and very well managed by Mr. J. Bailey an intelligent planter, I went aboard a small boat for Fredrica on St. Simons Island, arrived safe there and waited on J. Spalding Esq. to whose generous assistance I am indebted for my good success on this expedition. Mr. Spalding acquainted me that his stores in Florida were broke, except his lower store on St. John, some of his traders plundered and where all come into the store and that he should send a vessel in a few days to bring all his effects away, so I waited a day or two for a passage in his vessel and this time I employed in exploring this island. Frederica was built by Gen. Oglethorp, Ann. . . . which he made the seat of government whilst he commanded in this province, has been a very considerable town, the fort has been a pretty building, but now almost in ruins since the seat of government has been removed to Savannah. The island is computed to be sixteen miles in length and three or four broad; the high land generally fruitful though a light sandy soil suitable for corn, indigo, and pulse. The east side of the island is the most fertile, there being a ridge of seashell hills, the vegetable productions here visible of trees, live oak some of which are of a vast bulk, Red Bay, Elm, Ash, Maple, Hickory, Mulberry, Magnolia particularly the great Laurel Tree, Linden, Liquidambar; of shrubs, Zanthoxylum, Aralia Spinosa, Elder, Frangula, Prinos. Of Herbaceous Tribes, Nettles, Rhapuntia, Crotons, Eupatorium, Euphorbia S and that fairest flower of America the sweet Pancratium, a noble species. Holly, Tupelo, Sassafras, in the moister ground Cassena, Olia Americana. Grape Vines, Prinos and many others. The Savannahs and Bayles afford a vast variety of Sunflowers, Asters, Andromeda’s Evergreen, Hypericon.
Mr. Spalding was pleased to favour me with his advice and directions how to proceed in my travel amongst the Floridians, and charged me with letters to his agents there.
Went aboard, got nine or ten miles when the tide brought us to anchor; near a point of the island; went on shore with the capt. to pass away the time ‘till the tide should make in our favour, we took our guns, but met no game, except some curlews and a raccoon. Returned on board and presently got under way, and being favoured with a pleasant night made good way, in the morning the wind increasing in our favour, had every prospect of a quick and pleasant voyage; having got up with Cumberland Island, we observed a sail ahead, the people judged it to be a schooner every day expected from the Indian store and soon coming up with her, found it to be so; we came too and our captain sent his boat onboard, I chose to go, for information; where I learned very discouraging accounts, very bad talks from the Indians. She had onboard most of the effects from the stores, with a number of traders, who had come in from the Indians, I learned that my chest was hid on an island in the River St. Johns a little way from the store, with other goods; and some effects yet remaining at the store, with the agent, the Indians having declared they should have timely notice to remove with safety before any more mischief should be done; in consequence of these discouraging accounts our vessel turned back to Fredrica. However I chose to continue my journey to east Florida, in expectation of a more favourable turn of affairs and having some papers in my baggage that I did not like to lose, so I got put on shore at Fort William on South Point of Cumberland, where lived the pilot of St. Mary’s River who sent me over on Amelia Island, where I was very hospitably entertained by Mr. Egan, Agent for Lord Egmont, here are great plantations for the culture of Indigo. Mr. Egan showed me samples of his Indigo which was the best I had yet seen. I stayed two or three days with this gentleman on his promising me a passage with him to St. John’s. Observed some large Indian Mounts and the vestiges of great towns and square of the ancient Indian Natives, observed a very beautiful species Lycium with a blue flower and a coral red fruit, a most elegant shrub, it’s ever gay with flowers, ripe and green fruit, and a beautiful Thymallus, with curious leaves being painted with a bright vermilion color near the pedicle. Went with Mr. Egan in his boat rowed by negroes, this night encamped on a shell bluff within a new miles of the River St. John’s, got some excellent oysters which we roasted for supper, rested very well under a vast spreading Live Oak, making a fire to keep off the mosquitoes. Arose early in the morning; took advantage of a strong tide and in a few hours got into the great River St. John’s, got eight or ten miles farther up. Stopped at Monr. Facio’s who has a very large Indigo plantation, on a high hill on east side of the river. This very civil gentleman showed me his improvements. His garden is very neat and contains a greater variety than any other in the colony. He has a variety of European Grapes imported from the Straight, Olives, Figs, Pomegranates, Filberts, Oranges, Lemons, a variety of garden flowers, from Europe, etc. We dined with him, then continued up the river eight or ten miles, got to Pottberg a large plantation belonging to a gentleman in England. There we stayed this night and in the morning Mr. Egan set off by land to Augustine, having business with the governor. I found the inhabitants greatly alarmed at the hostile disposition of the Indians and were generally on the flight or fortifying themselves by stockading in their houses, however I understood that the chiefs of the Floridians had been in to St. Augustine, promising satisfaction for what they had done.
I purchased a canoe and alone continued my voyage up the river, having a sail, some provisions, gun and ammunition. My undertaking was I confess somewhat hazardous at such a time; the river being very wide and my vessel small, was obliged to coast close along shore, this night I got about seven miles and camped on west side of the river. Next day got about five miles, the wind rising pretty fresh against me, was obliged to look out for a harbour, and at last found a pretty good one which was very fortunate, for me, the river here being very broad near three miles over; the gale taking me about the middle, having at last almost gained the port, observed a prodigious large alligator basking in the sedge on the shore, whether he was a sleep or not I am not certain but approaching near he suddenly plunged in the water, directing his course right at me and the water being very shole the monster went under my little vessel, had like to carried me away with him, however I got safe ashore and having moored my vessel made an excursion in the forests, took notice of the beautiful Laurus Cerasus bearing charming spike of flowers, a fine evergreen shrub but past flowering; the Orange Trees were very fragrant in blossom, night coming on I returned to camp, struck up a fire and prepared myself for this night solitary repose, hoping for favourable weather next morning. The much wished morning appeared, but without hopes of getting away, the wind very high and against me; I arose early, and hearing some turkeys strutting, took my gun and went towards them, I soon saw two large turkey cocks and a hen and had the luck to shoot the two cocks, which were very heavy and fat. I barbecued them for provisions on my voyage; bad weather still continuing all this day and next, till towards the evening, the wind seemed to lull; I repaired to a sandy point a little distance from my harbour, to see how the river looked. The swell seemed to abate; a very agreeable smell came over the water from the pine tops, these trees being now in flower, and soon observed incredible clouds of small brown dragonflies, which come from the other side in such prodigious numbers, as for a time almost obscured the sun, the air was thick with them, as far as I could see upwards, but they quickly descended, down, and almost covered the trees and ground about me, they however proved most welcome messengers, for a gentle gale soon succeeded which was some more favourable to me; I got all things aboard and soon re-embarked and had just time to cross the river to a point of land, I long wanted to gain just before dark; having only time enough to prepare my lodgings before dark came on. Soon after it began to rain, which continued all night and very windy. The rain abated in the morning, the wind yet very high and against me. I took a turn in the groves where I found abundances of oranges and pretty evergreens, amongst the rest that very singular and beautiful evergreen commonly called Wild Lime; saw an Indian who was endeavouring to get up to a flock of turkeys, he discovered me and I went up to him. He told me in English he lived at a plantation about a mile off, he was a slave brought from the Mosquito Shore; about noon the wind being more favourable I got twelve miles farther; come too at Picolata Fort which I observed was newly repaired; got two miles farther. Stopped at an orange grove. Next day got about thirty miles, stayed this night at Villa Role. This place was settled about twelve years ago by D. Role Esq. The situation is very high and pleasant. St. John’s being much narrower here than anywhere below, and very deep, here are only a few people that have the care of the houses and stock belonging to Mr. Role. This place is at present in a ruinous state; though I think a very proper and agreeable situation for a town. It is about ninety miles above the mouth of the river, and thirty five miles by land to St. Augustine. Set off soon in morning, passed by two Indian settlements on the west side of the river; they observed me as I passed along, but offered no incivilities, called at the camp on the island, where the effects belonging to the store were deposited under the care of several traders, got to the lower store this evening, where I was friendly received by Mr. McLatchy Agent. After conferring with the traders concerning the temper and disposition of the Indians; who seemed generally of opinion that the present confusion, was occasioned by some disconfered young warriors in the nation unknown to the chiefs who wanted to go to war for plunder; as the head men of the Floridians had lately declared to the Governor in Augustine, that the traders were robbed by a gang from the nations were in hopes that trade and friendship would soon be restored again; after some days a party of traders agreed to rescue a journey to Cuscowilla, an Indian town on Alachua Savanna to hunt up some horses belonging to them; I embraced this opportunity to see that part of Florida, particularly the great savannah.
April. Set off having a very good interpreter. Rode a mile and half over low level land, almost entirely covered with small Dwarf Palmetto, under scattering Pine Trees, the soil a white fine sand, came to a branch of water, the bottom a hard white sand, the soil on each side for a small distance wet and owsey producing Red Bay, Candle Berry Myrtle, short Magnolia Glauca, then taller leaning Palmettos. Then we came to a sandy ridge, the sand dry, producing Palmettos, shrubby Oaks that grow about twenty feet high, large tall Pine Trees; these sand hills or ridges, are the highest land of those flat sandy countries of the sea coast of Carolina and Florida dividing the waters of different rivers from each other, generally dry white sand, they are generally, however, productive of grass and Palmettos, various little shrubs, such as, various species of Kalmia, Andromeda, Myrica Cerifera. Prinos, Little Dwarf Oaks, and Chinquapins, as well as good large Pine Trees of the long leaved species reconed the most valuable, both for lumber and its yielding Turpentine, Tar, and Pitch: we next come to Bay Gales, two miles through. As I shall have occasion often to mention these bay gales and savannahs in describing, the different situations of these countries, I shall now endeavour to explain them. These rivers that do not reach the hilly or mountainous parts of these countries have their source in small lakes or savannas that have been lakes or ponds now filled up and become grassy meadows or savannahs which sometimes are vast and extensive, and beautiful bay and expression, or rather they primarily derive from gale bays, which are vast extensive wet and boggy shrubby plains, producing Red Bay, Horse-Sugar Shrubs, Magnolia Glauca, Alcea Florida, all indifferently called Bays by the inhabitants, mixed with sweet Gale, Candle Berry Shrubs, Evergreen Prinos, various Andromeda. Which are perpetually kept low by the annual firing the woods, these gale bays are, on one side of the savannahs, roundabout under the sand hill and ridges, where the wet, owsing out, feeds the savannah with moisture; or the gale bays are on the lower side of the savannahs, where the brook begins a constant running stream. Next we come to a moist flat pine forest, the ground covered with low Palmitos, thus continued a mile then we came to a low wet extensive savannah, overgrown with very tall straight Swamp Pine that seemed to be of a new year’s growth, the soil a black sandy slush about a foot deep, on a hard white sandy bottom, this place was about one mile through, producing very good tall grass, intermixed with, various species of plants, Lobelia, Phlox, abundance of pretty large White Lilies, on dry knowles. Very large thistles, with red crimson and white flowers, Loblolly Bay, very tall beautiful trees, Magnolia glauca, finely in flower, tall and beautiful Cabbage Trees, (Palma vera). Thus having passed four or five miles through a very wet and disagreeable road, we got to dry pine forests. We began gradually to rise on the sand hills. We rode three miles, came to a large rapid stream of water, crossed and went through a narrow swamp of middling good land, then rise on the sandy pine forest, the ground covered with low Palmettos, and pretty good pine timber continuing several miles, rise higher land, Pine and Black Jacks. We continued rising sand hills, came to another large creek, some pretty good swamp land high sandy pine forest such as we had passed, the land becomes now higher and more uneven, beginning to form chains or ridges of higher sand hills, the appearance of which though sandy and barren, yet exhibits a pleasing prospect high pine forest, hills and little lakes and savannahs, some round, and deep between the hills, these ponds and little lakes are of various sizes and form, some one mile over, other five or six miles, some partly surrounded with delightful green level meadows, other encompassed by high steep hills, and the large pine trees, being thinly planted about the green grassy hills, we might from the top of the high ridges see numbers of these little lakes at a great distance glittering through the groves and surrounding us on every side and their banks frequently planted with orange groves, all in flower, perfuming the air, rendered our journey this part of the day perfectly agreeable and made ample amends for the difficulties I met with in the morning. This evening came to camp by the side of a large pond about seven or eight miles in length, bordered round with extensive green grassy lawns or meadow, sometimes partly dividing the waters by long points or peninsulas, everywhere inhabited with varieties, of species of Herons, Bitterns, Storks, herds of Deer. This is called Long Pond or Halfway Pond; the mosquitoes were very troublesome, got very little rest. This morning being very fine we early got on our way, but our people having occasion to hunt the woods for horses, we could not reach the town this day. We camped by the side of a pleasant pond. The face of the country was much the same as passed yesterday. Alternately high sand hills and green savannahs. Observed the sand hills to be the highest land, had yet seen in the isthmus and the surface of the earth about them to be covered with Pibbles, pieces of white and yellow flint, pieces of course kind of white limestone, being concretions of small pieces of seashells cemented together with sand, and some masses of rocks of the same composition appeared above the earth. Early this morning we came to a very pleasant creek, which emptied its waters into a large pond or lake. Now the land begins again to fall lower. From this creek for the distance of seven or eight miles we travelled over a level pine forest and some savannahs, overgrown with large timber and the ground richly covered with good grass intermixed with varieties of flowers of various species and colours, we crossed part of a vast extensive marsh, we then entered a hammock, through which we continued three or four miles. The soil pretty good, producing Live Oak, Water Oak, Hickory, Linden, Mulberry, Elm, Magnolia grandiflora; this sort of land is too high for the produce of rice, but is very proper for Corn, Indigo, and Cotton. Next we entered an open pine forest through which at a small distance presented to view an exceedingly beautiful lake. Our road passing but a small distance from it and observing a large Indian Mound, which stood on the high banks of the lake; I rode up to it from which I had an agreeable prospect over the water, that has been formerly an Indian town but unknown to the present Indian Nation inhabiting this country. Here are a few Indian houses, but the people were gone out hunting except a few women and children.
We rode about a quarter of a mile farther and arrived at the town of Cuscowilla. Hereabouts I observed the beautiful large white flowered Anona, bearing a large fruit. And another species, much smaller, having extremely narrow leaves, bearing a rose cold blossom, with crimson spots on the inside of the petals near their bases surrounding a large purple button containing the parts of fructification. The town of Cuscowilla consists of about forty houses; placed pretty near to one another, surrounding a large open square, in the center of which stands their counsel house. The chief’s house was distinguished from the rest no other way than being a little larger and by having a flag hoisted at one corner. Our interpreter conducted us there. Ascended an Indian ladder, to a loft about twelve feet high where we sat down on deer skins; when very soon the chief came to us and welcomed us to his town, with all possible signs of joy and satisfaction and told us of some bad talks just arrived from the Nation, but he assured us of our safety and his protection. Presently victuals were brought to us, a kettle of boiled milk and another kettle of boiled corn, with dried venison and bear’s meat, honey and water, we laid our business before the Indians and having finished our repast, set off for the great savanah; rode about three miles through a low wet gale bay, covered with little short Palmatos and very short and shrubby pines. Entered a hammock of pretty good Oakland, continued near a mile through this dark thicket. Now on a sudden opens to view an enchanting scene, the great Alachua Savannah. I behold, a vast plain of water in the middle of a pine forest fifteen miles in extent and near fifty miles in circumference, verged with green level meadows, in the summer season, beautifully adorned with jetting points and Promontories of high land. The prospect is greatly beautified by the prodigious numbers of wild fowl of various kinds, such as Cranes, Herons, Bitterns, Plovers, Coots and vast herds of cattle, horses, and deer which, we see far distant, in detachments over the vast plain. The upper regions of the air contributes to this joyful scene. The Silver Plumed Heron, early in the morning hastening to their fisheries, crowd to the watery plain, the Sonorous Stork and Whooping Cranes proclaim the near approaches of the summer’s heats, descend from the skies in musical squadrons and descend; spreading themselves over the wide green, all these gay inhabitants; at even tide retire to the surrounding groves. This vast plain in the winter season is a beautiful lake of water, visited by an incredible number of wild fowl. The great Canada Goose, Brant and Grey Geese; with an endless variety of ducks. In the month of November, when cold north and northeast winds reach this country, the winged inhabitants of north America begin to assemble here, especially Water Fowl who make this country of east Florida their winter retreat, and this vast savannah on account of its great extent affording proper food, grass, snails, Periwinkles, water insects, fish and reptiles. It may be termed the Elysium of Birds, and happy was he that reached it, as the Indians never molest them; but, lately the white people, traders, take incredible numbers of them; here they assemble in such prodigious numbers, approaching like clouds in the air and spread themselves over the waters, a gun being fired amongst them in the evening or morning, the effect is altogether astonishing. They rise in that quarter, like a vast dark thunderstorm, and shake the air as a rushing tempest, but on being disturbed in the night, the multitude rises from all quarters, the thunder of their wings, with their united squealing tongues exhibits a scene of confusion and babbling as if the desolation of nature was at hand, this may appear more elusive than real, true as it is. This night we came to camp at southwest end of the savannah at an orange grove, after riding over a most pleasant green meadow about twelve miles, erasing numbers of large coves from point to point, which in some places project in long points of little scattering groves of Oak, Magnolia and Pine Trees. Numbers of herds of deer scouring over the green plains find here a safe retreat, observed here growing abundance of Nympha White Water lily, Common Nympha having large yellow flower. Saw some leave, and dried Capsular of the Colocasia Egyptian Bean Hibiscus, these grew in the water.
After we had came to camp, I as usual made an excursion into the groves and thickets, but discovered nothing new except a very elegant species of Abutilon having very large velvety heart-shaped leaves, decorated with large flowers of a light crimson. Observed growing about the roots of the Oak and Laurel trees in the shade groves abundance of the Little Michelia, this the natives extol as an infallible remedy in nephritic complaints, penetrating this thicket, I found myself at a point bordered on one side by an extensive green meadow surrounded by high hills and forests and before me and all around on the other hand an almost endless plain of waters and green meadows. I was amused at this novel Indian scene. Here we saw herds of deer bounding before the chase of the naked active Floridian mounted on his fleet Seminole horse; at the same time, other companies of deer, of horses and herds of cattle, some securely feeding almost out of view in the midst of the plain on green grassy islets, others basking and sporting under the shadowy hill sporting on their way towards their nocturnal retreats.
The sun sets behind the dark woody hills, the musical stork, with all the feathered inhabitants of the savannah in successive squadrons, with evening song slowly move to their gloomy retreats. I retired to camp and rested well this night. But when awakened by the bellowing alligator and chattering Water Hen.
The early watchful wattle’s shrill voice, rings through the forests and wakes all to action and hails the rising sun.
Our company this morning decided to range about the savannah in search of horses. I joined company with a party round the savannah to the sink, towards the northeast end, we rode on the green verge from point to point of the jetting hommocks, frequently crossing fine green coves, which deeply scalloped the shore, occasionally entering the groves. Ascended a high rocky hill, here were old Indian fields and orange groves, we went through this dark grove of Live Oak, Magnolia but observed no new genera of vegetables, we entered a spacious green meadow, a cove of the savannah, roused a gang of deer which run off entering a grove, we came up to a point of scattering trees, when we observed them by a green pond in the midst of a green meadow, they were diverting themselves, some skipping and plunging in and out of the water, others stretched along on the green, when of a sudden being affrighted, they all started off, directing their course right towards us. A young buck came forward ahead of the gang which our hunter shot at and laid him on the ground. the rest, sprang away bounding over the plain, having placed our game in the fork of a tree and threw a hunting shirt over him to preserve it from the vultures till our return in the evening we proceeded round the savannah, frequently rousing herds of deer, cattle and flocks of turkeys. Approaching a hammock of trees that stood out in the meadow, observed a company of black wolves, we made up towards them who with a flock of vultures and eagles were tearing to pieces the carcass of a horse. They stood their ground till we come within gun shot when the wolves trotted off a little ways, then sat on their breeches until we passed them when they returned to their repast, they were all black of the size of a large dog, having a thick bushy tail and sharp ears. The wolves have become very numerous and mischievous since this country has become inhabited and the Indians get stocks of cattle, but were not so a few years ago insomuch it was a few years ago a rare thing to see or hear of a wolf in east Florida. Having rode about twelve miles, we came to a point of high land. I ascended the rocky hill, came into an old Indian field, here has been anciently an Indian town. Descended down the other side and entered a very deep cove of the savannah and directed our course across to a high point of land, although the meadow looked green with grass yet as we approached towards the midway found the water deep, the grass growing through it and soon took our horses off their legs, swam forty or fifty yards, when the water shoaled. We got safe through, but a little wet, our horses were so fond of this grass could hardly get them along. We came very near to a gang of deer who were feeding almost up to their backs in water, on seeing us near they plunged through the water and got away, we came near the woods, observed the great Wattula or Savana Crains setting on their nests, they make their nest of dry grass and sticks on high hillocks of rushes and set with their long legs sticking out before them like a child in a high chair, they lay three eggs, which are longer than a goose egg; we soon gained the shore, thence we continued a mile or two and came to a small cluster of trees, Live Oak, Celtis, Elm and Magnolia which grew round about a deep sink or basin of water encompassed with rocks composed of a greyish sandy limestone. Rode about two miles over pleasant green lawns under the oak and orange grove hills, entered a point of woods and came to a beautiful rapid brook of cool water, flowing over the silver leaved Arum, the banks adorned with Willows, Stewarts, Halesia, Evonimos, Evergreen Prinos, Halesia, Cornus Femina. Continued and soon crossed another fine branch of good water. Rode round the shore and came to a high point of land, ascended the steep hills, came to large orange groves, which covers a large space of ground, very uneven, sharp pointed hills and little rocky ridges and deep holes or sinks. These holes are numerous, some fifty or one hundred yards over, at top round, and narrowing to a point at bottom like a funnel. Having clear water standing at the bottom and others dry, some of a smooth surface of earth or the side overgrown with herbage and shrubs, other have steep walls of rocks. Continued a little farther and descended the hills, when opened to view a little cove of water, almost environed with steep rocky banks. This is the receptacle, or rather, passage of the waters of this vast savannah, called the Sink and here the waters gradually descend and sink down and are discharged by hidden subterranean passages no one knows where; it is the common opinion of Indians and traders, they run into the little St. Juane River that flows into the Bay of Apalache. This sink is the most remarkable place for alligators and to relate the tales and accounts given by the Indians and traders, would appear incredible and fabulous. However to my own certain knowledge, they are prodigiously numerous and of a dreadful appearance. I saw them twenty or more together in heaps upon one another basking in the sun on the shore round about and the surface of the water almost covered with their monstrous heads, floating about like logs or chunks of wood.
Towards the fall of the year the waters of the savannah partly by exhalations from the summer heats and draining into this vast dark cool receptacle, the fish assemble here. The alligators are here in the caverns of the bank and rocks round about the sink and in very dry and low times the sinkhole is full of them, the enormous alligator rushes out upon them, destroys incredible numbers and driving others ashore, where they die and rot on the land. I could observe no vortex or ruffling on the surface of the water in this sink.
The savannah is surrounded by pretty high hills, which looks like one continued high ridge, the soil a grayish sandy loam and on some high bluff a little rocky. When we are atop of the ridge it continues back generally about a mile and half the same sort of soil, which is fruitful, producing orange groves, great Evergreen Magnolia, Sweet Gum, Live Oak, Elm, Linden, Hickory, Mulberry, Papaw, Carpinus, Red bay and of shrubs, Halesia, Stewartia, Sambucus, Staphylea, Cassina Holly, Winterberry, Esculus, Callicarpa. Herbaceous Plants the beautiful Abutilon, Osteospermum, Helianthos, Aristolochia, Lobelias, Tetragona Thekia, Eupatorium, Collinsonia. Back of this hammocky ridge we again came to flat level pine forest, savannahs and ponds as usual.
Having completed my observations of this very singular place and examined its natural productions, we returned, the shortest way through the savannah and by night got to camp, where we found the other party already arrived, with their horses, having found several. We were visited by several Indians who left us in the night seemingly in a good disposition. Next morning after hunting up their horses, we returned back to other end of the savannah, where we came to camp about four miles from Cuscowilla whither one of our traders went and stayed all night intending to meet us here in morning. I spent this evening in examining the woods and meadows about, observed here abundance of large snakes, which were among the dry leaves and shrubs, two or three twisted together, they were of a harmless nature. I could scarcely provoke them to open their mouth and when pursued crept under the dry leaves and into holes in the dry sand. One kind were marked with black and white spots, made a loud hissing noise, when molested. The other kind, were of a dirty yellow and bright red belly, both kinds very large, six or seven feet in length and thick. The last kind are very common about houses where they are very useful in destroying rats and other vermin but are apt to destroy chickens and suck eggs. They likewise climb up matin poles and dovecotes where they destroy the young.
Set off this morning on our return to the store. Rode about four miles round the savannah then took off through the hammock, rode about two miles and came to a pretty high sand ridge, which was a very agreeable open forest of Red Oaks. Passed by an Indian settlement consisting of three or four houses near to each other; this is called the Little Town. Descended a little and passed several miles through low level pine forest and savannahs. Come to a fine large brook called Fishing Creek, here was an Indian encampment, all the fellows were out hunting, but the wenches and children at home, rode seven or eight miles further through pine forests, came into the road again. And shortly after came to camp by a pleasant creek near an orange grove.
The next morning pretty early got on our way, passing through pine groves and savannahs, finely ornamented with flowering shrubs and plants, particularly the glorious large white and rose colored flowering Anona and the Erythrina, which grows here to a fine tall shrub, as likewise a species of Opuntia or Cactus, some white with the Cochineal Insect. Passed by the delightful lakes and savannahs as mentioned heretofore and arrived safe at the store by night.
Hearing at the store of some letters for me being sent by the care of his Honour the Lieutenant Governor Moultry to a plantation on the river about forty miles down, I immediately took passage in a boat then going down the river. In two days got to the place, calling at a plantation on the west side of the river belonging to Governor Tonyn; here I was showed some samples of the best Flora Indigo I had yet seen, there were twenty hands employed on this plantation who made about twelve hundred w’ of Indigo the last year and had now planted this year’s crop, having received the letters which were from Dr. Fothergill, London, by the way of Charlestown. These letters gave me great satisfaction, acquainting me of the safe arrival of some specimens of plants of the natural productions of Georgia among which were near fifty new plants. Having got my letters I returned up the river to the store again, intending soon to make a tour up this river towards its source, intending to employ my time this way on natural discoveries until a party of traders were ready to set off for Little St. Juane River that runs into the Bay of Apalache.
About this time a party of Indians from the Lower Creek Nation came into the store and with them a runner dispatched from the nation with a talk, the substance of which was that the whole nation were greatly confused about the present differences; that the whole Creek Confederacy were assembling at one of their principal towns to deliberate how to obtain peace and commerce again with the whites, that they were determined to oblige the cowetas who were the aggressors to give up the murderers or sacrifice the whole nation, by withdrawing their protection from and delivering them up to the resentment of the whites to take what satisfaction they should count necessary. By the same messenger we were assured that the Seminoles on the Bay of Apalache had taken and put to death the murderers of Magee and his people and in general that there were hopes of peace and trade again, the runner sat of next day for St. Augustine. These accounts were agreeable and enlivened my hopes of having yet an opportunity of traveling with safety in this wild savage part of America.
The next day having repaired my little vessel and procured some necessaries, sat off up the River St. Johns, having very little wind and a pretty strong current against me, got about twelve miles, called at an indigo plantation belonging to Mr. Tucker a gentleman in England; the house stands near the river on a high shelly bank, just by it is an Indian Mount having a broad straight highway leading from the mountain to the pine forests. Meeting here with a boat with two white men who were going about thirty miles up the river, I stayed with them at Mount Royal this night with a view of having their company next day over the lake, my vessel being very little and the great lake often very rough, thought it needful. I endeavoured here to hire a young man to accompany me up the river, but being engaged with the plantation, could not insist, so was obliged to depend on my own labour.
Mount Royal gives name to a large plantation belonging to Lord Egmont, was formerly an indigo plantation, but now given up and the hands removed to Amelia Island on the north of this province, there is about one hundred fifty acres of land cleared here and has been planted with indigo, here is a very handsome large framed house, which stands about one hundred yards from the river, having sundry convenient out houses, placed in a regular manner. There are here about the houses left standing several very large wide spreading evergreen oaks and orange trees sour and sweet, very fruitful.
About one hundred yards from the river bank and about three times that distance from the dwelling house, rises to view Mt. Royal. A very high Indian Mound of earth, of a conical form, flat and nearly level at top, about twenty yards perpendicular height and about one hundred fifty yards in circumference at the base. Immediately from this mound runs a broad spacious road or highway straight out into the pine forests, having a bank of earth thrown on each side about two and a half feet high, all overgrown with shrubs and forest trees, amongst which are some very large and ancient live oaks as likewise grows over the mount. This highway is about thirty yards wide and extends above a quarter of a mile out to the pine forest, at the end of which opens to view an agreeable level savanna in the center of which is a little lake of water which is of a square form and seems to have been dug out by the Indians and perhaps the earth came away to raise the mound with. From the summit of Mt. Royal you have an extensive and agreeable view of the entrance of the great lake, which appears between two pretty islands, namely. Drayton Island on the left and Bell Isle on the right hand, as likewise a view of two promontories on each side the mouth of the river as we enter the lake where it is about one mile wide.
The next day proving very stormy and the wind ahead, could not move out of harbour so I continued my observations about this place, discovered a very curious shrub, having nettle like leaves placed opposite, bearing tufts of beautiful orange colored flowers at the extremities of the branches, which are succeeded by clusters of azure colored berries, the plant has an agreeable scent, fragrant, resembling balm with a mixture of musk. A very pretty little Campanula with bright blue flowers.
The next day sat off in company with the other boat, which being larger and having a good sail took me intow, in this manner we set sail leaving Mt. Royal one of the finest situations on this river, went about three miles and entered the great Lake George which is about twelve miles over either way; we set a course straight across for the mouth of the river. At the other side, having passed by Drayton Isle, the wind came about ahead and blowing a fresh gale from thunder clouds rising up from the S W., we were obliged to put back for a harbour, but before we made the shore the gale carried away our mast and sail, which however we saved from going overboard and with great danger got into a harbour on the island where we were detained all night, but the storm clearing away. A calm and serene morning displayed an agreeable prospect over the wide spread waters of the lake, environed with the high indented shores on every side as far as we could see. We took advantage of the calm repose of the morning and hurried through to the opposite shore and got in the river. The evening being pleasant and having about six miles to the upper Indian store, we amused ourselves with fishing with the bob and took seven or eight large trout and before night got to the store, where were a number of Indians who had taken possession after the traders left it, they received us seemingly in a friendly manner and having plenty of bear oil we dressed our fish which made us a good supper.
Here I was again put to my shifts, being left alone, the people of the other boat going no farther up the river, however I got one of the men to accompany me on condition that I would return by a set time, so agreeing, we set off next day and got about eight miles up the river and came to camp at a high orange grove bluff on the river opposite the mouth over the branch of the river that came from the great east lake, called Lake Gordon; the river where we camped was narrow not above seventy yards over but very deep and the stream very rapid. Close to the right hand of our camp a pretty large lagoon, made into a vast marsh, which with a deep swamp surrounded us, communicating with a lagoon on the other side of us so that we were on a little high islet, containing about two or three acres of high land, the soil composed of a surface of black sandy mold, on a vast heap of white Periwinkle or snail shells lying on a bed of soft limestone rocks that lifts just above the surface of the waters of the river. These limestone rocks are a concrete of sand and shells that seem to have been reduced almost to powder, ice mented together with whole shells of snails, Oyster and muschel, this kind of rock seems to be the bed or foundation of all the country of the Isthmus of Florida at least as far as I have been, which we discover by observing the steep banks on the river St. Johns when we get above the great lake. This river abounds with multitudes of alligators or crocodiles which are of vast size and extremely voracious; having pitched our camp; before night we went into the lagoon to fish for trout and having taken a sufficient number for supper, returning to camp; just in the mouth of the lagoon, three alligators of a monstrous size rushed out of the weeds and stopped before us who seemed inclined to dispute the pass, however we pushed on towards them. One rushed through the water at us, heaved his enormous body straight up out of the water near breast high, close by the side of our canoe and opened a dreadful pair of jaws and a bellowing throat; the other rose up behind us in like manner, piercing the water with his strong plated tail five or six feet high, flourishing it in the air. Lashing the river into a foam and roaring like furious waters breaking out of the earth, then plunging and rushing through the waters around us. Thus were we attacked by those river monsters and pursued to the shore where they lay threatening with terrible roaring. I jumped ashore clear, but was pursued up on land, within three yards of our tent; having a fusee loaded with buckshot I immediately armed myself and returned to the attack. He had withdrew himself into the water but observing me approach nearer, pushed up towards me and being within about five or six yards I discharged my piece and blew the whole load into his body just behind his foreleg; he turned over and died immediately; the noise of the gun made them retire a little distance, in the meantime we got our fish out the canoe; and began to scale and clean them. Again the alligators assembled in prodigious numbers, some rising their huge bodies out of the water and roaring like terrible thunder and lashing the waters with mighty bodies, they drew near to us and one rise up and with a sweep of his tail had like to robbed us of our fish, which we recovered again, he come near again and having my gun loaded with a bullet, which I discharged at his head and I believe wounded him, he plunged in the water, in a dreadful manner, and rise up a good way off. Firing at them several times caused them to keep at some distance. They however appeared so numerous and formidable round our port, that I began to consider my situation very disagreeable and under an absolute embargo. It is scarcely credible what an immense number of fish these monsters destroy. Especially at these passes, the river being here, as I observed before, very narrow. The trout who pass here in their way to and from the numerous lakes and endless Lagoons and Marshes towards the head of this vast river, where they go to spawn. The alligator post themselves forming a line across, where we see them opening their voracious jaws into which the fish are entrapped. They heave their heads and upper part of their body upright, opening their throats to swallow them, and I have seen them with two or three great trout in their mouth at a time, chopping them up, and the fish’s tail hanging out. the noise of their jaws chopping together, with the water and prey in their throats; plunging through the water after their prey and pursuing one another altogether exhibits a very terrifying show. Got no rest this night owing to the stinging of mosquitoes and noise and confusion of the alligators and fish. As soon as day appeared the thunder of the alligators, roaring all around us, and for many miles. Their noise is louder than the bellowing of the most furious bull, or a lion, more like the latter, the water rattling in their throats, which they force out in froth and foam, and makes the earth to tremble, and our little island shook as by an earthquake; when they roar their body is swollen like an empty hogshead on the water, their head and neck raised out of the water, his tail raised five or six feet in the air, waving to and fro, and lashing the surface of the water in a terrible manner as they utter their terrible voice, their body sinks gradually in the water, then swelling again rises up, thus alternately as they continue their bellowing. The deep swamps and banks of the rivers and forest reechoing the dreadful roar, the noise is communicated from one to another, fills the whole country with a noise like dreadful thunder. But this is only in the spring of the year about the time of their incubation. The alligator when full grown are generally from sixteen to twenty-two feet in length and the biggest part of their body, commonly bigger than a thirty gallon cask. They lay two or three hundred eggs in little mounts in fens and marshes which they form of mud and rotten weeds and leaves, which I suppose fermenting by the heat of the sun becomes warm enough to hatch their eggs. When the young first appear in shallow water not far from the old nest they are about twelve or thirteen inches long, they are perfectly shaped, plated all over, of a beautiful color. Pied all over bright yellow and brown not much unlike the color of the rattlesnake, they are then very active and ill-natured, opening wide their mouth and snap, making a noise and barking like little dogs and switch their tails to their mouth. They keep together in schools the first year in the same place. The old one either male or female lies near, secreted in the sedge or weeds to guard and protect the young, who is very watchful and furious. Thus I have endeavored to give a description of the horrid and destructive alligator. Very early this morning we got on our way (but not without being pursued by our enemy the alligator) continually passing through prodigious schools of trout which seemed to crowd and fill the river from shore to shore in such manner as to push each other out of water, and continually striking at small young fish that seemed to be going down the river. These small frys, were so amazingly numerous that the water seemed to show nothing else. They were about an inch long, very thin, of a bright silver color and when the trout came up with a school of them (which sometimes would be a quarter of a mile in length) the surface of the river was as it were boiling, occasioned by the incessant striking and jumping of the trout at the small fish; and now presented a very striking prospect to see the wretched condition of these unhappy little fish for as constantly as the trout came up with them and forced them out of their element into the air, vast flight of a beautiful little white bitterns flew out from the shore amongst them and picked them up in the air. Thus was the proverb verified with respect to these fish jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The land on each side the River is either well-timbered Swamps or very extensive Marshes or fens. The timber in the swamp, Elm, Ash, Scarlet Maple, Water Oak, Red Bay, Palm Trees, and underneath small Palmettos, elder, and variety of shrubs and plants, but I discover nothing new; the marshes very extensive, generally between two and three feet higher than the surface of the water of the river at its common height, but it is said they are all overflowed by the river rising over them in the Spring. February and March, the soil is a black rich mud or clay and looks fit for rice, corn, and sugarcane.
After seven or eight miles going, we come to a Bluff of high shelly land where was a large fruitful Orange Grove, about three acres, rising pretty high in the Middle but surrounded by Swamps and Marshes. The Trees here were Live Oak, Celtis, Red Bay, Orange Trees, and Palm, some curious little shrubs and plants not discovered before, observed abundance of bones, pieces of earthenware, and other vestiges of the ancient Indian inhabitants.
Set off from this place and passed seven or eight miles farther. The land on each side swamps and marshes very extensive, and the prospect open and almost boundless, especially on the East side, which extends from the river bank eastward, over Lake Gordon, and into endless marshes, the view terminated only by the horizon, the vast plain agreeably decorated by clumps or Islets of Live Oak, Laurel and the proud waving Palm Tree. We arrived at another high bluff, where we found plenty of orange trees but this like the other bluff contained but a small space of land surrounded by swamps and marshes. We encamped here this night, being pestered by mosquitoes. Got off early next morning, pass by very rich swamp. Saw deer and turkey. I shot a large bird seemed to be a species of Ibis, they make a loud screaming noise, in the marshes and fens along the river shores when they are disturbed. The Indians call them the Crying Bird (Efois-kika). They are as big bodied as a hen Turkey, and much of the same color, long legs, neck long and slender, the bill about 6 Inches long, thick at the base, but small and bending downwards to the point, the eyes large and placed high on the head. They are excellent food.
There are two other species of this bird on this river that keep in large flights: one perfectly white except the tips of the greater quill feathers which are of a shining crow color with red bill and legs. The other black upper side, breast and belly white, bill and legs white, feed on cray fish. Here are two other very large birds that seem to be species of the Ibis. The first a very large stately bird, generally of a dark greyish or dun color, head neck and bill brown, legs and bill very long, they are the largest bird in Florida. It seems to be Catsby’s Wood-Pelican. They are remarkably scarce and a very solitary bird. I never saw but three or four and these in the most lonesome unfrequented places about the Lake and Savanahs, in retired wilds of Florida and high up the River St. Johns. There was one shot near Charlestown South Carolina last year while I was there. No one knew what it was and was looked on as a prodigy. They feed on crayfish, frogs and reptiles. The other is a large white fowl, having the larger quill feathers tipped with black, legs and feet black, they are as big bodied as a common goose, are esteemed very good eating. They feed on crayfish, frogs, snakes and reptiles. They resort about the banks and marshes of great rivers, Savanah and lakes. After going four or five miles, the land still swamp and marshes, observed abundance of alligators almost everywhere basking in the sun on the banks, sometime five or six or more together heaped on one another like great logs, the water alive with trout. Came to a high Bluff, here the main land on the west side came to the river; this bluff is about 30 feet high above the river, went ashore and ascended the hill, on the top is a large and beautiful grove of palm trees and a large orange grove, I spent some time and rambling through this pleasant grove went about a quarter and a mile and come into the pine forests, which was open, and the grass having been lately burnt, afforded an agreeable verdure mixed with flowery plants, a delightful brisk vivifying air played through the salubrious pine forest, mixed with the balmy breath from of the flowery savannahs, rendered this place very grateful, having been so long confined to putrid stagnant air between the low dark swamps and banks of the river. Returned to the boat and after finishing a small but savory repast on some trout and a broiled bird with some boiled rice; left Palm hill and continued up the river, passing by swamps and marshes on each side, observed frequently the depredations of the trout and the little Heron, still swamps and marshes, observed the trees along the river banks adorned with garland, of various species of ConvoIvulus, Ipomea, Eupatorium scandens, and a species of Cucurbita which ran and spread over the bushes and Trees 20 or 30 yards high, altogether affording a varied scene exhibiting natural vistas, labyrinth and alcoves, varied with fine flowering plants, Asters, Hibiscus and Althea all which reflect on the still surface of the river a very rich and gay picture. Observed the low lands on the river to rise gradually higher above the water as we go up. The soil a fertile black mud or clay; passed by several islands of swamp well-timbered with Water Oak, a beautiful tree green throughout the year but the latter part of the Autumn and Winter the leaves begin to alter their color, to yellow, red and brown, when they fall, but there remains yet before spring a sufficient number of green ones to give it the appearance of an evergreen. The tree grows very tall having a vast globular top. Especially when they grow in open places, fields and Savanahs and far exceeds even the immortal live oak in form and grateful shadow; vast great Scarlet Maple, Ash, Gleditsia triaconthos and elms. Elder and Cephalanthos with vast leaves, whether from the Richness of the Soil or a variety, the flower the same as the common. Continued passing between Swamps and Marshes as before but they rise higher above the River, especially next the water where grows tall beautiful Palms, Oak and Laurel (Magnolia). Having gained near 15 Miles, we come to a bluff on the east side; found here orange trees, Vast Lawrell Magnolia, Red Cedar, Live Oak, water Oak, Vast great Liquidambar, Red Bay, Celtis and back of this about a quarter of a mile we come to the Pine Forests. This bluff continues about four or five miles, some places the high pine land comes close to the River bank. Then went about a Mile between Swamps, the River is here above 200 Yards over, very deep, and runs swift. we entered a branch of the River that came in on the east side, went about a quarter of a mile, passed by a high Bluff on each side, where are orange groves, Live Oak, and Red Cedar. Continued taking another left hand branch half a mile, deep swamp on one hand and an extensive marsh on other. We entered a pretty lake, about three miles in length and above a mile wide, on high hills on the opposite side we had a view of Berresford Plantation. Crossed over the lake, went to the house, having a letter to his lordship’s agent, who being at home received me very civilly. Next day I spent in examining this place, the situation is high, 40 or 50 feet above the surface of the lake, the soil is pretty good, a greyish sandy mold, yellow and red clay under; the high land produces the best crops of Indigo, and Corn. Of any yet on the river, and is the upper house on the river. Here is the largest Indian mound I have yet seen in Florida, having a long wide causey leading from it into the Pine Forest, lake as to M’. Royal, I walked above a mile along it where it insensibly terminated in the open level pine forests. Visited a very amazing large spring that boils up from between high sand hills, and immediately forms a large and very swift stream, of the clearest water, about 20 Yards wide and ten and twelve feet deep; it runs almost a direct course 400 or 500 yards and discharges its transparent waters into the river, carrying its sea green color near 100 yards into the river, there are multitudes of beautiful fish resort into it, such as Garr, Trout, Mullet, Catfish, three or four species of Bream and alligators, all which appear as plain as if we had them in hand though eight and ten feet deep in the water. The water is very warm, has a very disagreeable vitriolic taste and smells horridly of Sulphur. My companion not choosing to go any higher up the river, and I finding the season rather too early for flowers or seeds, and being apprehensive of missing my opportunity to Appalache, thought it best to return to the lower store, and pay this country another visit after my return from little St. Juane, so next day early in the morning, and having shipped a passenger, we had three hands, two to row, and I steered, this night we got to the store near forty miles. Stayed here all night, one of the men stayed here, and the other continued with me to Mt. Royal, we got down to mouth of the river where it enters the great lake, but we found the lake so rough and the wind so much against us we reckoned it dangerous to venture in it so we laid by, at a little hammock of high land, hoping the wind to lull before night but it blew very hard all night and so continued next day but we pushed out, and endeavored to cross. Found the lake so rough were obliged to put back ‘till towards the evening, ventured out again though the wind hard ahead, got a few miles round east side of the lake. We were forced to put ashore in the sedge, hauled our vessel up as high as possible and encamped in the thickets about 200 yards off. The wind increased in the night with rain, and rise the lake very high, found our canoe in the Morning knocked up in the grass and almost full of water. However we got off again and with great difficulty and danger coasted round the lake, ten or fifteen Miles. Came to camp on a high sandy bank, the land round the east side of this lake is generally pine land, sometimes a small stripe of oak hammock, some narrow swamps, and a narrow verge of grassy marsh next the Water, but the west side much better land. This night the bad weather broke up and next morning with a gentle favorable gale we got over the lake and by night got to Mt. Royal. And the next day I got safe down to the lower store.
[end volume 1]
Sir, being desirous of doing everything that may tend towards the illustration of natural knowledge, I am glad of this opportunity by your aid and encouragement, of extending my researches into Florida. I shall therefore with the highest sense of pleasure, for your particular amusement proceed, and endeavour to exhibit to your notice the natural productions of these countries as they offer to my view in the plain simple dress of Nature; since by doing this I shall not only have an opportunity of exercising the noble virtue of gratitude, but shall have an opportunity of knowing the merit of my labors.
Being informed by Mr. Mt Latchy of a company of traders going to Little St. Juane River which runs into the Bay of Apalache on the west coast of Isthmus of Florida, I most willingly agreed to join company with these people; who were going to an Indian town on that river in order to treat with the Indians concerning some effects belonging to the traders that the Indians had lately seized.
We set off early in the morning, four of us in company, but did not travel fast. The first part of the road being very bad, our pack horses could not travel fast, got about thirty miles, and came to camp on high sand hills by long pond. The mosquitoes were extremely troublesome. Got very little rest. Set off in the morning as early as we could get away, having the horses to hunt up and pack, some of which were up to their backs in the water of the lake where they were feeding on water grass which all cattle are fond of, thrusting their heads down under water to bite off the tender jointed stalks, through the grass rises a foot or eighteen inches above the surface of the water so that at a small distance, the lake looks like a fine green meadow where perhaps there is four and five feet water. We continued three or four miles through spacious Pine Forests diversified with green grassy hills, flowery Savannahs, and beautiful ponds and little lakes; about these hills I first observed a very singular and beautiful little shrub which spread its slender branches round about flat on the ground, they being loaded with fine purple stellated flowers which were succeeded by seeds enclosed in prickly capsules or burrs. We now came into the road to Alachua Savanna and shortly afterwards our company divided, one of the traders having business with the Indians at Cuscowilla. I went with the party through the savannah, being desirous to see this beautiful place at all seasons of the year. Late afternoon we got to the savanna, found the waters greatly diminished and a universal verdure appeared over the whole plain. We went almost a straight course through it to the other end, a great part of the way the ground was hard and almost dry, as level as a floor, covered with the richest green pasture. What an extensive prospect! What an unconfined display of liberty and freedom, numerous herds of fat cattle, of deer, browsing or rolling on beds of ease and plenty, and squadrons of fleet Seminole horse, who never yet felt the weight of the collar or the galling chains of servitude. If he submits to the short constraint of the bridle and bit, he exults in an opportunity of shewing his lord the fierce Floridian, his superiority of strength and swiftness over his brother courser, and participates in the pleasure with his master. After passing over this grand illuminated scene we entered a dark thicket of orange groves, Live Oak, Magnolia at the end of the savannah; continued about a mile, then about a mile distance of open green meadows and dark woody copses or old field; alternately we come into pine forests. Rise higher land and continued about a mile over a higher ridge of pine, and pretty tall Red Oak mixed and abundance of low grape vines, the soil a pale reddish or brown coarse sand mixed with pieces of white and greyish coarse limestone with pieces and impressions of seashells; there is a bed of this sort of rock under all, some places four or five feet and eight or ten feet below the surface of the land, according to the situation, as on the tops of the hill these beds and masses of rock are nearer the surface and frequently rise above the surface, sometimes three or four feet; in various directions sometimes they stand nearly edgeways and thrusting up their points; sometimes large round or oblong holes perforated through as if worn through, by the force of water. Some places these masses of rocks lie flat or horizontal, heaped one on another as if so placed by the hand of man, but seems to be the effect of time and revolution, in the order of nature. The land now descends a little, we came to camp under cover of a grove of oaks, on a high hill, close by the edge of an extensive and beautiful savannah, nine or ten miles in length and three or four wide, near the middle was a beautiful piece of water which sinks down in holes and chasms amongst rocks in a cove of the savannah just by our camp surrounded by hills. Here were two or three large holes or sinks through rocks, on the green level shore a little above the present sink, in these holes was extremely clear water, which seemed to be level, with the water of the savannah. In these holes and in the sinks were abundance of fish, Trout and Bream which appeared very plain, the water being so clear. I tried to catch some with the hook and line, but they would not take the bait. Having walked over these pleasant green hills and savanahs, returned to camp. The evening being extremely pleasant, a healthy breeze was wafted over the plain from Orange Groves on the other side, mixed with a very agreeable musk, played about us, and kept the mosquitoes off. I shall here take notice that in the pine forests of Carolina and Florida, in the cool of the evening just before sunset a most agreeable musk fills the air; but what it proceeds from, no one could ever give me a satisfactory account, some tell me it is the alligator, and some again says it arises from the hoof of the buck but it seems to me to be more mild and agreeable than what proceeds from either of these. I am inclined to believe it is produced from a certain pretty little plant which I find growing abundantly in savannahs amidst the pine forests, whose flowers whilst fresh smell of the most agreeable musk, so extremely volatile and transient that it ceases to emit the smell quickly after it is cropped, so that this extraordinary plant seems rather to breathe forth a most agreeable musky vapor. This night our two companions joined us.
Arose early at the call of the watchful Watula, whose musical voice rings through the forests, calling up the drowsy feathered inhabitants of the grove, and proclaims the majesty of the rising sun. I take a view of the cheerful savannah, and proceed on our journey.
We now rise higher, ridges of land all covered with a delightful verdure, decorated with numerous flowering plants: varieties of sunflowers, Phlox, Cistus plant, beautiful purple Ixia and a variety of plants not yet seen, saw frequently white shelly rocks rising above the surface of the earth, whereabouts grows Anona, Erythrina, grape vine, very tall Opuntia breeding Cochaniel. These hills and plains are thinly planted with very tall stately long leaved pine, admitting an extensive prospect over the hills; presenting to view on all sides little ponds and lakes which are decorated roundabout with little groves of oaks and orange trees; a very lively and healthy breeze plays through these open pine forests. Passed two or three miles over low level pine land, seemed to be a shallow pond. In wet weather, as the pines are small shrubby and very thinly planted with frequent patches of evergreen Andromed. Gall bays, the grass thin and parch, the soil a hard sterile white sand, we now rise sand hills again, several miles gradually ascending. The hills were now very rocky, large masses of the coarse greyish and white shelly limestone, on a poor sandy barren soil. The timber very thin and shrubby, small pine, black jacks, short anona and abundance of that little curious Procumbent shrub bearing purple star flowers with burrs. This is the highest land I have seen in east Florida, and here we have a view of a vast extended, level country which look far below us, extensive pine forests, savannahs, and ponds. We continued a mile or two and came to a very extensive shallow pond surrounded by grassy plains on a hard poor white sandy bottom, the grass thin tall hard and disagreeable food but the pond an extensive piece of water and seems entirely surrounded by barren sand hills. This place is called the General’s Pond, from General Oglethorp, who met here all the Creek Chiefs with their Confederates, of the lower creek towns, at a general Congress.
At this pond, on account of the drought and excessive heat, we were obliged to stop to rest and water our horses, went to the pond to get drink but found the water so very hot and disagreeably turbid, and slimy, and almost in a state of fermentation, from the dead and rotting grass and plants, owing to the excessive heat and drought of the season, and could not find trees sufficient to shade me from the burning heat of the air.
Towards the evening we again set on our journey and continued, four or five miles, passing over barren sand hills and now we gradually descend for a mile or two, passed by some ponds and extensive savannahs, very good pine forests, we came to a pretty steep descent, down the side of sandy rocky ridges, and now we left the barren highlands of the Istmouse, high I mean comparatively, with respect to the general level low country of east Florida, and from the top of this last ridge (which is lower than what we passed a few miles) we have a very agreeable and vastly extensive country beneath and we look over the forests and meadow spreading away westward before us; when we descended the ridge and came on the level we passed near two miles through low wet gale bays, here and there knolls or low ridges of somewhat higher land covered with large patches of low palmettos, scrub Oaks, little dwarf olive leafed oaks, and good large tall pine and Cypress Trees with intervals of tall grassy meadows and savannahs. Came to a large wet savannah covered with tall excellent sweet grass, rise higher pine land, on our left a large deep swamp where grew abundance of very tall stately Cypress Trees, with Althea Florida, Nyssa, Red bay, Ash, Elm, Water Oak, Palm Trees; continued passing over middling high level pine forests, bearing very large timber, the soil a reddish and dark brown sand, with small pieces of limestone, the surface of the earth, well covered with a very good kind of grass, excellent food for cattle; passed by numbers of deep holes in the earth of the shape of a funnel, some thirty or forty yards in circumference, some less, some much larger, of various depths, some seemingly half full of water, and others dry, and overgrown with grass and weeds, which are often surrounded with homacks of Evergreen Oak, Bay, Magnolia call Laurel tree, groves of Palm trees, which look very agreeable at a distance, as they are placed generally round about and in the middle of vast savannahs or meadows, and appear like little Islets sprinkled over these vast and boundless meadows and plains, and these holes are or have been sinks, water passages through the rocky bed of this country, and strainers to carry off the superfluous waters of the surface of this part of the country of Florida instead of brooks or running streams; it’s remarkable that, there is not one brook or stream to be seen in this part of this country from the great Alachua Savanna to the River St. Juane near the bay of Appalatchua. There is a bed of limestone rock which lays commonly four or five feet under the surface of the earth, and this bed of rock may be about fifteen or twenty feet deep. Through this where we find these sinks or holes, are perpendicular tubes or wells as round and smooth inside as the neatest walled well, which seems to have been so worn and perforated by the action of the water, which at first finding cracks or small fissures in the softer part of the rocks have in length of time formed these vast natural wells. There are often numbers of these tubes or wells in a cluster, which are worn or broke one into another, forming one vast well, excavated or fluted with semicircular niches resembling a round hole made through a honeycomb; and it is under this bed of rocks on a bed of clay the water, brooks and rivers find a passage or communication, with greater rivers, having had sundry opportunities of examining such of these sinks that were nearly dry, where I could see the passage under the bed of rock. It is not uncommon in this country to see the waters breaking or gushing out of the earth in such inundations as to cover the country for many leagues, rushing through the forests, tearing up trees, earth and rocks, carrying all before the mighty torrent ‘till finding other old sinks in its way, plunges into the earth, forming a new temporary river until finding a new hidden passage, disappears suddenly, what a strange delusion, how fabulous this appears, yet it is most true, having seen some of these old dry beds of rivers many miles in length and a great width and depth, and traced them from the place where they made the eruption out of the earth to the end where they plunged in again. And have seen others that have happened very lately; the innumerable funnel like holes everywhere seen in the forests all over this part of Florida which are dry and overgrown with grass and herbage, have been sinks and formerly waters as described above; and being left dry are filling up by the earth and trash washing into them by rains and winds.
As these vast funnel shaped holes, natural wells, or sinks as they are termed here, have a very singular appearance, and have not heard of anything like to them in any other country, I thought it worth your notice, and for that end have endeavored to give a true idea of them by a description of their natural and simple appearance; although the cause and design of them appear evident, yet I am not capable of entering into the various dark mazes in the progress of nature, and will detain you no longer on my notions of this subject. We passed by a large round sink about twenty yards diameter, observed a prodigious large alligator basking on the brink, he plunged in at my near approach, and disappeared. Continued over a pleasant well-timbered grassy pine forest. Come to camp by the side of a wet savannah near a pond; it being not yet sunset and observing a dark hammock of Oaks at some distance, I went to it with one of our party in hopes of seeing some bear and deer; this grove was very extensive, the trees were Live Oak, Water Oak, chestnut leaved white Oak, Morus, Tilea, Elm, Magnolia great Laurel Tree, Magnol. Glauca, Carpinus, Anona, Halesia, Ptelea, Calicarpia, Sambucus. Herbaceous Plants, Upatorium, Lobelia different species, Aristalocha, Urtica, Pyrola, Asters, Phasiolus, Vitia, Arum, especially the great Dragon. Could discover no new genera. The soil very fertile, a dark black mold on a limestone rock. We went through to a pint of higher land where I observed there had been a dwelling place; observed some posts standing and old field, corn ridges and hillocks all overgrown with saplings, the traders informed me some years ago a spaniard dwelt here who kept a large stock of cattle, was killed by the Indians and his whole stock drove off by them, and from thence the Indians began to keep stocks amongst them. Returned to camp, and made a repast on cranes and rice. These birds are middling good eating, make a stew or soup. Here we found excellent food for our horses, got away early in the morning, passing through extensive pine forests, affording excellent timber and grass range, went over green open plains, here observed a very elegant species of Mimosa, grows low, the leaves and stalks spreading on the ground amongst short green grass. It has no prickles. At touching the leaves they close together immediately, and fall flat on the ground, they send up from the joints a peduncle six or eight inches in length headed by an oblong tuft of floscule having large yellow apices. They are of various colors, some heads are of a deep crimson rose color, yellow and white as snow, the flowers have an agreeable scent of a damask rose with a little musk, these vast open grassy plains, in the morning presents a very cheerful aspect till towards mid-day, when their beauty fades, they wither, and are no longer conspicuous, but then the next morning brings to view a new succession of gay Inhabitants and the plains assume a new scene of gayety and joy, about noon we came to a vast extensive savannah having a pond or lake in the middle reckoned nine or ten miles long. This savannah is nearly surrounded with Hummocky Land. We went through part of it, and crossed the lower end over a vast green meadow, finely painted with plats of the beautiful Mimosa, intermixed with other flowers of various colors, particularly a fine plant, a tall Veronica Spicata. We now came into a great hammock of high land of somewhat uneven surface, alternately little knolls, of high groves, and extensive green plains or old fields diversified with copeses or Islets of Live Oak, Palm trees and great Magnolia, little ponds and dry sinks. We continued thus six or seven miles, gently descending a green level vale, flowered over with the Mimosa, on each side a range of little hills and groves of Oaks, Laurel, Palm trees. Frequently open on either hand views of other green plains and vales, very extensive and ornamented with groves. These little hills and groves are frequently stony, with limestone rock rising a little above the surface of the ground, and generally surround holes or sinks in some of which we find very good clear water. In some are abundance of fish such as Trout, Bream and Alligators. Some are dry, and some seem almost filled up. Now we enter a level forest of short leafed Pine mixed with red and black Oak, Red bay, Water Oak, passed by some grassy savannahs and shallow cypress ponds thus two or three miles, rise a little and went about a mile through level Pine land mixed with red Oak, the soil a loose grayish sand two or three feet deep, then a stiff yellow or red Clay, arrived in the evening at the little Town Talahasochte on the banks of Little St. Juane River, computed to be upwards of sixty miles nearly westward of Cuscowela. This little town consists of about twenty houses, and contains seventy or eighty souls.
We went to the trader’s house, which was torn almost to pieces. Soon after we were visited by an ancient chief of the town and soon after by a number of the inhabitants; the old man informed our trader that immediately after he left the town, the young men concluding that, from so sudden and private a flight from amongst them, and carrying all most all his effects away, the talk must in consequence be very bad, between them and the white people, they proceeded immediately to break open the house, and carried off all they could find but that the old men had prevailed on them to deliver them up until they should be informed certainly how the talks were, and that as soon as the White King came home (who was then out a hunting) he did not doubt, most part would be restored, and he further said that they were greatly surprised and afflicted on account of the bad disposition of the Nation; declaring they themselves were innocent, and knew nothing of any harm against the whites, that they loved us as their brethren, and were sensible they could not live but must perish without our friendship and assistance. Bid us be easy and contented, and that they would all die to a man before any of us should be hurt. The old seer went home to his house and shortly after sent us some venison broth, bears oil and a turkey and was soon after invited to a house where we had a repast of broiled venison, dry bear meat, honey and thin drink, a sort of gruel made of corn flower and hickory nut oil and water boiled together. Returned to our house in the evening when soon the ancient Chief with sundry other men came to us to smoke in the pipe with us; at night they all returned and left us alone.
Next morning we were visited by the Indians who were very good humored, expressing the highest satisfaction at our visit, went to several other houses where we were well treated. This day I spent in excursions round about the town and the banks of the river. Returned in evening to the house, several hunting parties of Indians came in loaded with venison, bear meat and honey. We were informed the White King chief of this settlement was coming in. At night a large fire was kindled in the middle of the square, which was soon surrounded by Indians dancing and singing. We soon heard the drum beat in the square and a messenger came to invite us to eat bear ribs and honey, it being the King’s treat, having killed some bear. They never eat the ribs when out but bring them to the town, where they make a feast in the square to the warriors and hunters; we accordingly repaired to the square where the men were assembling. They made way for us and placed us near, where the barbecued ribs were served up in large platters or wooden bowls in one of the chief houses of the square. We had kettles of honey and water, with a great wooden family spoon in each kettle, everyone in turn took a sup or quaff, discoursing of cheerful subjects as he liked, as hunting adventure, joking, news of love, intrigues. The youth and young fellows dancing, singing and wrestling about the fire, when everyone seemed satisfied with eating and drinking, we retired to the fire, where the King appeared and joined us, in a circle seated round about the fire. The youth ceased their jollity, and withdrew at some distance; the men pass the pipe about the ring, and discourse of more serious affairs with the greatest gravity and decorum. The King received us with great seeming satisfaction and joy and being informed of our business, by our trader, he expressed the warmest wishes and hopes of the store being settled again in his town, declaring how wretched they would be if the white people withdrew their friendship and protection from their town. The King went home; we returned to the feast, and after taking another whet at the bear ribs and talked over the news of the times, broke up in peace and mirth, everyone taking his steps as his inclination led him, the old chief who was their priest or conjurer, carried off the remains of the victuals and retired. I continued for some time in the square, ‘till the youth broke up their dancing and mirth.
The next morning having got a canoe of one of the Indians, we went fishing in the river for Trout, in about an hour’s time we took above twenty, we returned and overtook an Indian who with his wife and child had been fishing, they were deep loaded with fish. We returned in the evening, I walked about two miles to the Indian plantation; where the whole town plants in one great field, I suppose containing about twenty acres, all planted with corn, pumpkins, water melons, beans, peas, squash, and some rice and potatoes; the traders being employed in hunting up their horses. I endeavored to get an opportunity to go down to the river to the mouth, hoping to make some discoveries there and desired our Interpreter to mention it to the Indians; he did, the Chief answered that as there had lately been murder committed thereabouts on some white people, and this matter not yet being cleared, the nation having lately forbid the white people travelling on that coast, and that he could not answer for any mischief that might befall us from any hunting parties that frequently visit this part of Florida from the nation.
However, next morning having borrowed a canoe of some of the Indians under color of going to fish, I made a trip of about six or seven miles down the river, having visited a very great and most beautiful fountain or spring which boils up from between the hills about three hundred yards from the river, throwing up great quantities of white small pieces of shells and white shell rock which, glittering through the limped element as they rise to the surface, subside and fall again round about on every side; the basin of the fountain is nearly round and about one hundred yards in circumference, the banks round about of a moderate steep assent covered with broken white shell, and the water gradually deepens to the center of the fountain, where it is many fathoms deep, the fountain is full of fish and alligators and at a great depth in the water appear as plain as if they were close at hand. The creek that runs from this immense fountain is above twenty yards wide and runs very swift into the river, carrying its sea green transparent waters near one hundred yards across the river, the depth of the water of the creek ten or twelve feet—where we see a continual concourse of fish of various kinds such as Garr, Catfish, Mullet, Trout, Bream of various species, Silverfish, and Pike, and the monstrous amphibious Maneta: a skeleton of which I saw on the bank, of the spring, which the Indians had lately killed. The Indians kill them for food, are esteemed good eating: the grinding teeth were about one inch in diameter. The ribs about three inches in diameter in the thickest part and eighteen inches in length, very solid bone and ponderous. The hills that nearly encompassed the spring were about fifteen or twenty yards in height next the river but the land falls away considerably from the top of the hills and becomes a lower flat or nearly level forest of Pine, Oak, Bay, Magnolia and Cabbage Trees. The soil of the hills a loose greyish sandy mold on shelly and limestone rocks. The water of the spring cool and agreeable to drink. The Indians and traders say this fountain vents the waters of the great Alachua Savannah. Observed growing on shoal pints and shores of the spring large patches of very luxuriant Water Cresses, bearing beautiful clusters of sweet white flowers, but had no more taste than the water. The vegetables I observed growing about this place, were the great Magnolia called by the Inhabitants of Carolina and Florida Laurel, by the Indians, Tolo chlucco or big Bay, Red Bay, Ehto Mico or King Tree, Purple berried Bay Catesby Live Oak, hickory, Water Oak, Ilex, Ptelia, Halesia, Calicarpa. Lycium, Ledum, Andromeda. Plants, Urtica, Helianthos, Eupatorium, Aristalochia, Asarebecca, Uvularia, Solidago. But observed no new genera. We left this beautiful fountain, and continued a few miles down the river, where it began to widen. Here seemed to appear vast rich swamps adjoining this river. I could not prevail with the man to go any further, for fear of meeting with Indians and offending the town so we returned to the town, having taken in our way a great number of fine trout. This day the traders had a conference with the Indians at the Square concerning some horses they had, amongst them the Indian, having obtained leave to hunt among their stock. The next morning I went with them horse hunting. We crossed the river at the town, where it is about three hundred yards over, we continued a mile and half up the river bank, through pretty high level swamp land producing vast large tall and straight Cypress Trees, Tupilo, and that very singular tree, that seems to be a species of Tupilo, bearing vast quantities of fruit nearly of the shape and size of the olive somewhat compressed, of a fine crimson scarlet and orange color, when ripe containing a pleasant sharp acid juice, sometimes used to make punch, and are called wild Lemons, and makes a very beautiful appearance. I observed in this swamp another very singular and elegant evergreen shrub. But being too early for the flower, can’t form any judgment of its tribe or family; we rise a little and enter the pine forests. We followed the trading path about four miles, came to a great hammock the Traders say twelve or fifteen miles in extent. Observed in three or four miles going abundance of old fields, diversified with small hammocks and groves of Live Oak, Laurel, Palm trees, Grape Vines and with ponds and holes of water. We went by an ancient settlement in these old fields and meadows, I suppose Spanish as there were some posts standing and ditches, corn hills and ridges. We continued some miles through thickets, observed limestone rocks in the hammocks and round the holes of water. We entered an extensive green meadow, saw gangs of cattle and horses, amongst these were the horses our traders were in quest off, having driven up the horses, turkeys and deer in these fields and meadows, shot some turkeys and continued along. Drove through a large savannah and pond, the water shallow, took notice of a abundance large snail shells round about on the shore, some half as big as my fist and on examination found multitudes of them in the mud and slush at the bottom of the pond, in the savannah. They breed here in prodigious numbers, fixing their spawn or ovule in clusters round about bull Rushes! Reeds and sticks in the water, two or three hundred in a cluster. They are perfectly round, of the size of pea, the shell thin hard and brittle, they look clear like pearls. These vast periwinkles or snail are bred in vast numbers in the muddy shores of this river and Great St. Juane, insomuch that the rushes, reeds, sticks and trees near the waters are white, being almost covered with their eggs, a foot or eighteen inches above the water, and afford food for fish and young alligators, and we got safe over the river with our horses, and at night joined the Indians in the square where the youth were merry, singing and dancing round the fire. These people spending a great part of their time in feasting and dancing. A Seminole comes in from the chase, he lays his game down before his hywah and throws himself on his bearskin spread for him under the shade, in the evening, his friends repair to his repast, sings and dances over his war and hunting exploits ‘till tired, falls asleep; in the night he awakes, stretches himself along on his back, sings himself to sleep again, thus they divide their time. I took an excursion with the traders about twelve or fifteen miles up the river, we come to camp by the side of a large hammock facing an extensive green meadow, at night some Indians came to our camp, we purchased a deer of them, giving them some rice for it, after some time they left us, mounted their sprightly active Seminoles, started off whooping and singing through the extended savannah. We soon lost sight of them, the next day finding some horses, returned to town, where we continued two or three days waiting the arrival of some Indians who had some horses belonging to us; the Indians arrived and settling matters with them on the best terms we could, set off back again for the store at great St. Juane. Our company went on to camp about fifteen miles off except the chief trader, who to oblige me we continued together another road that passed through a vast barren plain of many miles in extent, in the middle was a very extensive savannah and pond. We rode over a very barren tract, encumbered with sandy limestone. Came to the sink of the pond which was holes and chasms in rocks. The waters of the ponds on account of the excessive dry hot season had retired from the upper holes and sinks, the ground being almost dry round about, these holes were full of clear and very cool water, and full of fish and alligators. I could plainly see other sinks and holes amongst rocks at some distance from shore. Out in the pond where abundance of alligators resorted. We left this place, directing our course through the savannah for our camp, past over large masses of flat rock, the earth sounding hollow under our feet as if riding over hollow vaults. We met an Indian and his wife and family who were traveling towards the towns from a hunt. They had several horses, some packet with skins, meat and honey. The Indian with the greatest complaisance and civility bestowed on us a bag of honey, which we carried to camp. We soon ascended very high hilly pine forest, large timber and the earth covered with a cheerful verdure, and from these high hills I had a most endless open prospect of the plains and savannah we had left. We continued through open pleasant pine forests which became very level, passed by savannahs, abundance of large rocky wells and sinks with very good cool water, surrounded and shaded with pleasant groves of Live Oak, Magnolia, Bay, Palm Trees, Persimmons, Nyssa, Halesia, Ptlea. Towards the evening came to camp, where our people were already arrived and fix the camp by the side of a large grove, at the upper end of the long pond; we were detained here some days longer in search of their horses. This time I endeavored to employ to some advantage in exploring the country round about this lake and making my remarks. This day all the hunters went out and left me to keep camp; our place was situated very agreeably by the grove close to the vast extensive savannah: I left the dog to watch camp, took my gun, and traveled round to the far point of this high grove, walking miles over the richest, green flowery carpet that is possible for fancy to conceive, intermixed and wrought by nature with a thousand different flowers of various colors, a vast watery plain in the middle sparkling- through the groves and jetting points. This savannah is computed to be about ten miles in length and four or five wide, scarcely a tree or bush to be seen in it, but above twice that extent including other smaller savannahs and meadows dependent on it and separated by grove hammocks, and old fields, so that for thirty or forty miles round we traveled through these meadows, and groves. Returned to camp in evening, having discovered some pretty plants. Soon after some Indians came to camp, brought some Venison, they asked me some questions, which puzzled me a little, but I understood they wanted to know where the trader was gone and I had Indian enough to tell them they were gone hours hunting, which seemed to satisfy them, they left the venison and rode off. Soon after our people returned and the Indians with them. The next day the traders, having some business at the town, invited me along with them, we sat off early in the cool of the morning and in less than three hours got to town. The Indians received us very affectionately, feasting us on the best they had.
Towards the cool of the evening we returned again to camp. On our way we saw a company of Indians at camp over a meadow. They were reposing themselves under the shadow of spreading oaks and palm trees, in a little grove which was open to an extensive green savannah and pond. These were seven likely young Seminole fellows all elegantly dressed and painted after the Indian fashions with plumes and coronet on their heads; they were stretched out on their mantles spread on the shady green under a wide spreading live oak and their wenches at some distance cooking. Though these were all young fellows, they seemed to be under the conduct of one amongst them who was elder, and affected a somewhat more grave and serious air and deportment. They told us they were in pursuit of an Indian fellow, who had lately carried off this young chief’s wench, from their town, their flight was to avoid being cropped, which is the punishment for the crime of adultery amongst these people (a most savage custom indeed). However if the delinquents escape and keep out of the way until the Busque, their annual grand feast of firstfruits, is past, they save their ears; and they may safely return to the town, and no questions asked about the matter.
It is however difficult to escape this rigorous punishment for, as moral behavior seems to be a principle in their system of government and polity, and perhaps no people under the sun has more perfect and refined notions of the nobler virtues, than these wild Americans. The ancients of the people well considering that any violation of these sacred fundamentals of their constitution not only reflects on their wisdom but weakens their power and influence; and the relations of the delinquents, to wipe away the stain of infamy from their families, readily join in the cause of virtue, and exert their utmost power, in discovering the criminals that they may be punished.
They welcomed us in their manner. That is, are you come, sit down. They soon fell into discourse with the traders inquiring the news, and talks, and soon joined in familiar subjects, very merry and jocose, sung war, and love songs and passing the pipe about. Such a company of handsome young fellow, I hardly ever saw together.
The young Chief was tall, rather above the middle size, had a lofty and fierce countenance, his eyes lively and piercing, his nose Aquiline, his mouth large but so formed as to give an engaging smile in conformity with all his features, his limbs well turned and of exact proportion, his motions when talking easy, free and without the least constraints. His head was shaved smooth all except a crest of hair left about an Inch long, which was cut in a circular form from the crown reaching to the back part of his head. All his head that was shaven and his neck to his shoulders painted with Vermilion, his crest black and shone like a raven, his head was adorned with a diadem or coronet of furs, which encircled his temples and went round just over the top of his forehead, curiously wrought with beads, and on the fore part of it waved, a high plume of white heron feathers, he had a large silver gorget on his breast, and a silver mirror and cross. The rest were elegantly dressed and painted, with coronets wrought ingeniously of split quills dyed of different colors and plumes of blue heron feathers. They had red and blue mantles or match coats, fringed or laced, performed by their wives. After smoking and conversing awhile, we left them and returned to camp, on our way one of the traders said he could shew me a fine spring of excellent water in the rocks. Presently we came to a little grove, went into it. in the middle of this grove was a vast well, curiously fluted or hollowed round about the inside from top to bottom, it was near twenty feet perpendicular down to the water and the rocks being broken away on one side we descended by sort of irregular steps to the water. The water was very cool and pleasant, we got up again but not without difficulty, the rocks being rotten and moldering away under our feet. And was glad when I was up and thought myself safe again; observed on one side of me just by my feet, dark cracks in the earth, and the dirt to fall in. I gave a kick with my foot, and drove the mound into a large deep perpendicular well. Got a pole and worked away the earth round about the mouth, this well was about five feet in diameter, round and smooth wrought through a rock, could see the water shining at the bottom, about twenty feet deep, got late to camp, but had a pleasant ride, the evening being cool and the moon shining very bright. the vast tall pines cast a dark shadow, and beautifully checkered and clouded over the green plains and savannahs; The dark groves and clumps of trees, rising up to view, on every side, exhibited a pleasing visionary scene. Yet being enveloped in an almost endless savage wilderness, at intervals damped my spirits, with a kind of gloomy horror. We perceived our fire at camp.
I took a rout with the trader about fifteen miles up the river, rode seven or eight miles, passing over savannahs and open forests. We ascended high sand hills from whence we had a view of extensive green plains and savannahs. Passed by a large rocky sink at one side of the savannah, the water even with the surface of the savannah, very clear and cool, grown roundabout with willow trees. This large sink was full of fish and alligators. crossed over part of the plain, entered a pine forest, and presently opened a very extensive green grassy vale about a mile wide, and in length extended beyond our view but made a bend to the right hand and partly shut up by a long point of high pine groves that projected into it at the lower end of this vale. Where we come into it was a prodigious deep funnel shaped hole surrounded by high sand hills, except on that side next the vale. Here was large spreading live oaks grew round about the top of hills and shaded the water in the sink, which was dark and black but very cool and full of fish, trout and bream.
This sink is called by the Indians and traders the Alligator Hole from a prodigious large alligator that has lived here from time immemorial. The high hills on each side the vale meet here and nearly surround the sink; at a small distance on one side near the hills observed some deep wells through the rock. I was greatly pleased to see this place. As that was the receptacle of a prodigious deluge of waters which about seven or eight months ago, made an eruption out of the earth, at the upper end of this vale, overflowing the level pine forest all around for many miles, which at length found a passage down this vale, tearing up the earth, trees and rocks, for eight or ten miles, leaving deep gullies and holes through the middle of this vale, a track that may remain conspicuous for many ages. Being at last stopped in in its course by these hills, found a vent in these holes, and shortly afterwards disappeared. The trader with me was an eye witness of this, being present and very near when the eruption happened: he said he was affrighted by an unusual sudden rushing noise which he compared to a violent storm when he saw at some distance the water boiling and rising high and furiously out of the earth and was almost immediately surrounded with the waters which he saw covering the earth around him, when he thought it high time to betake himself to flight, directing his course to their camp which was at the alligator hole, above described, and soon after his arrival there, the waters appeared coming down the vale, which was presently overflowed, and filled up to the sides off the hills, which too he soon left for the town, thinking really that the dissolution of nature was at hand. This account was confirmed to me by other traders and the Indians at the town. Afterward, by being an eyewitness of its indelible tracks, we returned next day down another extensive green open plain ornamented and diversified with groves, extensive ponds and sinks, where were almost constantly in sight of gangs of deer, turkeys, cranes, herons, and varieties of other fowl.
This night our camp was alarmed by an alligator. One of the men getting up in the night observed him approaching. He soon alarmed us. They diverted themselves by torturing the unhappy monster. By heaving fire brands in his eyes, which enraged him and made him swell and roar terribly, they cut saplings and rained down his throat which he easily reached out of their hands, but they at last overcome him and killed him by such sort of torture. I am apt to believe that, he had no intention of attacking us but was passing from one pond to another, which they frequently do, and are often killed in these excursions. For although, these monsters are so very dangerous, and by their strength and swiftness in the water, almost invincible. Yet when on dry land and some distance from the water, their strength and activity fails, they may be taken and destroyed.
Before I leave off in treating of this part of Florida, beg leave to observe that about this part of the river of Little St. Juane appears to be a very proper and important place for a settlement and very necessary to strengthen a communication with the province of west Florida; this river is large and navigable, a great ways up, and the clearest and finest water I have seen in this province, prodigiously replenish with a variety of excellent river fish. The land on its banks fertile and remarkably well timbered with cypress and vast pine forest of as large a growth as any I have ever seen, and no country can well exceed it for extensive savannahs and range for cattle. The Indigo plant grows so plenty and luxuriant, that the planters have only the trouble of cutting away the trees and stir up the soil. I have seen the greatest quantity of rich Iron ore in these hills near this river that I have ever seen, of the species call bog ore, and the greatest plenty of stone, for building with, and there is a great likelihood of other valuable minerals, in this unknown country.
We broke up our camp here and in three days traveling returned to the store, having collected some valuable specimens of new plants by the way.
Some days after my arrival at the store, I began my second trip up St. John’s River, I prepared my little vessel fit for the voyage, and procured company to assist me over the great lake. We set off in two canoes, got to Mt. Royal where we stayed this night and next morning pushed out early into the lake; the wind rising very fresh, we put into a large swift tuning creek, that come from a vast spring five or six miles up to it, finding the wind to rise there was little probability of our crossing the lake, I prevailed upon my companion to continue up the creek, the water at the mouth of the creek and some distance in the lake was warm and of a sea green color, but as we continued up; it became warmer and extremely transparent, and diffused about us a very disagreeable smell. When we came towards the head. The creek widened, the water became very shallow and so full of water grass we could hardly by any means push through it, wet yet at last came to the head of the creek, an immense fountain four or five hundred yards over were a great number of boiling holes throwing the water up in prodigious ebullitions, where it was a great depth and in these holes the water looked of the color of the sky above, and so exceedingly transparent could see the fish, alligators and turtle as plain as if they had been in our hands; I continued somewhat higher up to the principle fountain which, boiled up in an incredible manner out of the chasms of deep rock between two steep high hills.
I landed near this place, and spent some time in traversing these hills and forests. Beyond them observed some curious shrubs and plants, some of their roots and seeds I procured, and sent down to the store by the return of the boat that came with me. This evening we sat off and returned down the creek and by sunset got to the mouth again where we found a good harbor and took up camp, next day we got to the upper store, where we staid all night. Next morning took leave of my companion and continued up the river alone, the wind a head and tired, got about eight miles, and was obliged to take up camp at the little Alligator Island. Went into the lagoon and took some large trout, saw abundance of monstrous alligators gathered about my camp but kept them off by firing. Got off early in the morning and went this day about twelve miles, passing through marshes and swamps, the shore on either hand close to the water’s edge most richly adorned with the gayest vegetables. The great Rose Hibiscus, The most elegant crimson hibiscus, that rises tall above all plants, spreading into innumerable branches forming a pyramidal top larger than some trees, bearing multitudes of vast crimson flowers, so resplendent when the sun shines upon it in the morning the eye can’t behold it without injury to the sight. The smaller flowered Rose Hibiscus clothed in the morning with an amazing profusion of the richest flowers, the white robed Pancratium filling the air with the most exhilarating fragrance. Behind these rise up to view on higher seats, another order of splendid vegetable: Cephalanthos, Senesio Aboracens, Cornus, Catalpa, the tall aspiring Amaranth, Sambucos, Palma Christa, the Indian Papaya, profusely adorned with garlands of the joyful airy Climbers, As the various Bignonias. Convolvulus of various species and colors, Eupatorium scandens, Phaseoloides, the beautiful climbing shrub Aster, unfolding her purple mantle spreading over the shrubs and trees all about and the Eriel Cucurbita aspiring to the tops of the highest trees. All this reflected on the gentle flowing surface of the river in the morning exhibits an enchanting theatrical scenery. Came too at a high rocky bluff, just below was a very deep and extensive rich swamp which lay between a lagoon off the river, and the high pine land on the side of hills. Next, the swamp was a large orange grove growing over and amongst a prodigious number of heaps of earth and shells, which had the appearance of a burring ground, by the number of Indian sepulchers, and I have since been informed that formerly at this place happened a great and decisive battle between the Creeks and Yamises, when the latter were cut to pieces, and that unhappy nation were never after able to make any head against their conquerors but fled to Augustine his time of the year found the mosquitoes very troublesome, got not a wink of sleep during the night; set off soon in the morning, got about ten miles, passing by vast swamps and marshes on each side the river bank, passing by Islands and floating marshes of Pistia. Persicaria, Sagitaria, Solidago, Aster, Hydracotyle, grasses, all interwoven and matted together forming, vast marshes. The current of the river and winds tearing large pieces off of the shore fill the rver with floating Islands, and in the morning gives this vast river and lake a very singular and entertaining appearance. An abundance of flowering plants on them together with various kinds of bird, such as Jack Daws, Herons, Biterns, Coots, Blackbirds and Sparrows, of which there is a continual concourse flying and swimming from one islet to another, and amongst them are abundance of fish, Trout, Bream, Catfish, and Mullet. Came to camp on a high bank between the swamp and river, being a beautiful high airy bank, covered with green grass under vast tall spreading Palm trees and a vast open high level grassy swamp back of me, thinly planted by nature with groves of tall stately trees, Such as, Ash, Elm, Oak, Hickory, Red Bay, Gleditsia, Maple, and Mulberry. I expected from so high and airy a situation to have eluded the terrible mosquitoes but I was mistaken, for although the wind blew so high they were not able to keep on the wing, they swarmed close to the ground and amongst the grass so that they keep me awake all night. It was to no purpose to make a stake to drive them off as they kept under it close to the earth amongst the grass. Next day about noon got within a mile of Berrisford Plantation when I was forced ashore, in an open marsh by a most dreadful hurricane; and happy it was for me that I did not get up to a woody bluff which I was endeavoring for, as might have been fatal to me, for no sooner had I moored to a bush under the bank of the marsh than I beheld with astonishment and terror the strength and fury of this storm: the crash and wrenching of trees in the woods a little way off of me, trees twisted off by the top and others split to the ground, vast splinters flying like javelin in the air, the tops of the tough yielding hickory bent down into the water, but what is incredible, I beheld the invincible sturdy live oak, yielding to the fury of the tempest, whose firm and almost inflexible limbs, as thick as large trees, twisted off, as flax or dry weeds whirled aloft and floating in the air, This tempest shewed itself first in the west, by a dark bank of murmuring thunder clouds, two or three hours before this terrible invasion, but as it rise the pointed white capped clouds shot up swiftly through the skies, spreading on each side. Clashed by each other, casting a purple glowing flame color over the sky, attended with continual streams of lightning and terrible thunder, and at last these clouds from all points of the horizon, met overhead, and cast an universal darkness all round; it continued to rain and blow incessantly for near two hours; the rain almost filled my canoe and thoroughly wet all my things. After the hurricane abated, I baled my boat and got to the plantation, where I beheld with amazement the devastation of this mighty storm. Almost every house blown away and near twenty of the largest live oaks I had seen, which were left about the houses for shade, were torn up by the roots, and those that stood it out had their tops almost torn to pieces and the limbs lapped to the stump. The Indigo and corn almost destroyed, and the people greatly terrified but by a providential care, and which seemed really miraculous, they escaped unhurt. I was two days here before I got my papers dried and lost some valuable specimens of new plants: but luckily had a duplicate, left behind me at the store, In some days after collecting some valuable roots and seeds, I returned down the river again, Not being able, for want of a hand to assist me any higher up this river. In two days, after I set off again got down to the upper Indian store, observing nothing new by the way, but took up some valuable roots which I planted in a box in my boat. I found at my arrival at the store, a party of Indians, and a trader belonging to the lower store. I got this man to accompany me to the great east lake, which is a part of St. Johns River on the east side, seven or eight miles above the upper store. It is computed at nine or ten miles in length and more, by others it is said to be as long as Lake George; wet set off in the morning, and before night got to a hammock at an orange grove, within the lake, made a large fire to keep off the mosquitoes, the while we were eating supper, two very large bear, we heard wading through the water, they came within twenty yards of us and stood, but seeing us move to get a shot at them, they, went off plunging through the water. We saw them no more, but heard them, coming to another part of the hammock, afterwards, but did not come near to us; returned next day to the store; I made an excursion some miles round about the store, but observed nothing curious. Set off for the lower store, got seven miles on my way down the river, came to the Great Lake George. The evening being calm, and the face of this great water serene and gentle, I pushed out, got safe over a large cove of it, and landed safely on a pleasant sandy shore. Here I enjoyed a noble prospect of this grand display of waters; made me a good fire, to defend me from my enemies. The next morning early got off, paddled about two miles and come to the mouth of Johnson’s Springs; paddled near a mile up and come to a vast fountain, almost in every respect like the other great spring that I visited before. I went ashore, mounted very high, hills very steep next the creek, but fell away more gradually back, and entered a beautiful grove of palm trees, large spreading live oaks and vast Laurel Magnolia, mounted a very high ridge, from whence had an almost endless view of a vast barren desert, altogether impenetrable so thickly overgrown with short scrubby Oaks, Bays, Yapon, Prinos and short laurel bushes (Magnolia Grandaflora). About these hills and open groves, observed abundance of the beautiful Scarlet Sage, the beautiful large yellow Malva, a noble, sweet scented shrub bearing golden clusters of flowers, tall Apuntia, breeding plenty of Cochaniel. Returned to my boat, and with a gentle favorable breeze sailed over to Drayton Island; I landed here, got some roots and seeds of some valuable shrubs and plants, set off and by night, got over to a promontory at the mouth of the river. the shore being very rocky and the wind blowing very high, found it very difficult and dangerous landing, it being open to the lake but with great struggle got round a point of marsh, into a safe harbor by dark, here I camped all night. Next morning I traversed about this point, came to an orange grove, I discovered a most singular and beautiful species of Convolvulus. Left this place and within night got safe down to the lower store very wet and tired, having gone through a very heavy gust of rain.
St Johns River. November 6. Began the first alteration of the season, with regard to the temperature of the air, from summer to autumn.
Wind southwest attended with heavy rains and cold, night and next day wind very high and cold from northeast evening and night high wind with cold rain. Continual flights of ducks and waterfowl came with the wind, about twelve O’clock night, the wind shifted about southwest then west. Blew hard with much rain, in the morning shifted round northwest this day very high wind and cold, even the wind fell a little but the night very cold and observed continual flights of storks and whooping cranes flying all night. The morning very cold, and observed a white frost, which killed the gourd and potato vines with abundance of other vegetables; the wind continued very high and cold; continual flights of storks and whooping cranes, this night very cold and flight of birds all night, next morning hard white frost; this day the wind fell, but yet cold, and clear air. Observed continual flights of storks. They flew amazingly high and slow, observing a particular order in their progress their notes or voice very musical and agreeable. Although a bird of a superior magnitude, they move through the skies in so exalted a sphere, that they appeared to be no bigger than pigeons, yet do they appear very conspicuous, especially when in a particular position, the sun shines full upon silver pinions, being tipped with black, their polished silver feather flashes of light one after another, as the light is reflected from a polished. The Whooping Crane move in the same order but not quite so high, being of a brown color, appear high up in the air almost black. Two or three days continued moderately warm, the wind come round which continued three or four days very agreeable: wind came southwest, then, west then northeast clouded, blew hard with cold rain, large flights of wild geese and ducks, which continued for two days and nights. Wind came west, then northwest. Very cold, abundance of ducks, bitterns, herons and other waterfowl; had two nights of hard white frost, than the weather mode rate, now the lakes, ponds and meadow, are visited and fully peopled by the feathered tribes from the north. The vast pine forests are filled with their clangor, and resound the thunder of their wings night and morning ….