John and William Bartram
On December 27, 1765, John Bartram’s party, having camped at Spalding’s Lower Store boarded their vessel and continued up river. After rowing an estimated five miles, they stopped beneath a tall bluff which John identified as Johnson’s Spring. They left their battoe and proceeded to hike as far south as Welaka Springs, crossing a number of lesser seeps and springs along the way. After reaching Welaka Spring, the Bartrams retraced their steps to retrieve their vessel and rowed up river to “lodge” at Johnson’s Bluff; probably in close proximity to Welaka Springs (Figure 1).
It is apparent from their descriptions of the springs and seeps that their hike was along the shoreline probably in sight of the river (Figure 2). The topography in this area is characterized by a good deal of relief which afforded the group an interesting and challenging hike which is described in excellent detail in John’s Journal.
Springs are excellent landmarks and since their locations remain unchanged since the visit of the Bartrams, they afford those who desire to stand in the very footprints of John and William the very best and very real opportunity to do so. While it can be a challenge to accurately identify the various springs mentioned in the Journal and match them to the known springs of today, the details provided in John Bartram’s description of the hike he and his group made on December 27, 1765 are sufficient to identify these sites with a good degree of confidence.
After leaving Satsuma Spring, the group continued hiking south. The Journal states that they “then crossed the swamp, and ascended and descended two hills and narrow swamps more; at the foot of the last issued out another warm spring of clear water like the other, but not so large.” This accurately describes the topography, location and characteristics of present-day Nashua Spring (Figure 3).
Bartram Trail Site 16 is located on the east shore of the River three quarters of a mile south of Putnam County’s Shell Harbor Public Boat Ramp (Figure 4). This ramp provides the closest and most convenient public access to the Marker. The Spring itself is on private property so the Marker is posted on the River’s shoreline near the mouth of the run and can only be reached by water. The discharge is quite small and, in fact, intermittent. Consequently, the run from the Spring is obscured by vegetation and difficult to see from the River.
Links and References
Florida History Online “John Bartram’s Travels on the St. Johns River, 1765-1766.” May 2013.
Bartram, John. Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, from July 1, 1765, to April 10, 1766, annotated by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., Vol. XXXIII, Pt. I. Philadelphia, PA, 1942.
Bruce, F.W. Assistant Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers. St. Johns River to Lake Harney, Florida. 1908. The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas. Nautical Chart of the St. Johns River.
Coordinates A: 29° 30.568’N 81° 40.632’W
Coordinates B: 29° 30.569’N 81° 40.576’W
Coordinates A are for the shoreline of the St. Johns River at the mouth of Nashua Spring run. Coordinates B are for the spring basin.