John and William Bartram
The Bartrams appear to have visited this site only on their upstream journey on the St. Johns River. On December 28, 1765, John Bartram’s party left their campsite at Johnson’s Bluff and continued up the St. Johns. They “came in a few miles” to Mount Hope and after exploring the Indian mound that gave this location its name, they continued on to Mount Royal where there was a second noteworthy Indian Mound. They likely hiked along the spring run from the River to its head (Figure 2). After completing these explorations of the area, they returned to their battoe and proceeded south to present-day Georgetown and set up camp opposite Drayton Island another 4 miles along the eastern shoreline (Figure 3).
John Bartram’s Journal entry says very little about Beecher Spring, other than that its distance from the River is above a mile and that its flow was sufficient to turn a mill wheel. The spring run is 1.3 miles long, however its upper reach has been drastically altered by the construction of fish ponds at the Welaka National Fish Hatchery, on the grounds of which the Spring is located. The flow from the Spring is used to fill the ponds which then discharge back into the run which meanders through wooded wetlands to the St. Johns river near the Mount Royal Airpark Subdivision boat ramp.
No mention of the Spring is made in the Journal entry for the day (January 25, 1766) of the Bartram’s visit as they returned from up-river, despite having spent some time exploring and surveying the area around the Indian mound that day. William Bartram also fails to make any mention of the Spring in either his Travels or Report.
Two Bartram Trail Site Markers have been placed in association with Beecher Springs; one for the Spring and the other for the Spring Run. Because the Spring boil has no public access the Marker is mounted on an observation tower overlooking the Hatchery fish ponds. The tower is erected at a small roadside park which provides good parking and access to the Trail Marker. The second Trail Marker is situated on the northeast side of CR 309 where it crosses Beecher Spring Run (Figure 4). Though there is no parking area at this site, the shoulder is wide and stable. Neither of the Site Markers is reachable by water, however the mouth of the Spring Run is visible just to the east of the Mount Royal Bartram Trail Site Marker 21 on the northeast shoreline of the St Johns River.
Resources and Links
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.
Florida History Online. New World in a State of Nature; British Plantations and Farms on the St. Johns River, East Florida 1763-1784. May 2013
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° 26.250’N 81° 38.994’W
Coordinates B: 29° 26.415’N 81° 38.931’W
The first set of coordinates (A) given for this site are for the BTS 20 Marker mounted on the observation tower at the Welaka Fish Hatchery off County Road 309, south of Welaka. The second (B), are those of the BTS 22 Marker at Beecher Springs Run where it flows under CR 309 near the Hatchery. Both sites can be accessed by land (Figure 1).