John and William Bartram
The Bartram party left their campsite near Silver Glen Springs on the morning of January 24, 1766 and continued rowing north along the west shoreline until they arrived at Salt Springs Run. They proceeded up the Run and “discovering” Salt Springs, spent some time examining it and the surrounding area. With their survey completed, they returned to their battoe and headed back towards Lake George. After rowing the 5.7 miles from Salt Springs to Rocky Point where the River flows between the west shore and Drayton Island, they undoubtedly took this west channel of the St. Johns which afforded the most direct route north. They continued rowing north and crossed the River to the Island where they found some “rocky rising ground” along the bank and stopped to camp (Figure 2).
The following morning, they departed from the Island and continued north. It is interesting to note that though they had been favoring the west shoreline on their return trip there are no recorded observations of the west shoreline in the Journal for this day. By noon they had rowed a distance of 5.2 miles and arrived again at Mt. Royal (Figure 3). After spending some time exploring the mound and the surrounding area, they returned to their vessel and proceeded to row downstream to Spalding’s Lower Store, a distance of 12.6 miles farther north.
The Bartrams visited this site on January 24, 1766 during their return trip north on the St. Johns River. The west shoreline of Drayton Island from its southern tip to about one mile north, is low land that gradually rises inland. At about a mile north of the southern tip, the higher ground extends almost to the shoreline and this bluff continues north to the point where the shoreline curves to the northeast. Although it is not certain where on the Island the Bartrams established their campsite, it is likely that it was somewhere along this bluff on the southwest shore (Figure 4).
It is unlikely that the Bartrams spent much time exploring the land around this site on the day of their arrival. They had traveled quite a distance and having spent a good deal of time at Salt Springs would certainly have arrived late in the day or early evening. The Journal does mention that the Island had good land, rich swamp and pine forests but other than a detailed description of the soil at the campsite, doesn’t provide much additional information. The size of the Island (1500 acres) was presented as anecdotal, indicating that the party made no attempt to actually determine its area.
Drayton Island has no bridge connecting it to the mainland however a ferry serves the Island providing vehicular access across the east channel of the St. Johns from Georgetown to the north side of the Island. The County-owned and operated ferry has a limited and varied schedule which is posted at the ferry landing and available through the Putnam County website. At the time of this writing, the ferry operates only on Monday and Friday mornings and evenings and every other Sunday. Anyone planning on visiting the Island by this route should check the schedule beforehand and plan their visit accordingly. All of the land on Island is privately owned save for the few public roads that allow visitors some limited exploration of the Island by foot, bike or vehicle. There are no stores on the Island.
Bartram Trail Marker 24 is attached to a post in the St. Johns River, approximately 100 yards from the west shoreline of Drayton Island a little south of the Island’s center. The shoreline adjacent to the marker is private property. Consequently, the only way to see the marker and the site where the Bartram’s camped, is by water. The most convenient launch site is the Drayton Island Ferry boat ramp in Georgetown (Figure 5). Parking at the ramp is limited to the roadside and fills up quickly, especially on weekends. Visitors arriving by water can also go ashore at the Island’s ferry landing opposite the boat ramp at the north end of the Island and explore the Island on foot but, like those visiting by vehicle or from the ferry, should limit their explorations to the unpaved public roadways.
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.
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° 21.542’N 81° 39.186’W
The coordinates given for this site are for the shoreline of the River near the probable location of the campsite established by the Bartrams on Drayton Island during their return trip on the St. Johns River the night of January 24, 1766. An early map showing Drayton Island and its surrounding bathymetry is presented in Figure 1.