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William Bartram traveled with the traders to the Indian capital of Cuscowilla (now Micanopy in Paines Prairie) to meet Cowkeeper. Cowkeeper is the Creek chief that gave Bartram his Indian name of Puc-Puggy – the flower hunter. His journey was over land by horseback from the Lower Store to Midway pond (now Cowpen Lake) then on to Paines Prairie. On his way he observed and recorded many plants and animals including the scrub jay and mocking bird. He would have crossed now day Deep Creek on his way. His description of the land is accurate to this day.
From Bartram's TRAVELS
ON my return from my voyage to the upper store, I understood the trading company designed for Cuscowilla, that they had been very active in their preparations, and would be ready to set off in a few days; I therefore availed myself of the little time allowed me to secure and preserve my collections, against the arrival of the trading schooner, which was hourly expected, that every thing might be in readiness to be shipped on board her, in case she should load again and return for Savanna during my absence.
EVERY necessary being now in readiness, early on a fine morning we proceeded, attended by four men under the conduct of an old trader, whom Mr. M'Latche had delegated to treat with the Cowkeeper and other chiefs of Cuscowilla, on the subject of re-establishing the trade, &c. agreeable to the late treaty of St. Augustine.
FOR the first four or five miles we travelled West-ward, over a perfectly level plain, which appeared before and on each side of us, as a charming green meadow, thinly planted with low spreading Pine trees (P. palustri.) The upper stratum of the earth is a fine white crystalline sand, the very upper surface of which being mixed or incorporated with the ashes of burnt vegetables, renders it of sufficient strength or fertility to clothe itself perfectly, with a very great variety of grasses, herbage and remarkably low shrubs, together with a very dwarf species of Palmetto (Corypha pumila stipit. serratis.)
Of the low shrubs many were new to me and of a very pleasing appearance, particularly a species of Annona (Annona incarna, floribus grandioribus paniculatis;) this grows three, four or five feet high, the leaves somewhat cuniform or broad lanciolate, attenuating down to the petiole, of a pale or light green color, covered with a pubescence or short fine down; the flowers very large, perfectly white and sweet scented, many connected together on large loose panicles or spikes; the fruit of the size and form of a small cucumber, the skin or exterior surface somewhat rimose or scabrous, containing a yellow pulp of the consistence of a hard custard, and very delicious, wholesome food. This seems a variety, if not the same that I first remarked, growing on the Alatamaha near Fort Barrington, Charlotia and many other places in Georgia and East-Florida; and I observed here in plenty, the very dwarf decumbent Annona, with narrow leaves, and various flowers already noticed at Alatamaha (Annona pigmea.) Here is also abundance of the beautiful little dwarf Kalmea ciliata, already described. The white berried Empetrum, a very pretty evergreen, grows here on somewhat higher and drier knolls, in large patches or clumps, associated with Olea Americana, several species of dwarf Querci (Oaks) Vaccinium, Gordonia lasianthus, Andromeda ferruginia and a very curious and beautiful shrub which seems allied to the Rhododendron, Cassine, Rhamnus frangula, Andromeda nitida, &c. which being of dark green foliage, diversifies and enlivens the landscape; but what appears very extraordinary, is to behold here, depressed and degraded, the glorious pyramidal Magnolia grandiflora, associated amongst these vile dwarfs, and even some of them rising above it though not five feet high; yet still showing large, beautiful and expansive white fragrant blossoms, and great heavy cones on slender procumbent branches, some even lying on the earth; the ravages of fire keep them down, as is evident from the vast excrescent tuberous roots, covering several feet of ground, from which these slender shoots spring.
In such clumps and coverts are to be seen several kinds of birds, particularly a species of jay; they are generally of an azure blue colour, have no crest or tuft of feathers on the head, nor are they so large as the great crested blue jay of Virginia, but are equally clamorous (pica glandaria cerulea non crestata.) The towee bird (fringilla erythrophthalma) are very numerous, as are a species of bluish grey butcher bird (lanius.) Here were also lizards and snakes. The lizards were of that species called in Carolina, scorpions: they are from five to six inches in length, of a slender form; the tail in particular is very long and small; they are of a yellowish clay colour, varied with longitudinal lines or stripes of a dusky brown colour, from head to tail; they are wholly covered with very small squamae, vibrate their tail, and dart forth and brandish their forked tongue after the manner of serpents, when they are surprised or in pursuit of their prey, which are scarabei, locustae, musci, and other insects, but I do not learn that their bite is poisonous, yet I have observed cats to be sick soon after eating them. After passing over this extensive level, hard, wet savanna, we crossed a fine brook or rivulet; the water cool and pleasant; its banks adorned with varieties of trees and shrubs, particularly the delicate Cyrilla racemifiora, Chionanthus, Clethra, Nyssa sylvatica, Andromeda nitida, Andromeda formosissima: and here were great quantities of a very large and beautiful Filex osmunda, growing in great tufts or clumps. After leaving the rivulet we passed over a wet, hard, level glade or down, covered with a fine short grass, with abundance of low saw Palmetto, and a few shrubby Pine trees, Quercus nigra, Quercus sinuata or scarlet Oak: then the path descends to a wet bay-gale; the ground a hard, fine white sand, covered with black slush, which continued above two miles, when it gently rises the higher sand hills, and directly after passes through a fine grove of young long leaved Pines. The soil seemed here, loose, brown, coarse, sandy loam, though fertile. The ascent of the hill, ornamented with a variety and profusion of herbacious plants and grasses, particularly Amaryllis atamasco, Clitoria, Phlox, Ipomea, Convolvulus, Verbena corymbosa, Rucllia, Viola, &c. A magnificent grove of stately Pines, succeeding to the expansive wild plains we had a long time traversed, had a pleasing effect, rousing the faculties of the mind, awakening the imagination by its sublimity, and arresting every active inquisitive idea, by the variety of the scenery and the solemn symphony of the steady Western breezes, playing incessantly, rising and falling through the thick and wavy foliage.
THE Pine groves passed, we immediately find ourselves on the entrance of the expansive airy Pine forests, on parallel chains of low swelling mounds, called the Sand Hills, their ascent so easy, as to be almost imperceptible to the progressive traveller, yet at a distant view, before us in some degree exhibit the appearance of the mountainous swell of the ocean immediately after a tempest; but yet, as we approach them, they insensibly disappear, and seem to be lost, and we should be ready to conclude all to be a visionary scene, were it not for the sparkling ponds and lakes, which at the same time gleam through the open forests, before us and on every side, retaining them on the eye, until we come up with them; and at last the imagination remains flattered and dubious, by their uniformity, being mostly circular or eliptical, and almost surrounded with expansive green meadows; and always a picturesque dark grove of Live Oak, Magnolia, Gordonia and the fragrant Orange, encircling a rocky shaded grotto, of transparent water, on some border of the pond or lake; which, without the aid of any poetic fable, one might naturally suppose to be the sacred abode or temporary residence of the guardian spirit but is actually the possession and retreat of a thundering absolute crocodile.