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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 proceed down river to “lodge” at Johnson’s Bluff; probably in close proximity to Welaka Springs. (See Images Tab - 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. (See Images Tab - 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. (See Images Tab - Figure 3)
This site can only be reached by water and is located on private property. The spring discharge is quite small so the run from the spring to the river is obscured so that it is difficult to see from the river.
"Thermometer 50, fine morning. Set out from the Store, and about 5 miles above, landed on a high bluff, on the east-side of the river, at Johnson’s Spring, a run of clear and sweet water, then travelled on foot along thick woody but loamy ground, looking rich on the surface by reason of the continual falling leaves, and by the constant evergreen shade rotting to soil, as the sun never shines on the ground strong enough to exhale their virtue before their dissolution, as under deciduous trees: We crossed several small rivulets of clear sweet water, and as many narrow moist swamps. ‘Tis diverting to observe the monstrous grape-vines, 8 inches in diameter, running up the oaks 6 foot in diameter, swamp-magnolia 70 foot high strait, and a foot diameter, the great magnolia very large, liquid-amber, white swamp and live oaks, chinquapines and cluster-cherry all of an uncommon size, mixed with orange-trees, either full of fruit or scattered on the ground, where the sun can hardly shine for the green leaves at Christmas, and all in a mass of white or yellow soil 16 foot more or less above the surface of the river. We came down a steep hill 20 foot high and about 4 or 500 yards from the river, under the foot of which issued out a large fountain (big enough to turn a mill) of warm clear water of a very offensive taste, and smelt like bilge-water, or the washings of a gun-barrel; the sediment that adhered to the trees fallen therein, looked of a pale white or bluish cast, like milk and water mixed: We 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. Then travelling alternately over hills and swamps, in all about 3 or 4 miles, came to a great cove, near a quarter of a mile from the river, out of the head of which arose a prodigious large fountain of clear water of loathsome taste, like the other two before mentioned; it directly formed a large deep creek 40 or 50 yards wide to the river, and deep enough for a large boat to swim loaded to its head, which boils up near 8 foot deep from under the shelly rocks; ‘tis full of large fish, as cats, garr, mullets, and several other kinds, and plenty of alligators. Lodged at Johnson’s Bluff, where for a mile the sandy pine-barren comes close or near the shore, and here grew plenty of what is called wild limes, which shows that they will grow in poor soil though chiefly in rich."
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° 30.560'N 81° 40.634'W
Coordinates B: 29° 30.550'N 81° 40.340'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.