John and William Bartram
The route from the Lower Store to Crescent Lake covers about 14.5 miles if measured in the mainstem of the River to Dunns Creek and 16 miles if Murphys Creek is included. The entire trip took only a few hours since they entered the Lake around noon. After spending two nights on the shore of Crescent Lake, the Bartrams returned to the Creek, and headed to Squire Roll’s, now called “Charlottenburgh “ in John’s Journal.
The likely routes to and from the Bartram’s Crescent Lake campsite are shown in Figure 1.
Once in the Lake, they made camp on the north shore. The orientation of the lake is properly described in the Journal as generally NW to SE and, since it is long and narrow, the north shore is only about one and a half miles long. It is therefore likely that the Bartram’s campsite was quite close to the mouth of Dunns Creek.
The camp was in a cypress swamp on land that was marshy since the bank was only a foot above the Lake’s surface. They resorted to building a bed of moss to preserve themselves from the “very low damp ground, which is very unpleasant and dangerous.” Despite these seemingly unpleasant conditions, the group spent two nights at this campsite. During the intervening day, they rowed south to a small island, present-day Bear Island, and explored it finding evidence of Indian habitation.
The estimated dimension of the lake described as “about 15 miles long” is fairly accurate if one includes present day Dead Lake as the eastern extension mentioned in the Journal entry on January 26. The plat map of the settlement of Denys Rolle (Figure 2) shows this as the configuration of Crescent Lake, labeled Lake Rolle. Today, Lake Rolle is divided into Crescent Lake and Dead Lake, separated by wetlands but connected by a half-mile-long creek.
Bartram Trail Marker 9 is located on the north shore of Crescent Lake only a hundred and fifty yards east of the mouth of the Creek. The marker is on public property however the shoreline is as inhospitable today as it was during the Bartram’s visit. The most convenient access is provided by the soft launch at Dunns Creek State Park (Figure 3). From this launch the site is a pleasant 2 mile paddle in the sheltered waters of Dunns Creek. The Creek is tidal and the current can be significant in both directions.
Resources and Links
Bartram, William. Annotated by Francis Harper. Travels in Georgia and Florida, 1773-74; a report to Dr. John Fothergill. Annotated by Francis Harper. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., Vol. XXXIII, Pt. II. Philadelphia, PA, 1943.
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
Florida Museum of Natural History. Florida Naturalists. William Bartram. Book of Travels. May 2013
Coordinates – North Shore Crescent Lake: 29° 31.989’N 81° 33.242’W
The coordinates are for the BTS 9 Marker. The exact location of the campsite is unknown.