John and William Bartram
On December 28, 1765, John Bartram’s party left their campsite at Johnson’s Bluff and continued south up the St. Johns. They “came in a few miles” to Mount Hope, an actual distance of 2.85 miles from the bluff at Welaka Spring where it is likely that they had camped the previous night. After exploring the Indian mound that gave this location its name, they continued up-river to Mount Royal; the location of another Indian Mound, 4.11 miles farther south (Figures 1A and 1B).
It is interesting to note that no mention whatsoever is made of having seen the Ocklawaha River, the largest of the many St. Johns River tributaries, which enters the St. Johns opposite Beecher Point on the west shoreline. Either they were totally distracted by the impressive mound they called Mount Hope, and failed to look to the west, or they purposely avoided what they called the “Indian Shore” due to that land being owned by the Creek Indians and therefore outside of the bounds of their area of exploration (Figure 2). This omission also leads additional credence to the notion of their having predominantly hugged the eastern shoreline during their trip up the River.
Almost equally noteworthy is the lack of any mention of Mud Creek and its source Mud Spring which enters the River on eastern side of Little Lake George between Beecher Point and Orange Point. This suggests that instead of hugging the shoreline of Little Lake George, they undoubtedly made a direct crossing from Mount Hope to Orange Point without bothering to examine the shoreline of Mud Creek Cove. This may well have been due to the northeast wind mentioned in John’s Journal, or their desire to reach Mount Royal as soon as possible (Figure 3).
Mount Hope is present-day Beecher Point. Beecher Point extends out into the St. Johns River from the east shoreline and forms a portion of the north shore of Little Lake George. When the Bartrams visited this site on December 28, 1765, there was an impressive Indian mound for which this location was named. The mound no longer exists as the shell-laden material was removed by a less enlightened Florida Department of Transportation and used for road construction during the mid- 20th Century. Consequently, it is impossible to say where the Bartrams actually went ashore and how much of Beecher Point they explored during their brief visit.
On their return trip, the Bartrams passed by Mount Hope again on January 25, 1766 but made no mention of the site as they traveled from Mount Royal to Spalding’s Lower Store.
Bartram Trail Site Marker 19 is located on the east side of the River, mounted on the southern end of the dock of the Beecher’s Point Condominiums at the end of Beecher’s Point Drive in Welaka. The docks and the site are on private property so the marker can only be seen from the River. However, the site of what was Mount Hope can be seen from the road where it terminates at the Condominium complex entrance. The most convenient access to this Site Marker is the public boat ramp at the end of Elm Street in downtown Welaka which is 1.2 miles north of the Marker or Welaka’s Bryans Landing soft launch a hundred yards farther north (Figure 4).
William Bartram passed by Mount Hope and noted his passing in his Travels. He does not mention a stop but mentions that it received its name “Mount Hope” from his father during their 1765-66 trip. However, in his Report, he says that he “called at the indigo plantation” and describes the plantation house erected on the site and that it was under the ownership of Mr. Tucker. Consequently, though Travels does not mention the stop, he undoubtedly did make a landfall at this site in 1774.
Resources and Links
Bartram, William. Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws; Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Embellished with Copper-Plates. James and Johnson Publishers. 1791. Electronic Edition.
Harper, Francis, ed. The Travels of William Bartram, Naturalist’s Edition. Yale University Press. New Haven. 1958.
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
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.
Florida Museum of Natural History. Florida Naturalists. William Bartram. Book of Travels. May 2013
Coordinates: 29° 27.975’N 81° 41.102’W
The coordinates given for this site are for the end of the dock at the privately owned boat ramp at Beecher Point.