Bartram Trail in Nassau County

Nassau County – Gateway to the Bartram Trail in Florida

William Bartram traveled through Nassau County on two different occasions. The first time was with his father, John Bartram, in 1765, and the second, nine years later, in April of 1774.

On October 8, 1765, William Bartram entered Florida for the first time with his father, John Bartram. James Grant, the newly appointed Territorial Governor of East Florida, commissioned John Bartram, Botanist to King George III, to explore East Florida and draft a report of his findings. John and his twenty-six-year-old son, William, passed through present-day Nassau County on their way to St. Augustine following the trading route along the Kings Road, present-day US1. As was their habit, they examined each ecosystem along the way, searching for new and interesting plants. They camped two nights in Nassau County before entering Duval County across Thomas Creek.

In March of 1774, William Bartram boarded the ship at St. Simons Island, Georgia, for the St. Johns River. He was bound specifically for Spalding and Kelsall’s Lower Store, located at present Stokes Landing on the west side of the river about six miles southwest of present Palatka, and to this point, he had already dispatched his chest of books and valuable papers.

As Bartram’s ship ran by Cumberland Island they met a trading schooner from the stores on the St. Johns. Passengers on the trading vessel told of recent raids by the Indians upon both Spalding stores, and the captain determined to return to Frederica on St. Simons Island for instructions. Bartram, however, was anxious to proceed, and he prevailed upon the captain to put him ashore on Cumberland Island so that he might continue his journey. (Bartram identifies this as Little St. Simons Island, but it is today known as Cumberland.) Aside from Fort William, at the southern end of the island, most of Cumberland was then uninhabited, accounting for Bartram’s report of “harsh treatment from thorny thickets and prickly vines.”(66) He was taken to Amelia Island, Florida, by the captain of Fort William.