Landed opposite to the mouth of the lake, which hath a full stroke with a south wind…
John and William Bartram
After spending the night on the east shore of the St. Johns opposite Drayton Island, they broke camp and proceeded south along the same shoreline but rowed less than two miles before going ashore. It may be that the condition of Lake George under a south wind convinced them not to venture out into open water. They most likely went ashore at Orange Point, undoubtedly on its north side where their vessel would be sheltered from any waves generated by the south wind across the full length of the lake (Figure 1).
The Journal describes a number of stops along the route from Spalding’s Lower Store to the Upper Store in Astor, all of which were located on the east shore of the river (Figure 2). On their return voyage in this reach, they tended towards the west, or Indian shore and consequently did not view or visit this site on their return trip.
The Bartrams landed at this site early on the morning of December 29 having covered only a short distance on this foggy morning. Orange Point, only 1.6 miles upstream from the previous campsite, is located on the east shore of the St. Johns River channel that flows around the north end of Drayton Island. The point is at the northern extent of Lake George and offers an unobstructed view of the lake just as a south wind has an unobstructed run across the lake’s 12 miles of open water. From this point, the Bartrams would not have been able to see the southern shoreline of Lake George and it would have looked like an open sea except for the west and east shorelines which would have been visible but fading from view to the south. Not much is said about this site in the Journal other than a few observations about the soil.
Although it is not clear from the Journal, Harper (1942) contends that the group returned to their battoe and continued south along the east shoreline of the lake and encamped at Willow Point which is about halfway across Lake George. Indeed, the descriptions of the swamps, marshes and land elevations fit Willow Point rather well, and since so little is said about the lands surrounding Orange Point it would appear that they spent more time rowing south than they did exploring this site. Consequently, it is not likely that the group chose to make camp at Orange Point, but rather continued south another 7.2 miles to a point about halfway across the lake.
Bartram Trail Marker 25 is attached to a tree in Lake George a few yards from shore and approximately 400 yards east of the north channel of the St. Johns around Drayton Island. It is visible only from the water. The most convenient public access is provided by Putnam County’s Drayton Island Ferry Boat Ramp located about 1.6 miles northwest of the site marker (Figure 4). Commercial ramps at several marinas in the area offer closer access but expect to pay a fee for launching and/or parking. Lake George Point, the site of the Bartram’s landing, can be accessed by road and is at the end of CR 309.
December 29, 1765 Journal Entry
“Foggy morning; thermometer 52. Landed opposite to the mouth of the lake, which hath a full stroke with a south wind; the rock is all composed of snail and muscle-shells, hard enough to build with about 4 foot thick, and will split horizontally; some parts look like limestone, but whether for want of salt that abounds in sea-shells they will make such strong lime, I cannot say. Thermometer 72. P.M. Fish jumping continually; we encamped on a rocky point near a fine swamp of 25 acres, then a marsh of 20, near the end of an island on which some pines grew, then a great rich swamp round the cove; a very rainy night welcomed us.”
Links and References
Florida History Online “John Bartram’s Travels on the St. Johns River, 1765-1766.” 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.
Francis Harper, editor, 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.