December 26, 1765
"Thermometer temperate, fine day, wind south. Excellent swamps on both sides of the river, some 2 or 3 miles deep; landed on Dunn’s Island on a large snail shell ridge, the adjacent swamp excellent, and the middle ground rich for corn, turkeys and alligators plenty, saw a middling sized Indian tumulus, 20 yards diameter and 6 or 8 foot high; arrived soon at Spalding’s Lower-store, on the west-side of the river, 37 miles from Picolata and 50 from Latchaway, an inland Indian town, near half the way pine-land and palmetto-ground: It is generally affirmed, that the soil at Latchaway is excellent, and produceth good corn and rich pasture; we encamped on a bluff in the pine-land, over-against a rich little island."
The Dunn's Island that Bartram explored is now known as Murphy Island. It is viewed here from west of the St. Johns River, looking to the east toward what Bartram called Dunn's Lake, now Crescent Lake. The point where Dunn's Creek, which leads to Crescent Lake, enters the St. Johns River is shown at the extreme left of Murphy Island.
When Bartram left today's Murphy Island heading upriver, his battoe was rowed around Buffalo Bluff, shown partially on the left as a residential development, and then skirted the Seven Sisters Islands. Stokes Landing, then known as Spalding's Indian Trade Store, is across from the seventh island (on the west of the river), where another island shaped like an arrowhead points toward Stokes Inlet. One mile further upriver, also on the right (west) the Cross Florida Barge Canal merges with the river.
Stokes Landing, once the site of the Spalding Lower Trade Store. Photograph by Joan E. Moore.
The “rich little island” John Bartram noticed in 1765 at the Spalding Lower Trade Store. Today, Stokes Landing. Photograph by Joan E. Moore..
Storage building at Stokes Landing, once the site of Spalding's Lower Trade Store. Photograph by Joan E. Moore.
Dunn’s Island is now Murphy Island. During the British years it was granted to Lord Adam Gordon and named Tinian Island. Spalding’s Lower Store was located at today’s Stokes Landing about seven miles south of Palatka. Latchaway referred to Cuscowilla in the Alachua Prairie near present Gainesville. John Bartram did not visit the Alachua Prairie but his son William did, a visit which prompted some of his most memorable writing and drawings.
“The great Alatchua Savanah in the Province of E [as]t Florida ,” by William Bartram. In his report to Dr. Fothergill, Bartram described the savannah as “a vast Plain of water in the middle of a Pine forest...It may be termed the Elisium of Birds....” Courtesy of the Natural History Museum , London.
James Spalding and Roger Kelsall, Scot planters and merchants in Georgia, were the owners of the firm which operated outlets for trade with the Creek and Seminole Indians. Numerous storehouses were constructed at each store for the firm's trade goods, along with multiple dwellings to lodge the traders.
The Lower Store provided lodging and support for William Bartram's upriver travels in 1774. Charles McLatchie, director of the store, led William on several explorations in the vicinity. Bartram also lodged with Job Wiggens, director of Spalding’s Upper Trading Store (Astor today), approximately sixty miles upriver from the Lower Store. Wiggens was a frequent companion on William Bartram's river journeys.