December 27, 1765

Journal Entry

"Thermometer 50, fine morning. Set out from the Store, and about 5 miles above, landed on a high bluff, on the east-side of the river, at Johnson’s Spring, a run of clear and sweet water, then travelled on foot along thick woody but loamy ground, looking rich on the surface by reason of the continual falling leaves, and by the constant evergreen shade rotting to soil, as the sun never shines on the ground strong enough to exhale their virtue before their dissolution, as under deciduous trees: We crossed several small rivulets of clear sweet water, and as many narrow moist swamps. ‘Tis diverting to observe the monstrous grape-vines, 8 inches in diameter, running up the oaks 6 foot in diameter, swamp-magnolia 70 foot high strait, and a foot diameter, the great magnolia very large, liquid-amber, white swamp and live oaks, chinquapines and cluster-cherry all of an uncommon size, mixed with orange-trees, either full of fruit or scattered on the ground, where the sun can hardly shine for the green leaves at Christmas, and all in a mass of white or yellow soil 16 foot more or less above the surface of the river. We came down a steep hill 20 foot high and about 4 or 500 yards from the river, under the foot of which issued out a large fountain (big enough to turn a mill) of warm clear water of a very offensive taste, and smelt like bilge-water, or the washings of a gun-barrel; the sediment that adhered to the trees fallen therein, looked of a pale white or bluish cast, like milk and water mixed: We then crossed the swamp, and ascended and descended two hills and narrow swamps more; at the foot of the last issued out another warm spring of clear water like the other, but not so large. Then travelling alternately over hills and swamps, in all about 3 or 4 miles, came to a great cove, near a quarter of a mile from the river, out of the head of which arose a prodigious large fountain of clear water of loathsome taste, like the other two before mentioned; it directly formed a large deep creek 40 or 50 yards wide to the river, and deep enough for a large boat to swim loaded to its head, which boils up near 8 foot deep from under the shelly rocks; ‘tis full of large fish, as cats, garr, mullets, and several other kinds, and plenty of alligators. Lodged at Johnson’s Bluff, where for a mile the sandy pine-barren comes close or near the shore, and here grew plenty of what is called wild limes, which shows that they will grow in poor soil though chiefly in rich."

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Bartram's stop at Johnson's Spring and Johnson's Bluff, today Silver Spring and Stephens Point respectively, prompted him to write one of the longest entries in his record of St. Johns River discoveries. As the aerial photograph above shows, Stephens Point has been dramatically altered by extensive dredging of a canal network to accommodate personal water craft. The next upriver promontory that juts into the river from the east (on the left) is Beecher Point. The juncture of the Oklawaha River and the St. Johns is across from Beecher Point on the western shore. The Ocala National Forest can also be seen on the right. The photograph below confirms how much undeveloped land can still be found along the river. The Cross Florida Barge Canal can be seen on the right.

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Silver Springs, Courtesy of Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.

Commentary

Johnson’s Bluff is now Stephens Point and Johnson’s Spring is Silver Springs. Bartram was thus in the vicinity of today's Welaka and Welaka Springs. The London merchant John Tucker, an important absentee planter in East Florida, established two plantations in this area and another across the river at the mouth of the Oklawaha River.

Silver Springs, Courtesy of Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.

Silver Springs, Courtesy of Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.