January 19, 1766
"Fine warm morning, birds singing, fish jumping, and turkies gobbling. Set out, and presently came to a rich island, and ran between it and the Indian land, which is high and shelly, then lower, and very good on each side: We soon came into the river again, and rowed down it, till we came to a small branch on the east side, down which we rowed near half a mile, where we were entirely stopped by the pistia and persicaria growing all in a matt; we then turned back, concluding it to run on the east side of an island, and to join the river below in some of its eastern lagoons to the river, down which we proceeded, and crossed the mouth of the east lake, and in an hour or two arrived at Spalding’s Upper-store, where we staid all night, which was very warm, and the muskitoes very troublesome, as much so as any time since I left Charles-Town."
The “rich island” explored on this day was probably Dexter Island. After crossing the mouth of “east lake,” now Lake Dexter, they proceeded to Spalding's Upper Store, at today’s Astor on the west bank of the river.
Spalding's Upper Store was located west of the river (on the far shore in this image) at the town of Astor. The houses and streets shown in the foreground are in the town of Volusia.
William Bartram did not explore further upriver than Lake Beresford and Blue Springs Landing during his 1774 excursion. Commentary about his observations between Beresford and Lake George during the downriver journey focused on birds rather than the forestation or terrain he passed through. About the Savanna Crane, Bartram wrote: "Behold the loud, sonorous, watchful savanna cranes (grus pratensis) with musical clangor, in detached squadrons. They spread their light elastic sail: at first they move from the earth heavy and slow; they labour and beat the dense air; they form the line with wide extended wings, tip to tip; they all rise and fall together as one bird; now they mount aloft, gradually wheeling about; each squadron performs its evolution, encircling the expansive plains, observing each one of its own orbit; then lowering sail, descend on the verge of some glittering lake; whilst other squadrons ascending aloft in spriral circles, bound on interesting discoveries, wheel round and double the promontory, in the silver regions of the clouded skies, where, far from the scope of eye, they carefully observe the verdant meadows on the borders of the East Lake; then contract their plumes and descend to the earth...."
“Great Savanah Crane,” or the “Florida Sandhill Crane,” by William Bartram. Courtesy of the Natural History Museum, London.
He also wrote vivid descriptions of the "crying bird," the "painted vulture" and the "coped vulture."
“The Caron [Carrion] Crow of Florida” or “Black Vulture,” by William Bartram. Courtesy of the Natural History Museum, London.
January 20, 1766
"Fine warm morning, but the southwest wind soon blew so hard, that we durst not venture to sail on the great lake, and our pilot wanted to dry his skins, so we staid here all day: but in the afternoon our host went over the river to shoot geese in the pine-land ponds, where they generally feed on the grass growing there; for they don’t frequent the river, as we did not see one all the way, but multitudes of ducks: We landed on a bank of the river, a little above the place where the Indians swim their horses over, about 4 foot above the water; the bank was composed of snail and muscle-shells, a strata of which, that was even or under the surface of the river, was converted into a concrete as hard as a soft stone, as are most of the banks of the upper part of the river, which will burn to lime; we walked from the landing directly towards the pine-lands, at first over a rich level, then ascended a hill 5 feet perpendicular, formed all of shells mixed with a little black sandy mould, scarce enough to fill up the vacuities betwixt one shell and the other, although the small ones and broken pieces are drove as close together as possible; this composition lasted for near 200 yards, the shells diminishing gradually, and the fine sand appearing more and more, until no more shells were seen mixed with it; we still came to rising ground producing hiccory, magnolia, bay and water-oak, then ground-oak, chamaerops, then pine-land, dwarf-myrtle, kalmia, vaccinium, andromeda, small pines and long grass in the ponds, where the water was about knee-deep more or less, some of which contain from 1 to 10 acres; but some ponds are a mile or two big, more or less, some surrounded close with the adjacent pine-lands, and others with large savannahs at one or both sides, with a rivulet running out, and sometimes with a bay or cypress-swamp at the head. I was talking to our host that I could not find any good clay up the river; he said there was good white clay to be got on the west side of the river near his house; we went to look at it, and taking a hoe, I cut a piece of it up, which was a close compact mass of ground sea-shells a little above the surface of the water, the lower the more it looked and felt like clay. Quere, whether or not some sorts of clay are not formed out of sea-shells ground minutely to powder in a long series of time."
The Long Warrior by William Bartram. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.
Bartram and his fellow travelers lodged at the Upper Store, west of the river at today's Astor, in one of several houses in the complex that comprised the Spalding Upper Store. When they crossed the river to hunt geese, they were at today's town of Volusia.
Giant oak tree in Volusia that is known in local legend as a stopping place for William Bartram in 1774. The tree can be found at Volusia, east of the St. Johns River and across from Astor, where Spalding’s Upper Indian Trading Store was located. Photograph by Joan E. Moore.