In 1774, when William Bartram sailed south of Gray's Creek (today Rice Creek), he called the western shore of the St. Johns River the "Indian shore." After coasting a bay and "doubling a promontory," he wrote: "I suddenly saw before me an Indian Settlement, or village. It was a fine situation, the bank rising gradually from the water. There were eight or ten habitations, in a row, or street, fronting the water, and about fifty yards distance from it. Some of the youth were naked, up to their hips in the water, fishing with rods and lines, whilst others, younger, were diverting themselves in shooting frogs with bows and arrows. On my near approach, the little children took to their heels, and ran to some women, who were hoeing corn, but the stouter youth stood their ground, and, smiling, called to me. As I passed along, I observed some elderly people reclined on skins spread on the ground, under the cool shade of spreading Oaks and Palms, that were ranged in front of their houses; they arose, and eyed me as I passed...They were civil, and appeared happy in their situation.
The view is downriver with Palatka in the foreground and the paper mill smokestacks in the distance. Between Rice Creek and Palatka on the west shore of the St. Johns, where William Bartram discovered an "Indian Settlement" during his upriver journey in 1774. He later returned to the village to participate in what he described as a "feast of the watermelons."
The view here is upriver, between Rice Creek and Palatka.
Bartram saw an orange grove and several hundred acres of cleared land planted in corn, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, squash, melons and tobacco before sailing past the village and into a "considerable cove of the lake."
Bartram returned to this village (just north of Palatka) with Charles McLatchie, the director of the Spalding Lower Trade Store. Seminole men had been to the store with a canoe load of watermelons and oranges, prompting McLatchie and Bartram to travel on "a Siminole horse completely equipped" for the twelve mile distance to "the same little village I passed by on my ascent of the river, on the banks of the little lake below Charlotia."
The two men were received in friendly manner and led to what Bartram described as "a grand, airy pavilion in the center of the village. It was a four-square; a range of pillars or posts on each side supporting a canopy composed of Palmetto leaves, woven or thatched together, which shaded a level platform in the centre, that was ascended to from each side by two steps or flights, each about twelve inches high, and seven or eight feet in breadth, all covered with carpets or mats, curiously woven of split canes dyed of various colours. Here being seated or reclining ourselves, after smoaking tobacco, baskets of the choicest fruits were brought and set before us."
Bartram recorded fields and groves around the town that contained "Corn, Citruels, Pumkins, Squashes, Beans, Peas, Potatoes, Peaches, Figs, Oranges, &c."
William Bartram, Travels, 59. Text for the return to the village is from Thomas P. Slaughter, ed., William Bartram: Travels and Other Writings (New York, NY.: Literary Classics of America, 1996), 252-53.