Samuel Barrington. John Jervis, Knight of the Bath. William Henry Ricketts

Upriver from and contiguous to the land awarded to Lord Temple, Captain Samuel Barrington received 20,000 acres north and east of the Upper Lake (now Lake Harney). Immediately south of Barrington, Dr. Stork sited a 20,000-acre tract for Captain John Jervis, Knight of the Bath. The Jervis property also bounded west on Lake Harney and extended south of the lake for about two miles and east for eight miles.

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Captain Samuel Barrington's 20,000-acre tract was located east of the entrance to Lake Harney (for boats headed upriver) and on the left of approximately half of the eastern lake shore.

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John Jervis, Knight of the Bath, was granted 20,000-acres that covered the southern portion of the east shore of Lake Harney and the river shore for approximately two miles south of the lake. William Henry Rickets received title to the furthest south tract granted during the British years along the St. Johns River. The site is beyond the range of the camera in this view.

 

Map drawn by Dr. William Stork locating tracts he selected along the east shore of the upper St. Johns River for wealthy absentee landowners in Britain. Courtesy of the National Archive, Kew, England.

 

The map shown above was drawn in 1766 by Dr. William Stork of tracts he located for Captain Samuel Barrington, John Jervis, and William Henry Ricketts. It can be examined in the National Archive, Kew, England. The tract of 20,000 acres without a grantee's name was awarded to Richard Grenville, the Earl of Temple, whose brother, George Grenville, became the actual title holder. To the south of Jervis, Stork picked the last upriver tract awarded on the St. Johns River for another English notable who was already an absentee plantation owner in Jamaica, William Henry Ricketts, Esquire. This tract, also encompassing 20,000 acres, had for its border on the south a marker on the St. Johns River approximately five miles south of Lake Harney, probably at today's Puzzle Lake.

On this map the following legend is inserted: "A Plan of St. Johns River from Lake Grant to the Upper Lake or the last Bigg Lake on Said River, with continuation of Said River for 5 or 6 miles up where it breaks into Several Islands of Marsh. Grants' Lake is about 50 miles from Spaldings Upper Store." At the southeast corner of Ricketts' 20,000 acres, Stork wrote: "Here the River breaks into Small marsh Islands so that it makes it impossible to know the Main River."

It was at this point on the St. Johns River that many early travelers thought they had arrived at the headwaters, or became hopelessly lost in the marsh and heavy vegetation that lacked a visible river channel. In fact the river drainage continues for another seventy miles or more. For persons in the 1760s intent on locating sites for cultivation, however, it is understandable why they thought they had reached the source of the river.

If Stork actually conducted a survey he would have traversed its southern boundary from west to east, starting from the marshes adjoining the St. Johns River at Puzzle Lake, and walking east through more marshes and pine barrens beyond today's Southmere until reaching a point close to the Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of Mims. The St. Johns River runs roughly parallel to Interstate-95 at this point. But it is doubtful that Stork actually surveyed the site, or that he even traveled this far upriver. A more likely scenario is that he borrowed the information from John Bartram's journal of exploration of the St. Johns River in 1765-66. Bartram, a naturalist from Philadelphia, undertook an exploration of the St. Johns as botanist to King George III for East and West Florida. The second edition of Stork's Account of East-Florida, also published in 1766, included a portion of the journal Bartram kept during his exploration of the river, accompanied by his son, William Bartram, a medical doctor named David Yeats, a resident of the province who served as guide for the expedition, John Davis, and an unnamed slave owned by Davis who rowed the large canoe and hunted and cooked for the travelers.

Bartram's journal entry for January 11, 1766, provides a sense of how this section of the river appeared to travelers as it sent "out numerous branches, that terminate in the east marsh, which is wonderfully intersected and divided with ponds and branches, and the river is also divided with numerous small and great islands of low marsh; so that it is difficult to find the main river, but by the strong current: We came at last to a fine lake or rather three, the lowest of which is the biggest, being a mile diameter; on the east-side the pine-lands appear about two miles distant most of the way more or less from the lake we lodged at: but on the west side we could hardly see them, such a great body of marsh being between; after noon we came to where the river was more entire, and some of its banks 3 foot high and 7 or 8 foot broad to the west marsh, the river being 200 yards broad more or less, and one and a half fathom deep; here several more large branches or lagoons branched eastward, and spread their numerous branches in the marshes; we rowed several long beaches up the rivers, and at last, to our great joy came to a bluff where we could set our feet on dry ground; this being a very rich hammock of 6 acres of light black shelly soil...."

That camp site was probably at Baxter Mound, near Hatbill Park south of Florida Highway 46, at the boundary between Volusia and Brevard Counties. [See the Bartram webpage in www.floridahistoryonline.com for photographs of Baxter Mound and the St. Johns River this far upriver.]

Early the next morning Bartram set out again upriver in a southeasterly direction, and "soon came to a little lake which we headed, it seemed to be surrounded with marsh, some few pines appeared at a distance; we turned back, and within a mile came into the main river, which turned varous courses S.E. and north, but generally east by north; it sends out on each side lagoons and branches that drain those extensive marshes. We came now to a large lake 5 or 6 miles long and near one wide, a long tongue of low marsh comes from the N.E. end, where a long hammock of oaks runs a south course; we then rowed out of the lake, and between several islands, and came again into the main river, which runs in general an east and west course on a sandy bottom, shoaling gradually until the weeds and reeds stopped our battoe in such a manner that it was impossible to push her any farther, though the water was 3 foot deep, and a small current against us, which we suppose was the draining of the extensive marshes which opened towards the south-east, how far beyond our view we could not determine; the water-reeds grew here in the current as thick and close together as on the marsh, that is, as close as hemp; yet the current forceth its way through, and also under the great patches of the pistia, the water persicaria, and other water-plants, which are all entangled together, covering many thousands of acres on St. John's and its branches, which heads in numerous rich swamps and marshes. We returned to the hammock where we lodged last night."

Bartram probably thought of Ruth Lake and Clark Lake as one body of water with several islands on the south end. It was soon after they rowed out of that lake and into the main channel of the river that the battoe came to an impassable point, forcing Bartram to return to the previous night’s campsite. The following morning, January 13th, Bartram's journal records that he "Set out homeward from the rich hammock, the highest up the river we could land at." Judging from his observations of the terrain it is understandable why no land tracts were granted beyond this point, and why no plantations were developed here during the British years in East Florida. With no road access to this marshy wetland area, and with such difficult conditions of travel on the St. Johns, the prospect of transporting agricultural products to market must have seemed impossible to any grantee, no matter how effusively promoters like Dr. Stork and Charles Bernard praised the potential of the region.

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/15/4-Mary Ricketts, widow of William Henry Ricketts and sister of Captain John Jervis. Three editions of William Stork's An Account of East-Florida, with Remarks on its Future Importance to Trade and Commerce were published, two in 1766 and the third in 1769. The second included “a Journal Kept by John Bartram of Philadelphia , Botanist to His Majesty for the Floridas ; upon A Journey from St. Augustine up the River St. John's as far as the Lakes.” Text used here was taken from John Bartram, “Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas , Georgia , and Florida from July 1, 1765 , to April 10, 1766 .” Francis Harper, ed., Transactions of the American Philosophical Society , Vol. 38, Part 1, Philadelphia , 1942.