Sweetwater Branch and Julington Creek

John Christian Ross received two tracts of land in the vicinity of Julianton Plantation and today's Julington Creek. Governor Tonyn granted 500 acres at Sweet Water Branch and Julington Creek to Ross in 1782. This tract bordered the southeast corner of Francis Levett's Julianton Plantation on the principal branch of Julianton (now Julington) Creek. Given the dimensions of Julianton Plantation, this tract may have been in the vicinity of Clark's Fish Camp today.

Adjoining this tract was another 500-acre tract acquired by Ross in 1775, located twenty-four miles from St. Augustine on a "large navigable creek called Sweet Water Branch which runs through the middle of it to St. Johns River." With the exception of seventy acres in the northeast corner, the entire tract was "one compact body of cypress and marsh." Ross said in his claim for compensation: "No part of it has ever been cultivated."

Ross, a Scot from Arnage, had arrived in East Florida in 1767 aboard the "Aurora," a fellow passenger of Dr. William Stork, William Stork, Jr., William Collins, George Rolfes, and Frederick Allert, all intending to settle plantations for wealthy absentee land grant recipients. Ross worked first as agent for Mr. William Elliott's estate on Indian River, and later for Richard Oswald, Governor Patrick Tonyn, Richard Russell, and Henry Strachey.

By 1782, Ross said he had been in East Florida for fourteen years, having experienced misfortune at first before discovering "the secret of rendering myself necessary; first to one and then to the other; and this I found to be the surest means of supplying any deficiency." His annual salary in 1782, £250 Sterling, was sufficient to provide him a good living. Ross had prospered during the years of the American Revolution. He wrote to a London merchant in 1782: “We have been hitherto remarkably quiet, whilst all has been in a flame around us, and really yet is. I believe the universal sense of the inhabitants is to maintain that tranquility." With money invested in London, possessing title to tracts of land bordering Julington Creek, and with more money on hand to invest in naval stores production, the future looked promising to Ross. He had worked his employer's slaves at naval stores production for the past five years and "knew perfectly well how to set that oil [yellow rosin and oil of turpentine] to good advantage." His fellow freeholders recognized his merit and elected him "a Representative most fit and discreet" to a seat in the House of Assembly at an election held in December 1781.

In 1784, Ross and Bella, the black woman he had purchased from his first employer, William, and emancipated, migrated to Dominica. He also freed his two daughters by Bella, Patsy and Sophia, but he sent them to Edinburgh, Scotland, to attend school and to live with his father. Two male slaves owned by Ross, York and Bob, both coopers, were also transported to Dominica. Ross died within a year of arriving at Dominica.

John Linder and Isaac Booker, Sr. also received 100-acre refugee grants on Sweet Water.

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/15/16-John C. Ross. Ross to Robert Herries, Feb. 7, 1782, Beauclerk Bluff, St. Johns River, East Florida, in Papers and Correspondence of John Ross the younger of Arnage, Box 4, Bundle 10, Leith Ross Muniments, Gift Deposit 186, Scottish Record Office, and miscellaneous documents in GD 186, SRO. T77/23/fragments for Linder and Booker.