William Beresford

William Beresford, Esq., received another 20,000-acre tract, probably for his brother John, located south and east of Lake Monroe. This was the third upriver grant awarded to the three Beresford brothers. Dr. Stork selected the tract at a point where the river channel is generally north and south but twists haphazardly before skirting the entrance to Lake Jesup and turns east and north for several miles before bending south. This unusual placement on the river gave Beresford roughly seven or eight miles of river frontage and extensive marsh and swamp acreage, which was then considered fit for rice fields and thus the most valuable land in the province.

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South of Lake Monroe upriver boaters today face the same confusing proliferation of channels that tormented British agents and surveyors in the 1760s and 1770s. A third grant of 20,000 acres for the Beresford brothers was located east of the river across from the entrance to Lake Jesup. It was apparently chosen with the intention of converting the wetland to rice fields, but never developed.

A damaged British surveyor's map drawn in the 1760s and several tracts along the upper St. Johns River, including tracts located for the Beresford brothers. Courtesy of the National Archive, Kew, England.

Stork wrote from St. Augustine on May 15, 1768, with a glowing description of the Beresford brothers' tracts and of the other tracts he had selected.

"The Inclos’d is a sketch of the three Tracts I have surveyed and Located for Yourself for Sir Archibald & Mr. Duncan Grant. I have been at some pains to see & examine a great Part of this Province, before I fixed upon any particular spot, and have had the good Luck to find extraordinary good land for everyone of my Constituents but in particular for yourself. I can declare upon my honour, that your Tract is the best in this Province, on account of the great quantity of valuable land, as well as to its Situation. You have in front upon the Lake fifteen hundred acres of a rich marsh, 8 feet from the level of the Water consequently never subject to be overflown[.] Tis sort of marsh I look upon as the most profitable Land we have in East Florida. It requires no clearing after the grass is burnt, one may use the Plow directly, it has a rich mould 6 Feet deep and a Clay and Marsh Foundation after. The swamps in Your Tract are likewise very extensive of a deep rich soil, this present plan is only a sketch of my own, the actual survey done by the Deputy Surveyor, under my Eye is now in the hands of the surveyor general, as soon as it has passed the different offices, I shall transmit it to you, which plat of survey will inform you more particular of the different sorts of soil this grant contains. As every grant of 20000 acres is a Barony and the Proprietor has a right to bestow what name he pleases upon it especially if the land is known by any name before, you will therefore be pleased to mention in your next what name your Barony is to go by. In regard to the situation these three Tracts are situated in a very happy Latitude out of the reach of Frost, consequently fit for all West India Productions, the Lake they are situated upon is formed by the River St. John, and is three miles over, in Honour of my worthy Friends the Grants I have called this Lake Grant.

"The Navigation for shipping of the Produce from this Lake to the River St Marys, which in time will be our Shipping Port, is quite safe and easie. Notwithstanding the many false reports spread at home against this Province and the little assistance we have from Government we daily increase in number of Inhabitants and negroes. Several considerable Plantations have been established since my arrival, every foot of Land upon St. Johns River is taken up and great Deal already settled, I have established a Plantation upon St. Johns River for Mr. Tucker, consisting of six white people and 25 Negroes. I have already built five Houses and 16 Negro houses upon it, and have about 60 acres cleared & planted. I have likewise established another Plantation upon Lake George for Lord Cassilis consisting of 5 White people & 10 Negroes, his Lordships Tract is one of the best in the Province, it contains more than 10000 acres rich marsh & swamp. I took the Liberty to Inclose a Letter for my Lord, as I don’t know well where to direct to him. We have lately received Letters from Dr. Turnbull from Gibralter, wherein he mentioned we may expect him soon with 8 ships & 1500 new Settlers Greek & Minorquins. This Importation will be a great acquisition to this Province. As I have now mostly compleated my commission in Locating & settling the different grants I have been intrusted with I intend to return to England toward the Winter, and shall then be able to give you a fuller account of this Country. I have taken a great deal of Pains to see the greater Part of it and have made many Discoverys, believe me, my account of East Florida is not in the least exagerated the more we get acquainted with the Country the better lands we find, & the climate still continues healthy. I hope you have received my several Letters of advice, what sums I have drawn for upon you by Direction of Messrs. Bruton & Smith, I shall draw now for the Remainder of my Credit on Messrs. Bruton & Smith. I am with all possible respect, Wm. Stork"

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/2/28-John Beresford, Earl of Tyrone, Bishop of Ossory, Baron of Decies.