Le Conte's Report on East Florida

Le Conte's Report on East Florida

Le Conte's Report on East Florida

Le Conte's Report on East Florida

Excerpt

After nearly two and a half centuries, interrupted by twenty years of British possession from 1763 to 1783, the enfeebled Spanish rule of East Florida and West Florida ended in 1821. Although American's had been settling in the Floridas for several years, not much was known about the interior of the larger, East Florida. The Spaniards had apparently left most of the interior untouched. Under the British there had been some noteworthy exploration and cartography, but these activities ended with the outbreak of the Revolution, and much of the topographical information they produced may not have been available to the United States govemment at the time of the 1821 cession.

Four men stand out among those who explored Florida between 1763 and 1776--the naturalists John and William Bartram and the cartographers William Gerard De Brahm and Bernard Romans. John Bartram ( 1699- 1777) was already renowned as a botanist when he left his home in Philadelphia during the fall and winter of 1765- 66 for a journey into coastal Georgia and up the St. Johns River in Florida, taking with him his son William ( 1739- 1823). They journeyed as far as Salt Lake, about fifty miles from the source of the St. Johns, thinking that they had reached the source. "Billy," considered by his father aimless and likely to accomplish little, was later to become even more famous than John Bartram. In 1773, after two failures in business, he set out from his father's home to journey alone by boat, on horseback, and afoot through the Southeast. During his four-year odyssey, he would again travel up the St. Johns, almost as far as he had gone a decade earlier, and into the Indian nations of inland Florida. Bartram's Travels (1791), an unparalleled description of the unsettled Florida of the eighteenth century and a rich lode for modern naturalists, left its impression on the romantic movement in English literature.

Cartography in East Florida was concerned almost entirely with the coast. Louis De Vorsey, Jr., and P. Lee Phillips, among others, have described the undependable state of map making prior to 1770 and the attempts of William Gerard De Brahm and Bernard Romans to improve on it (11, 12, 44). De Brahm, surveying inland from the coast, had established by 1770 that Lake Okeechobee was not the source of the St. Johns (7, Plate V), but he put the source above Lake Harney, about where John Bar- . . .

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