Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Marker Honors Naturalist; Bartram Plantation Plaque Dedicated

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Marker Honors Naturalist; Bartram Plantation Plaque Dedicated

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Times-Union staff writer

The rain fell, the wind blew and the traffic never ceased on nearby Florida 16 Friday morning..

But in between the raindrops, St. Johns County officials unveiled a new historic marker commemorating a famous British naturalist's plantation that once stood within sight of the Shands Bridge in Orangedale.

William Bartram is best known for his published 18th century survey of animals and plant life in the Southeast, including Northeast Florida. But he also tried his hand at farming in 1766 with a short-lived plantation on Little Florence Cove.

It failed miserably, and that may have been a lucky break, he said. That's because Bartram was able to embark on a trip that resulted in a book called Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida.

"We are lucky it was a disaster because he went back to Philadelphia, stayed for a few years, then came back and had this major trip around the Southeast, which produced its famous book," said the librarian of the St. Augustine Historical Society. "That book was a best-seller in England in the 1790s and has been continuously in print ever since. It was the first American book by an American author to be a best-seller in Europe."

The marker also is important to residents and tourists, said Mary Cornwell, chairwoman of a grass-roots committee that is nearing completion of a plan to manage the scenic and historical treasures along Florida 13 between Julington Creek and Florida 16.

"When the traveler stops and reads this, they will learn a bit about our county and all of Bartram's travels along the St. Johns River. This is a very, very natural place to have this plaque, because the river played a very major role in Bartram's travels in this area in his canoe," Cornwell said. "He discovered so many things and he loved this place, which is why he had the plantation there. …

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