Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Brief History Lesson on the Man We're Celebrating Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Brief History Lesson on the Man We're Celebrating Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

William Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway, Bartram Trail branch library, Bartram Trail High School and the Bartram Bash all have something in common besides being in Northwest St. Johns County. All were named for early explorers of the area, William Bartram and his father, John Bartram.

Combining a celebration of William Bartram's birthday with some Earth Day activities has always seemed very appropriate to me. William Bartram was our very first American-born naturalist. He had a great appreciation of all nature, especially the plants and animals of the area.

William Bartram was born in 1739 in Pennsylvania. John Bartram was the king's botanist and traveled the eastern territories and states, surveying the area for information to send back to England.

William Bartram first began traveling with his father at the age of 14. He loved drawing the various plants they discovered and soon became very adept at artistic rendering and written descriptions.

William first visited the St. Johns River in October 1765 and returned on his own for a more extensive trip of discovery from 1773-76. At one time, he actually set up a plantation on the banks of the St. Johns near Little Florence Cove but the endeavor failed and because of illness, he was forced to abandon the plantation.

Written later in his life, William Bartram's book "Travels" describes his visit to the Southeast and it is especially interesting to area residents that he visited plantations in the Fruit Cove and Switzerland areas on his travels. In the book he describes the many acres of citrus fruit growing on one plantation, assumed by many to be the one owned by Francis Philip Fatio.

Our very own 55-acre Alpine Groves Park is also located on the land once owned by Fatio. As we celebrate Bartram's birthday and Earth Day today at that very location, it is easy to imagine Bartram gliding along in his small boat, close to shore and looking at the different kinds of trees, animals, plants, flowers, butterflies and fish along and in the river. …

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