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History of Early American Landscape Design

Difference between revisions of "William Bartram"

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[[Category: People|Bartram, William]]
[[Category: People|Bartram, William]]

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“I am obliged to thee for thy kindness to my son William. He longs to be with thee; but it is more for the sake of Botany, than Physic or Surgery, neither of which he seems to have any delight in. I have several books of both but can’t persuade him to read a page in either. Botany and drawing are his delight.”

"I had it in contemplation to mention to thee for thy approbation, or sentiments thereon, a proposal that I had made, last winter, to my cousin, WM. BARTRAM, and nephew, Dr. MOSES MARSHALL, of taking a tour, mostly through the western parts of our United States, in order to make observations, &c, upon the Natural productions of those regions; with a variety of which, hitherto unnoticed, or but imperfectly described, we have reason to believe they abound; which, on consideration, they at that time seemed willing to undertake, and I conceive would be so still, provided they should meet with proper encouragement and support for such a journey; which they judge would be attended with considerable expense, for the transportation of their collections, &c, and for their subsistence during a period of fifteen or eighteen months, or more, which would at least be necessary for the completion of the numerous observations, and objects they would have to make remarks on, and collect. Should such proposals be properly encouraged, I apprehend they would engage to set out early in the spring, and throughout their journey make diligent search and strict observation upon everything within the province of a naturalist; but more especially upon Botany, for the exercise of which there appears, in such a journey, a most extensive field; for, from accounts of our western territories, they are said to abound with varieties of strange trees, shrubs, and plants, no doubt applicable to many valuable purposes in arts or manufactures, and to be replete with various species of earths, stones, salts, inflammable minerals, and metals (the many uses of obtaining a knowledge of which is sufficiently obvious); remarks, experiments, &c, upon every of which they propose making; as also to make collections, and preserve specimens, of everything that may enrich useful science, or amuse the curious naturalist; to the conducement of which, they would willingly receive and observe any reasonable instructions that might facilitate their discoveries, or direct their researches.

"I have taken the freedom to mention these proposals to thee knowing that thou was always ready and willing to promote any useful knowledge and science, for the use of mankind ; and if, on consideration of the premises, thou should approve thereof, thou may communicate them to the members of the Philosophical Society, or any other set of gentlemen, that would be willing or likely to encourage such an undertaking. Perhaps Congress, or some of the members, might promote their going out with the surveyors, when they lay out the several new states.

"I have ordered my nephew, the Doctor, to present thee with one of my Catalogues of the Forest Trees of our Thirteen United States; which I hope thou'll accept of, for thy perusal."

Fig. 1, “Plan of the Ancient Chunky-Yard,” in “Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians” (1789), from Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, vol. 3, part 1 (1853), p. 52, fig. 2.
  • 1789, describing settlements of the Muscogulge and Cherokee Indians (1853: 51-53) [3]
“The subjoined plan . . . will illustrate the form and character of these yards. [Fig. 1]
A, the great area, surrounded by terraces or banks.
B, a circular eminence, at one end of the yard, commonly nine or ten feet higher than the ground round about. Upon this mound stands the great Rotunda, Hot House, or Winter Council House, of the present Creeks. It was probably designed and used by the ancients who constructed it, for the same purpose.
C, a square terrace or eminence, about the same height with the circular one just described, occupying a position at the other end of the yard. Upon this stands the Public Square.
“The banks inclosing the yard are indicated by the letters b, b, b, b; c indicate the “Chunk-Pole,” and d, d, the “Slave-Posts.”
“Sometimes the square, instead of being open at the ends, as shown in the plan, is closed upon all sides by the banks. In the lately built, or new Creek towns, they do not raise a mound for the foundation of their Rotundas or Public Squares. The yard, however, is retained, and the public buildings occupy nearly the same position in respect to it. They also retain the central obelisk and the slave-posts.”

Fig. 2, A great mound and its avenues, at Mount Royal, near Lake George, Georgia, in “Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians” (1789), from Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, vol. 3, part 1 (1853), p. 57, fig. 6.
  • 1789, describing Indian settlements in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (1853: 57-58) [3]
“In the Cherokee country, all over Carolina, and the Northern and Eastern parts of Georgia, wherever the ruins of ancient Indian towns appear, we see always beside these remains one vast, conical-pointed mound. To mounds of the kind I refer when I speak of pyramidal mounds. To the south and west of the Altamaha, I observed none of these in any part of the Muscogulge country, but always flat or square structures. The vast mounds upon the St. John’s, Alachua, and Musquito rivers, differ from those amongst the Cherokee with respect to their adjuncts and appendages, particularly in respect to the great highway or avenue, sunk below the common level of the earth, extending from them, and terminating either in a vast savanna or natural plain, or an artificial pond or lake. A remarkable example occurs at Mount Royal, from whence opens a glorious view of Lake George and its environs.
“Fig. 6 is a perspective plan of this great mound and its avenues, the latter leading off to an expansive savanna or natural meadow. A, the mound, about forty feet in perpendicular height; B, the highway leading from the mound in a straight line to the pond C, about a half a mile distant. . . . The sketch of the mound also illustrates the character of the mounds in the Cherokee country; but the last have not the highway or avenue, and are always accompanied by vast square terraces, placed upon one side or the other. On the other hand, we never see the square [[terrace/slope|terraces] accompanying the high mounds of East Florida.” [Fig. 2]

  • 1791, describing the area north of Wrightsborough, Ga. (1928: 56–57) [4]
“many very magnificent monuments of the power and industry of the ancient inhabitants of these lands are visible. I observed a stupendous conical pyramid, or artificial mount of earth, vast tetragon terraces, and a large sunken area, of a cubical form, encompassed with banks of earth; and certain traces of a larger Indian town, the work of a powerful nation, whose period of grandeur perhaps long preceded the discovery of this continent. . . .
“old Indian settlements, now deserted and overgrown with forests. These are always on or near the banks of rivers, or great swamps, the artificial mounts and terraces elevating them above the surrounding groves.”

  • 1791, describing St. Simon’s Island, Ga. (1928: 72–73) [4]
“This delightful habitation was situated in the midst of a spacious grove of Live Oaks and Palms, near the strand of the bay, commanding a view of the inlet. A cool area surrounded the low but convenient buildings, from whence, through the groves, was a spacious avenue into the island, terminated by a large savanna. . . .
“Our rural table was spread under the shadow of Oaks, Palms, and Sweet Bays, fanned by the lively salubrious breezes wafted from the spicy groves. Our music was the responsive love-lays of the painted nonpareil, and the alert and gay mock-bird; whilst the brilliant humming-bird darted through the flowery groves, suspended in air, and drank nectar from the flowers of the yellow Jasmine, Lonicera, Andromeda, and sweet Azalea.”

  • 1791, describing Marshall Plantation, on the San Juan River, Fla. (1928: 84) [4]
“In the afternoon, the most sultry time of the day, we retired to the fragrant shades of an orange grove. The house was situated on an eminence, about one hundred and fifty yards from the river. On the right hand was the orangery, consisting of many hundred trees, natives of the place, and left standing, when the ground about it was cleared. These trees were large, flourishing, and in perfect bloom, and loaded with their ripe golden fruit. On the other side was a spacious garden, occupying a regular slope of ground down to the water; and a pleasant lawn lay between.”

  • 1791, describing an Indian village in Florida (1928: 96) [4]
“There was a large Orange grove at the upper end of their village; the trees were large, carefully pruned, and the ground under them clean, open, and airy.”

  • 1791, describing Lake George, Ga. (1928: 101, 104) [4]
“From this place we enjoyed a most enchanting prospect of the great Lake George, through a grand avenue, if I may so term this narrow reach of the river, which widens gradually for about two miles, towards its entrance into the lake, so as to elude the exact rules of perspective, and appears of an equal width. . . .
“On the site of this ancient town, stands a very pompous Indian mount, or conical pyramid of earth, from which runs in a straight line a grand avenue or Indian highway, through a magnificent grove of magnolias, live oaks, palms, and orange trees, terminating at the verge of a large green level savanna.”

  • 1791, describing Lake George, Ga., and settlements of the Muscogulge and Cherokee Indians (1928: 101–2, 407) [4]
“At about fifty yards distance from the landing place, stands a magnificent Indian mount. . . . But what greatly contributed towards completing the magnificence of the scene, was a noble Indian highway, which led from the great mount, on a straight line, three quarters of a mile, first through a point or wing of the orange grove, and continuing thence through an awful forest of live oaks, it was terminated by palms and laurel magnolias, on the verge of an oblong artificial lake, which was on the edge of an extensive green level savanna. . . .The glittering water pond played on the sight, through the dark grove, like a brilliant diamond, on the bosom of the illumined savanna, bordered with various flowery shrubs and plants. . . .
“From the river St. Juans, Southerly, to the point of the peninsula of Florida, are to be seen high pyramidal mounts with spacious and extensive avenues, leading from them out of the town, to an artificial lake or pond of water; these were evidently designed in part for ornament or monuments of magnificence, to perpetuate the power and grandeur of the nation.”

  • 1791, describing an Indian town in Cuscowilla, Ga. (1928: 167–68) [4]
“Upon our arrival we repaired to the public square or council-house, where the chiefs and senators were already convened. . . .
“The banquet succeeded; the ribs and choicest fat pieces of the bullocks, excellently well barbecued, were brought into the apartment of the public square, constructed and appointed for feasting.”

  • 1791, describing a typical house in Cuscowilla, Ga. (1928: 168–69) [4]
“The dwelling stands near the middle of a square yard, encompassed by a low bank, formed with the earth taken out of the yard, which is always carefully swept.”

  • 1791, describing an Indian town in Georgia (1928: 169–70) [4]
“They plant but little here about the town; only a small garden plot at each habitation. . . . Their plantation, which supplies them with the chief of their vegetable provisions . . . lies on the rich prolific lands bordering on the great Alachua savanna, about two miles distance. This plantation is one common enclosure, and is worked and tended by the whole community.”

  • 1791, describing Indian village south of Charlotia (1928: 250–51) [4]
“We were received and entertained friendlily [sic] by the Indians, the chief of the village conducting us to a grand, airy pavilion in the center of the village. It was four square; a range of pillars or posts on each side supporting a canopy composed of Palmetto leaves, woven or thatched together, which shaded a level platform in the center, that was ascended to from each side by two steps or flights, each about twelve inches high, and seven or eight feet in breadth, all covered with carpets or mats, curiously woven, of split canes dyed of various colours. Here being seated or reclining ourselves, after smoaking tobacco, baskets of the choicest fruits were brought and set before us.”

  • 1791, describing settlements of the Muscogulge and Cherokee Indians (1928: 406) [4]
“The pyramidal hills or artificial mounts, and highways, or avenues, leading from them to artificial lakes or ponds, vast tetragon terraces, chunk yards,* and obelisks or pillars of wood, are the only monuments of labour, ingenuity and magnificence that I have seen worthy of notice, or remark.
"* Chunk yard, a term given by white traders, to the oblong four square yards, adjoining the high mounts and rotundas of the modern Indians.—In the centre of these stands the obelisk, and at each corner of the farther end stands a slave post or strong stake, where the captives that are burnt alive are bound.”

  • 1792, describing islands off the coast of Georgia and Florida (1996: 93) [5]
“These floating islands present a very entertaining prospect; for although we behold an assemblage of the primary productions of nature only, yet the imagination seems to remain in suspense and doubt; as in order to enliven the delusion, and form a most picturesque appearance we see not only flowery plants, clumps of shrubs, old-weather beaten trees, hoary and barbed, with the long moss waving from their snags, but we also see them completely inhabited, and alive, with crocodiles, serpents, frogs, otters, crows, herons, curlews, jackdaws, &c. There seems, in short, nothing wanted but the appearance of a wigwam and a canoe to complete the scene.”

"Near Philadelphia I found the botanic garden of Messrs. John and William Bartram. This is likewise an old establishment, founded under the patronage of the late Dr. Fothergill, by the father of the now living Bartrams. This place, delightfully situated on the banks of the Delaware, is kept up by the present proprietors, and probably will increase under the care of the son of John Bartram, a young gentleman of classical education, and highly attached to the study of botany. Mr. William Bartram, the well known author of “Travels through North and South Carolina,” I found a very intelligent, agreeable, and communicative gentleman; and from him I received considerable information about the plants of that country, particularly respecting the habitats of a number of rare and interesting trees. It is with the liveliest emotions of pleasure I call to mind the happy hours I spent in this worthy man’s company, during the period I lived in his neighbourhood.



  1. Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, Dr. Alexander Garden of Charles Town (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1969), view on Zotero.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Darlington
  3. 3.0 3.1 William Bartram, "Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians, 1789, with Prefatory and Supplementary Notes by E.G. Squier," Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, 3 (1853), 1–81, view on Zotero.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 William Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, ed. by Mark Van Doren (New York: Dover, 1928), view on Zotero.
  5. William Bartram, Travels, and Other Writings (New York: Library of America, 1996), view on Zotero.
  6. Frederick Pursh, Flora Americae Septentrionalis; Or, a Systematic Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America, 2 vols (London: White, Cochrane, & Co., 1814), view on Zotero.

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