Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/601

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

they frequently meet with certain signs of its being inhabited, as the building of canoes, footsteps of men, &c. . . .

It is, however, certain that there is a vast lake, or drowned swamp,[1] well known, and often visited both by white and Indian hunters, and on its environs the most valuable hunting grounds in Florida, well worth contending for, by those powers whose territories border upon it. From this great source of rivers,[2] St. Mary arises, and meanders through a vast plain and pine forest, near an hundred and fifty miles to the ocean, with which it communicates, between the points of Amelia and Talbert[3] islands; the waters flow deep and gently down from its source to the sea.

About this time the swamp began to appear on maps, though often located far from its true position, and with the name spelled in a wonderful variety of ways. On old maps of Georgia preserved in the Library of Congi'ess the following variations in spelling can be found: Ekanfinaka (1790), Akenfonogo (1796), Eokenfonooka (1810), Oquafanoka (1818), Oke-fin-o-cau (1818) and Okefinoke (1831). The last agrees pretty well with the pronunciation used by people living in the immediate vicinity at the present time, who commonly speak of the swamp as "the Okefinoke" (leaving the e's silent or nearly so). The name is said to be derived from Indian words meaning "trembling earth," alluding of course to the boggy nature of the swamp.

After Bartram nothing of importance seems to have been learned about this swamp for three quarters of a century. Dr. William Baldwin, the botanist, who resided at the nearest seaport, St. Mary's, from 1813 to 1814, wrote to his friend Dr. Muhlenberg, of Pennsylvania, on February 26, 1814, of having Just been on a short botanical tour which "extended to within about twelve miles of the celebrated Okefanoka Swamp, at the head of St. Mary's River, but he seems never to have approached it any closer than that. The description in Eev. George White's valuable "Statistics of the State of Georgia," published in 1849, is copied from Bartram, the principal difference being that the name of the swamp is there spelled Okefinocau. The boundaries of the area, however, are located more accurately on White's map than on some of later date. In "Historical Collections of Georgia," by the same author, published in 1855, is a shorter description of the swamp, from the same source, and the name of it is spelled "E-cun-fi-no-cau."

Probably the first white men, other than hunters, to explore the Okefinokee were Gen. John Floyd and his soldiers, who are said to have

  1. At this point in the German edition (published in Berlin in 1793) the editor, E. A. W. Zimmermann, inserts the following footnote: "Dieser Sumpf ist unstreitig der Ekanfonoka Swamp unter 30° der Breite; er nimmt aber auf Purcel's Karte mehr als Einen Grad ein."
  2. (Bartram's footnote.) "Source of rivers. It is said, that St. llle [Satilla], St. Mary, and the beautiful river. Little St. Juan [Suwannee], which discharges its waters into the bay of Apalachi, at St. Mark's, take their rise from this swamp."
  3. "Talbert" is a mistake. He should have said Cumberland, as Dr. Baldwin pointed out about ninety years ago.