Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/615

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611
OKEFINOKEE SWAMP

nearly half the population of Ware County, and is the largest city in the pine-barrens of Georgia, the density of population in 1900 was 8.5 per square mile, the proportion of whites 69 per cent., and the increase since 1890 30 per cent. For the whole state of Georgia the corresponding figures were 37.5 per square mile, 53 per cent, white and 21 per cent, increase.

The principal occupations of the people in these counties, outside of the towns, are stock-raising, lumbering, turpentining, farming, hunting and fishing, approximately in the order named. There seem to be a few "moonshiners" just south of the swamp in Florida. Not more than 10 per cent, of the area of the four counties named, even with the swamp excluded, has been touched by the plow as yet. Until quite recently this flat sandy land was considered as little better than a desert, but its merits are beginning to be appreciated, as is proved by the rapid increase of population in the last decade. The leading crops of this region are corn, sugar-cane, oats, sea-island cotton, sweet potatoes and rice. Sugar-cane syrup is becoming one of the principal agricultural exports, especially north and west of the swamp.

 

Healthfulness of the Region

Like Dismal Swamp and the Everglades, the vicinity of Okefinokee is remarkably free from climatic or endemic diseases, Fountain's statements to the contrary notwithstanding. Malaria, which in the popular mind is commonly associated with swamps of all kinds, seems to be chiefly confined to alluvial districts, and is therefore not to be expected around Okefinokee, which is strictly a non-alluvial swamp. As many as 200 men were sometimes employed in the swamp by the Suwanee Canal Company, and it is said that there was never a case of malaria among them or their families who lived at Camp Cornelia. No one is known to have ever died in the Okefinokee, from illness, snake-bite, starvation, drowning, or any other cause. On the contrary, instances are recorded of men suffering with rheumatism who have gone in there to work and come out in a few days greatly relieved, if not cured.

The chief drawback—though not a serious one—to life in the swamp is the drinking water. It is of course rather warm in summer, and always full of fine particles of peat, just as in northern cedar-swamps, but nevertheless it is not unwholesome. Its properties are doubtless similar to those of the Dismal Swamp water, which used to be preferred by navigators sailing from Norfolk and vicinity because on account of its slightly antiseptic properties it kept fresh on shipboard longer than any other kind.

The flat pine-barrens around the swamp have many attractions as a residential section, notwithstanding the pessimistic picture of them which Bradford Torrey draws in his article "In the Flat-woods."[1]


  1. Atlantic Monthly, December, 1893. Also reprinted in his "Florida Sketchbook," 1894, p. 1.