The Journal of Thomas Spalding

From February to April 1827 a team of commissioners and surveyors were sent to survey the Florida-Georgia border. The team consisted of:

  • Thomas Spalding (U.S. Representative from Georgia for the at-large district from 1805 to 1806) commissioner, representing the interests of Georgia.
  • Thomas Mann Randolph Jr (Governor of Virginia from 1819 to 1822, and son-in-law of president Thomas Jefferson) commissioner, representing U.S. interests.
  • John McBride (Surveyor General of Georgia from November 1827 to his death 28 June 1828) the surveyor for the expedition.
  • John Randolph, Commissary and Commandant.
  • John G. Bell, secretary for the expedition.
  • Sixteen men, hired to help with the surveying.

The expedition had a number of guides. The guides known by name were:

  • Mr. Brown
  • Captain William Cone of Camden County, GA.
  • James Filman of Florida

The team started out from Darien, Georgia in late February 1827. By early March they had made it Ellicott's Mound in the Okefenokee Swamp. By early April the commissioners had reached Thomas County, Georgia. The expedition was cancelled on 26 April 1827 by the then governor of Georgia, George M. Troup. Spalding had written to the governor on 4 April, complaining that the line being run my McBride was diverging to the north of the lines that have been previously be run. In addition, the 40 miles left to be run were through land that was already occupied by settlers, who were worried about the their property rights. Even though the line was only an experimental line and not a line that was to hold legal merit, and continuing west could still cause a panic. Spalding and Governor Randolph could also not agree upon the head of the St. Mary's River. Spalding argued that it should be further south, while Randolph believed Ellicott's Mound should remain the marker of the source.

The expedition journeyed through areas of Florida and Georgia that had been little explored by European Americans before their expedition. Their expedition encountered the location of the abandoned Creek town of Micco Town in northern Florida. The area had only been opened to settlement in 1819 and was still thinly settled by 1827. The lone non-Native American route in the area was the Coffee Road from Jacksonville, Telfair County, Georgia to Tallahassee, Florida was blazed through the wilderness only 5 years before.

A few letters from the expedition still exist.

After the expedition ended, John McBride was sent back to find the true source of the St. Mary's River on 20 June 1827 by the governor of Georgia. He arrived at Filman's on the St. Mary's River in north Florida on 3 July 1827. He determined that the Middle/West Branch of the St. Mary's River originated from a lake which he named Lake Randolph (now known as Ocean Pond near Olustee, Florida). The South Branch of the St. Mary's River was determined to originate from a late, which McBride named Lake Spalding. McBride argued that based upon water flow, the South Branch of the St. Mary's River was the true source and should be from where the line to the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers should extend. ^[1] McBride filed his report from Eatonton, Georgia on 7 August 1827.^[2]

The travel journal of Thomas Spalding from during the trek was later published in the Savannah Georgian in a series of installments from October to November 1828. The specific issues with links to the originals were:

The entirety of the journal has been typed up below into a continuous document with annotations for convenience. Dated spellings have been left in place. The map below depicts the locations they visited when those locations could be located. The blue icons are places visited by the initial expeditions. The red icons are places visited by McBride in his June expedition. Purple icons were visited by both expeditions.

Journal of Thomas Spalding, Esq.

Commissioner on the part of Georgia to run & mark the Boundary Line between this State & the Territory of Florida

Darien, Feb. 13, 1827.

Mr. Bell our Secretary was instructed to go on to Savannah, and procure the necessary supplies for the expedition, -- after going there and procuring the articles, which were shipped for this place, he returned, and was engaged until the 28th, in hireing men, and purchasing Horses &c, &c. On this day the 28th, Dr. Randolph, our Commissary [NOTE: John Randolph]; was dispatched with some of the wagons, by Barrington, to meet us at Clark’s Bluff, to which point two days before, Mr. M’Bride [NOTE: John McBride], the surveyor had passed over with nine of his men, and the heavy articles of our provision, apprehensive of a rise of the river (Alatamaha, [NOTE: Altamaha) which might prevent the passage of our laden wagons. Gov. Randolph [NOTE: Thomas Mann Randolph Jr, former Governor of Virginia], Mr. Bell and myself, left Darien (in a boat,) at 8 o’clock this morning, and arrived at Clark’s Bluff at 12. Dr. Randolph, with the wagons arrived two hours after us.

THURSDAY, March 1. -- We are all assembled at Mr. Mays, on the south side of the Alatamaha [NOTE: Altamaha). We find it necessary from the weight of our provision to hire an Ox team, to assist in its conveyance to the head of St. Mary’s. At 10 o’clock this day our party left May’s and proceeded on our way,) consisting of the Commissioners, Mr. M’Bride Surveyor, Mr. Bell Secretary, Dr. Randolph Commissary and Commandant, and sixteen men, provisioned as we hope, for three months, --barring the Okofonoke [NOTE: Okefenokee], we see no difficulty in our way.

FRIDAY, March 2. -- Reached the Buffalo just before sunset yesterday, when the axletree to the ox wagon unfortunately gave way, several of our men engaged great part of the night and next morning, in making a new one, (a rainy and unpleasant night.) We have felt the little circumstance of our broken axletree as a species of omen, of the many accidents of the same character, which we are destined to encounter.

The country thro’ which we travelled yesterday, is altogether a fine Pine country, the first six miles of our route from May’s to the Barrington Road, is called the flat lands; --just on arrival at the road, you ascend 15 to 20 feet upon a new level, they are called Sand Hills, tho’ it is rather a plateau. They appear evidently at one period to have margin’d the ocean, they are perfectly white sand, such as is thrown up by the sea, and in the dwarf Pine, that cover them, and in sterility, assume very much the character of the pine lands of East Florida, after having ascended the river St. Johns 40 miles, and I have no doubt if the question should be well examined, the line of those sandy regions would be found to unite with the same Sandy ranges discovered on the shores of the river St. Johns. Below this range the flatter lands would seem to me to have been recovered at a later period from the sea, to have something more of the alluvial character, cla[MISSING]ng mixed with them.

Even in this short route we have met with three or found abundant settlements, one just upon the northern border of the Buffalo--which presented almost everything which a poor man could desire--the buildings were comfortable, the Fruit Trees were in bloom and were healthy; but here, like everywhere else, we find the unhappy disposition to roam, which makes thousands quit a home of comfort, for labor and the wilderness.

At nine o’clock our repairs being completed, proceeded for Jefferson [NOTE: Former county seat of Camden County, now abandoned], Gov. R myself, and Mr. B. (our Sec’ry.) proceeded ahead with expectation of procuring some necessary provender at that point, for our horses and mules. We stopped at Mr. M’Intosh’s, three miles east of Jefferson, and the next morning dispatched a boy to direct our wagons to the Burnt Ford road, as the best, followed them on Sunday, the 4th, and overtook four miles beyond Traders Hill [NOTE: Former county seat of Charlton County, now abandoned]. Found the St. Illa River [NOTE: Satilla River] at the Burnt Ford [NOTE: Generally called Burnt Fort], both a larger and finer river than we expected. We were very much struck with the beauty of the pine lands after crossing St. Illa, for four or five miles. The trees were tall and thick, there is a great deal of clay in the soil, and if well drained would no doubt prove faithful lands, they partake of the quality of the flat lands, first spoke of on the Alatamaha [NOTE: Altamaha River], but are superior. These flat lands seem to widen from the sea in this quarter.

March 5. -- Last night, which was the first night, (from having no fodder for our horses and mules, were obliged to turn them out,) and this morning found that all had strayed and detained us sometime seeking for them, at 12 o’clock, having recovered them, we proceeded on and encamped at an ancient Indian camp, two miles short of Barber’s on the St. Mary’s [NOTE: Israel Barber’s plantation, exact location unknown].

March 6. -- This day we were joined by two guides, Capt. Cones, and a Mr. Brown. On questioning Capt. Cone, I learnt with astonishment, that he (Capt. Cone) believed that the Commissioners, (Ellicott and Minor’s) encampment on the St. Mary’s was the eastern termination of the line between Georgia and Florida. I exhibited to Capt. Cone, Mr. Ellicott’s, shewing that the real mound was 14 miles north of that encampment.

-- Stopped at Barber’s and learnt from him, that Mr. Filman’s near the St. Mary’s river [NOTE: James Filman, on the Florida side of the border at "the Pine Log"] would be the proper crossing place-- and that Filman could carry us at once to the mound by Ellicott.

March 7. -- This day we dismissed Brown one of the guides and engaged Filman, who conducted Gov. R myself, Mr. McBride and Capt. Cone, to the mound.

March 8. -- Gov. R and myself determined, in obedience to the act of Congress, that the line should commence, one mile north of the mound, and then proceed for the junction of the flint and Chatahoochie [Note: Chattahoochee River]. The Surveyor making his third calculation for that point, graduated upon the observation of Mr. Ellicott’s, because Mr. Ellicott’s calculation was based upon a point, four-tenths of a mile north of the point we determined upon, and because the calculation he had previously made at Milledgeville, have been based upon a line to proceed from the mound.

March 9. -- Mr. M’Bride measured to, and commenced at the point by us, began his laborious and difficult operation.

-- From this time up the 16th, he was laboring through swamps, almost impenetrable, and heretofore unpenetrated by man. On the 16th, he emerged from this waste of wood and water. We found it extremely difficult to supply him and his men with the absolute necessities of life, during the operation; he had made a bed for himself and his men, of timber in the midst of Swamps, of great depth. We continued moving our encampment to the nearest points at which he was reachable by man, with provisions upon their backs.

-- This night (the 16th.) we encamped two miles from the great Suwanee [NOTE: Suwannee] venturing to leave the Surveying party 8 or 9 miles in the rear.

March 17. -- This day we removed our encampment across the Suwanee [NOTE: Suwannee], and sent Capt. Cone, with a pack horse and pack man, to accompany the Surveyor, until he reached us across the Suwanee.

March 18. -- Mr. M’Bride and his men joined us, having been driven from their work by the inclemency of the weather -- his line being 3 miles in the rear of the Suwanee. Here it is as well perhaps to observe, that driven on by the goad of necessity, Sunday brings no holiday to man or beast, and here too, having reached the Suwanee, the first water that runs into the Gulph of Mexico, we will pause, and look back upon the country thro’ which we have passed. For the last fifty miles, soon after leaving Barber’s 20 miles to the eastward of the St. Mary’s, we descended into a low marshy plain, some parts thinly stewed with pine, in others covered with Cypress. We struck with the softness of this region; -- it appeared to controvert the position, which at an earlier part of this Journal we had adopted, that after once ascending the high sand plain, we should not again depart from it, until we reached the Chatahoochie [Chattahoochee], and this enigma was only explained to our satisfaction if nothing new should again controvert the position, by looking to the map and noticing the geographical situation of these points, we there see, that the St. Mary’s, the last of our eastern Rivers, of a minor character has begun to adapt itself to the form of the Caps of Florida, and instead of drawing her sources from the north-west, as all the rivers north of her do, has her sources almost directly west of her mouth. St. Marys at her entrance in the Atlantic, is in latitude 30, 42; her source has been since fixed by Mr. Ellicott, in latitude 30 36 -- so that after wandering thro’ this Piney region for 80 or 100 miles, we find she has run far to the west, and even 6 miles to the south. The ridge then of high land, which we had lost in Camden country, must be sought for, as the dividing ridge between the waters of the St. Mary’s and the waters of the Suwanee, -- and this land is questionably higher than it would be supposed from a transient observation of it, or these two rivers would been into one, and not have been directed into the Gulph of Mexico and into the Atlantic Ocean.

The River [MISSING]’s at the point where we crossed it, or just above it, divides into two branches, the one curling like a Ram’s horn, to the east and to the north, and retaining its name; the other which we believe to carry as much water as the Alligator, turns away to the south west as, and finds its source in imminence bay galls in Florida, and here it is probable, Mr. Ellicott should have sought, and would have found the real source of the St. Mary’s; it would have given a configuration both to Georgia and Florida, more comfortable to the nature of things, and the general face of the country, but the act was consummated, and it was not for us on this occasion to controvert.

In all this space, from Barber’s (20 miles beyond the St. Mary’s) to the Suwanee, a space of 50 miles, we have scarcely seen a spot of cultivable land. The pine trees are thinly scatted through the whole extent -- it is a region adapted to the rearing of cattle and hogs, but the impenetrable swamps, which environ and penetrate it, are filled with animals of prey, and it must be many years before they can be at all thinned, for our Surveyors have been the first, (and may possibly be the last, for many years to come), who have ever gone through any of the larger of these swamps. A few miles below our line on the Suwanee, we are told that the river runs through stony cliffs, and in the banks are found great quantities of excellent flint, whether these cliffs consist of chalk as might be supposed from the flint, whether they consist of lime stone or sand stone, we could not learn from our informants, we neither had time, nor did the state of the river admit of our examining ourselves -- the waters being too high, -- but we were assured by the old man who gave us some of the flints, that the stone of the bluffs of the river, was hard, and was granulated. It was both white and yellow; from these circumstances, we concluded, that it could not be range of soap stone, which is the first stone found in ascending our rivers in Georgia.

-- Ten or twelves miles below the Line, there is a fall in the Suwanee [NOTE: Most likely Big Shoals], said to be when the river is low, about 10 feet -- excepting this fall, the river everywhere deep and quite navigable, from the line down, and from the falls even for Steam Boats; but we learnt from our informant that the gentlemen who were employed by the U.S. to explore and to survey the waters of Florida found by 4 feet water, at the mouth of the Suwanee.

-- This we always knew, or this we at least always expected. the Suwanee then cannot become an emporium, to middle Florida, and much of its trade will be carried on through the medium of the St. Mary’s. For the only line of road that appears practicable, for 70 or 80 miles of this country, is the road which we have pursued, earpoutining but running but little out of its course, between the immense swamps of the Suwanee, known as the Okofonoko [NOTE: Okefenokee], and the impenetrable bay galls of East Florida, to the south of it. This route even now, is not a bad one, and might at a small expense, be made an excellent one. The transient view, which we have been allowed to take, has brightened the prospect in our minds, of the future condition and importance of St. Mary’s. It is neither that at St. Mark nor at St. Augustine, nor on the St. John’s River, that the inhabitants of this quarters will seek for their supplies, they will seek for them, and they will find them both cheaper and better to have gone up the Suwanee in a boat. One of our guides, Capt. Cone, and it is confirmed to us by the person living here,) assures us that there is a passage quite through the Okofonoko, for boats by this stream, into Camden county, northeast of it. This is in truth the highway of the Okofonko Swamp, we are informed and it is probably true, that there are some lands along the banks of this river, and that there are some Islands in the prairies of the Okofonoko, that afford cultivatable land. -- But unless the surround swamps were drained, we can see no possible motive for cultivating them.

March 19. -- The weather having become clear, Mr. M’Bride and his men, left us early this morning, to proceed with their labors; we continuing encamped on the western side of the river until he should have crossed it with his line. We this day engaged another guide (who had been from hence, to the Apalachicola, with the Florida Surveyor, McNeil,) to accompany us through the route.

March 20. -- We moved forward to Buck Creek [NOTE: Most likely the Little Alapaha River], about eleven miles west, where we were encamped for the purpose of remaining, until we should hear from and communicate with our Surveyor, who was this day about the penetrate the swamp, at which Watson (a former Surveyor) had formerly stopped, and at which (another) Broadnax [NOTE: John H. Broadnax], had made an offset in his line. Mr. M’Bride, having communicated with us, thro’ the guide, Capt. Cone, informed us that he had found but little difficulty in pass through the Swamp and that he had run from the time he left us 6 ½ miles.

March 21. -- Reprovisioned Capt. Cone and we proceeded on to the Alapaha, in order to be ahead of the Surveying party. We found the river with high banks, and effected a passage in the afternoon at the old Indian Town of Micco, which is now called Carter’s Ferry [NOTE: This appears to be a mistake as Carter's Ferry was located slightly below Lakeland on the Alapaha River, or there might have been two Carter's Ferries]

-- Five miles before we reached the Alapaha, the scene began to change.

-- We had entered a country through which (tho’ Lime stone sinks were scattered,) the growth was pine in general, thinly mixed with Dog Wood, but a good soil

-- A flat piece of pine land in our way, is unquestionably the best we had seen, since we left the St. Illa River [NOTE: Satilla River]. Micco old Town is situated upon a high Bluff, with a Creek running above and below it.

-- It overlooked the river and the opposite shore, it was all, in all, for and Indian Town, an admirable one, in a military point of view -- to add to its security, three miles in advance of it, adjacent to the fine plain of pine land, which I have spoken of, there is a deep ravine, through which the road turned, and which would have exposed any enemy advancing upon them, to certain discovery, perhaps to serious loss. But the Chief of Micco, and his brethren, are far way, he has retired to the Upper Creeks, and must soon be sought for, west of the Mississippi -- the only home of the Indian, and there at length I hope, and there at length I trust in God, he will [MISSING] -- guaranteed to him by the Nation, and preserved to him, to all time by its justice. If this opportunity is lost, if States are formed to the west, before the Government has guaranteed to him this home, he will soon, like the Mammoth, be extinct in our land, and his bones, and his burying place, and the story of his battles, of his bravery, and of his wrongs, will be all the memorial which will be left of him.

March 22. -- We left Micco this morning, after having again communicated with Mr. M’Bride, and after again furnishing him with one day’s provision, and advising him our intention of pushing west to the Wythlacoochie river [NOTE: Withlacoochee river], where we finally determined to re-unite our parties, and if possible proceed together. The country from the time we left the Alapaha, had changed its characters and appearance, and has very much improved. We found at the Alapaha, and everywhere since, Lime Stone of a good quality, through our route: the form of them is in some instance very beautiful, they are as regular as the extinguished crater of a volcano: After proceeding 12 miles we encamped upon the borders of a beautiful Lake, (called Ochtahatchie [NOTE: Lake Octahatechee],) about two miles in length and one wide. the land around it is a beautiful pine grove, which swells to a height of 50 or 60 or 70 feet. The scene was altogether so different from what we had been experiencing, that one and all of us, were delighted with it.

-- We were not able to ascertain the depth of the water -- it abounds in fish of various kinds; we have spent a day upon its banks, because it was within a mile and a half of our line, and was at a point where we could, with certainty join Mr. M’Bride. This Lake is altogether in Florida, but there are two lakes north of this, in Georgia, which we are this morning setting off to look at. Returned from viewing the Lakes in Georgia [NOTE: Modern Lake Park, GA], we examined nine of them, two of greater extent than the Ochtahatchie, one being about 4 miles long, 2 ½ miles at its extreme point [NOTE: Possibly Ocean Pond], another about 5 miles long and one over; serpentining in some degrees like a river [NOTE: Possibly Long Pond]. One of the smaller Lakes containing from 50 to 100 acres was very beautiful, from perfect regularity of its form, and from the color of its water, which seemed to be limpid and deep, and the adjacent banks assuming a greenish hue, and reflecting distinctly the pine grove, which overhung it shores -- besides the nine Lakes we visited, there are a great number of sink holes, (as they are called,) which are of themselves interesting objects, from the extreme regularity of their forms, and from the depth of many of them.

This country upon the whole, though the soil is but light and thin, is interesting, and if ever it should be garnished with inhabitants and the banks of these lakes receive from the hand of civilized man, the improvement and the embellishment they admit of, this interest would be greatly increased. Among the curious circumstances which we have observed since we left the St. Mary’s is the number of Scorpions, that are everywhere found on about the pine trees; I had never more than two or three of them in my life; here you might expect them, whenever you approach a pine, and already two of the party have been stung by them; as yet however; the effects of their sting have not appeared materially to exceed the injury sustained by the sting of a bee. This subject has been introduced for the purpose of observing, that in Morocco, about the latitude of 30, Scorpions are found in great numbers, and every traveller dwelling upon the danger of their stings; in Egypt, about the latitude of 30, all the travellers who have visited that country, speak much of the Scorpion.

-- Can it be, that in countries, all other circumstances being the same, from 31, where there are none, they should be found in latitude 30, but one degree south of it. Scarcely a single hunter we meet with, but what has been repeatedly stung by them, but as yet we have heard of no instance of serious injury.

March 24. -- We have heard nothing of Mr. M’Bride, we are compelled [MISSING] to remain at our encampment, and [MISSING] extreme, east he should be out of [MISSING] both of our guides were with him [MISSING] ined to send Mr. Steward, and [MISSING] Mobley to accompany him, and [MISSING] supply of provisions; at one o’clock [MISSING] happily relieved from our anxiety. Our surveyors are proceeding to the point which was indicated to them in our communication [MISSING] the Alapaha, and we set out for our nights encampment, 5 miles in advance.

March 25. -- Mr. M’Bride joined us in the morning about 10 o’clock, having brought his line within half a mile of our encampment and having measured from one point of departure at the head of the St. Mary’s 64 miles on his line. We flatter ourselves that the great difficulty of our operation is now over. We shall have cross some streams, but we are done with that waste of Swamp, which we have been heretofore compelled to encounter, almost at every step.

As we spent the rest of this day at our Camp, within half a mile of the Wythlacoochie [NOTE: Withlacoochee River], we visited its banks, and found it to be a stream from 70 to 80 yards wide. The banks are high and strewed in every part with flint and Limestone, the waters are deep and almost as rapid as the sluice of a mill. Their velocity was estimated by our guide at ten miles an hour, and this river too, empties into the Suwanee, and contributes, about 20 miles below this point, to swell its stream. Before we can take our departure from hence, we can not help recurring to the most extraordinary feature of this part of the country. The multitude of those sink holes, which we have heretofore spoken of, -- we have no doubt that the Lakes we have visited, are produced by them, the whole country appears to be strewed with them. In our walk down to the banks of the Wythlacoochie, we met with one that must have been formed within the year, for the trees which had fallen into it, had their bark yet fresh upon them, and even some of the leaves were remaining upon their branches.

Many of the travellers who have visited Florida, have heretofore dwelt upon this subject, they have in the general appeared to suppose, that the waters from the fountains below, burst up where these sinks are, by their accumulated force, and immediately created streams above the surface of the land. The one which we visited, evidenced that there was no water in it, and that is must have been from a vacuum below, that these effects were produced, and not from any accumulation of water. The peculiar form of most of the Sink Holes which we saw, would demonstrate to us, that his was the more general effect, for the surrounding land sank down regularly and beautifully to the very bottom of the Sink -- but what can have produced these effects through so great an extent of country? Can there be subterranean rivers? and this we would suppose, for we remarked that these Sinks, and even the Lakes, were in extended chains. But the spaces that were sunk would imply, that there were even subterranean Lakes, But others have certainly noticed a disruption of waters, the Indians have testified to the fact to travelers of veracity. Can we find the source of these appearances, and the effects that are wrought upon the surface of the land, in any other causes, than in the power of expansion, and condensation produced by heat and cold? Limestone countries every where abound with caves of great extent, but they are almost always in mountainous countries. Can it be that these voids and spaces within the earth, are filled with water, changing its temperature and become warm, expands until it has accumulated a gigantick power -- before which the stratum of stone and earth, is burst asunder? Can it be that in other places these accumulated waters changing their temperatures are condensed, and that the atmospheric pressure accumulating in its turn that resistless force, which we know it possesses, presses down in other points its stony and earthy covering. -- This solution appears to us the only natural one, the pressure of the earth by its own ponderosity, upon a vacant space filled with atmospheric air, is as nothing to the pressure that is accumulated over spaces, where cold may have produced vacuums. But we have given our ideas, and will leave it to others who may have more opportunity and more time deliberately to examine the subject.

March 26. -- We were detained in camp by heavy rains.

March 28. -- (Morning.) -- Finding the Wythlacoochie this morning to rapid to pass our waggons over upon a raft, we determined to conduct them to a ferry about ten miles up the river; while Mr. M’Bride again separated from us, with the best stock of provisions he could carry. We reached Clifton’s Ferry [NOTE: This could possibly be either Rocky Ford or Knight's Ferry in Lowndes County, Georgia. Henry Clifton lived equidistant from both according to 1830 tax records which lists him as owning LL 103. LD 15.], (this afternoon,) and there to our great surprise, learnt, for the first time, that the Wythlacoochie was divided into three streams [NOTE: These could be A. 1. Piscola Creek, 2. Okapilco Creek 3. Withlacoochee River or B. 1. Okapilco Creek 2. Little River 3. Withlacoochee River] and that it would be 15 or 16 miles after we crossed it, before we could turn down south, and that it would be necessary, we should move forward as speedily as possible, to accomplish this end. The country has become again flat in this day’s route, the soil in the main resembling Tattnall county above the Ohoopie River [NOTE: Ohoopee River], every where filled with ferruginous gravel and pebbles. There was no interesting object met [MISSING].

March 29. -- We crossed the river and travelled through a country of the same appearance and character, our course about west, (12 miles.) When we came to Mr. Blair’s [NOTE: William Blair] there at length we found some fine land -- the soil assumes the color of the lands of our western counties, the growth is oak and hickory, and we passed through at this point one or two thousand acres of very beautiful land. We encamped for the night near Mr. Blair’s -- he has been settled here but recently, but we received from him those kindly attentions that were in his power.

March 30. -- We crossed a little stream, on which the good lands about Mr. Blair’s were situated, and almost immediately afterwards, intersected Coffee’s Road, about 85 miles we understand from Telfair Court House. We had at length then, threaded out in our devious course, the wilderness, and at the end of 8 miles crossed the Oakfeelkee Bridge [NOTE: Okapilco Creek], which had been erected by Gen. Coffee -- immediately west of that stream we again found a body of very fine land, the extent of which we could not determine, and progressed upon Coffee’s Road, leading to Tallahassee, about 12 miles, encamping for the night where the mile post had stood.

Our road leading us for the last 12 miles through pine land of the same character that we have latterly met with and [MISSING] points greatly resembling the Tattnall County lands. From hence, a road taking [MISSING] route we have pursued might be made to reach the navigable waters of St. Marks River, in about 85 miles, and this is the route up to this point at least, which the trade of this country should take. Nor is it at all improbable, that after all the examinations and after all the expenditure which the U. States have been at with her Engineers to determine the fact, that this would be the best route, for the National Road that has been spoken of, to lead from Washington City to Louisiana, passing through or near all our sea port Towns. There is nothing at all impracticable in this route, and certainly if a national road is required any where and certainly if it is to be constructed any where, it is required, and it should be constructed in such a manner as to connect the national defence, where alone we could expect to find an enemy. The Indian Tribes have passed, or are passing away, and the thousand Steam Boats belonging to the Mississippi, and its tributary streams, could waft their hundreds of thousands of soldiers to any point in the west, where they might be required, by the speed of the Courier, who might be the messenger of danger. We encamped his evening, about 5 miles from Ocilla river [NOTE: Aucilla River] -- we were informed of some good lands, near this point on one of the streamlets, that runs into the Ocilla.

March 31. -- We left our encampment and at the distance of 5 miles, crossed the Ocilla a small stream where we crossed it, a few miles below, we understand it swells into a lake, after receiving 3 or 4 streamlets from the west (on which are situated some very fine lands,) and continuing still to accumulate sinks into the ground to burst out at some distance a river. This rising and disappearing of the waters, is a strong and beautiful feature of this region of Florida. At Mr. Horn’s near one of the streams of this river, we met with good land, and some extension of improvement, he had resided here 6 years, and was a fine looking old man.

-- He had been forted, and was just taking down the palisades, erected as defence against the Indians. We were now in the vicinity where the late Indian murders were committed, and we had confirmed from his lips that we had previously heard, that these deaths and plunderings, and expence, were produced by two scoundrel young men; who had stolen some Indian horses, and fled into South Carolina with them, their names were known, and if they themselves are not living here, their brothers are. Their circumstances are familiar to every one -- yet the law sleeps; let it not be supposed from this observation, that there is aught wild or rude in the persons whom we have met with scattered through the wilderness; on the contrary, we have remarked in all whom we have met with, kindness and a disposition to serve even beyond their power. Our first emigrations where the object is cultivation and an improvement of location for that purpose, appears to be of the first order of persons in their several conditions. After travelling 16 miles we encamped within two miles of Thomasville -- every stream that we now pass, is either surrounded or bordered by oak and hickory lands, of a fine quality -- the trees are very tall indeed, the soil sometimes assumes a reddish cast, at others you have come across beach lands, thickly intermingled with the magnolia, and even the small blue palmetto which is found in our River Swamps. The soil where this growth is found is an ashy loam, the best of all their lands in my opinion, and equal to any high, I have ever met with in any country. The general growth of the country however, is pine, which grows tall, upon in many instances, a brown loam, and which is no doubt, productive in a moderate degree.

[NOTE: If the journal continued to appear in the Georgian, it is unknown. Several issues are missing. From a report from the federal government we can create a time line for the rest of the expedition] ^3

4 April 1827. Spalding and Thomas Mann Randolph at Thomas County, Georgia.

5 April to 17 April 1827. John McBride's camp near Lake Iamonia in Leon County, Florida.

9 April to 10 April 1827. Thomas Spalding and Thomas Mann Randolph are at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.

26 April to 27 April 1827. Encampment on the Withlacoochee River between McNiel's and McBride's line at the enclave.

6 May 1827. Hartford, Georgia.

10 May to 15 May 1827. Milledgeville, Georgia.

20 June 1827. John McBride is instructed to find the headwaters of the St. Mary's River with Thomas Spalding. Thomas Spalding stays at his plantation on Sapelo Island.

3 July 1827. John McBride is at James Filman's at the Pine Log Crossing of the St. Mary's River.

7 August 1827. John McBride is at Eatonton, Georgia.


1. Ellis M. Coulter, Thomas Spalding of Sapelo (Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1940), 195-211.

2. U.S. Government Printing Office, Boundary Line Between Florida and Georgia, 1828, reprinted 1908, 6-11, 49-54,

2. U.S. Government Printing Office, Boundary Line Between Florida and Georgia, 1828, reprinted 1908, 33-54.

External Links:

Coulter, Ellis M. Thomas Spalding of Sapelo. Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1940, 195-211.

U.S. Government Printing Office. Boundary Line Between Florida and Georgia, 1828, reprinted 1908.

Contains government reports and other documents related to the expedition.

Categories: Okefenokee Swamp |