The Travels of William Bartam
By Stan Stewart, Wildlife Biologist
William Bartram was weary. Days of travel in sweltering July heat had fatigued the horses and men in his caravan. Moreover, they had been tormented from sunrise to sunset every day by hordes of biting flies. The necks and shoulders of the horses dripped blood from the piercing bites, and on a man’s skin the bite was like the prick of a red-hot needle. The cloud of flies was so thick it obscured the path ahead and slowed the company’s progress. Oppressed by the heat and stinging flies, the caravan halted at on the crest of a ridge in an airy grove of soaring longleaf pines. Here they found a little respite when a dark cloud veiled the burning sun. Then they were enveloped by a violent thunderstorm and soaked by a deluge of rain. By evening, the tempest passed and they collected pine knots and firewood to light the camp, dry their clothes, and warm them during the night.
The next day was cool and pleasant, and Bartram was cheerful and invigorated. His exertions on this journey were more than worth it to him. William Bartram was the son of John Bartram of
Bartram was delighted with the territory, arriving at the Creek town of
This landscape was shaped by natural events and native cultures. Fires caused by lightning could sweep for miles through grassy savannas, hindered only by stream drainages. Indians also commonly burned woodlands to control brush and maintain open forests for game and hunting. As a result of frequent fire, the forest that existed was often lightly stocked and free of underbrush. Even the name “
This all changed in the 1920s when emphasis was placed on reforestation and fire prevention. Increasing urbanization further precluded fire from the landscape. Current land use and development have dramatically altered the “sylvan scene” recorded in the Travels of William Bartram, and without his account, we would not know how different this land once was.