By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Colonial writer toured Liberty
History of Liberty
William Bartram
A visitor in colonial Georgia, including what would become Liberty County, later became famous for describing what he saw.
Not everything William Bartram saw was pleasant. One of his Georgia trips was spurred by a dispute among native Americans.
The Cherokee chiefs had agreed to give up a huge swathe of land in barter for the annulment of debts they owed to traders. Creek leaders, who claimed a portion of the same terrain and who were not in debt to traders, disdained the Cherokee Indians for trying to make this agreement.
Even though the Creek leaders were influenced to sign the pact, the young warriors had profoundly hard feelings about the loss of their hunting land.
Bartram accompanied the investigation group that marked the limits of the new accommodations and recorded all in which he saw.
Proceedings have determined the route of Bartram's engagements. The native American convention had drawn him to the Georgia backcountry and an eruption of Indian aggression disenchanted his plan of touring the Indian realm.
He returned to the Georgia coast which included the then called St. Johns Parish, and in the spring he sought sanctuary in the safety of Florida. Bartram became associated with a party of traders, who at the time, provided work for James Spalding in a plethora of Indian villages.
Cowkeeper, the elder of Cuscowilla, gave Bartram the name "Puc-puggy," the Flower Hunter. Bartram later canoed up the St. Johns River, confronting alligators and revisiting places he had seen with his father as a child.
When Gov. Wright signed a peace treaty with a delegation of Creek leaders in 1774, Bartram determined that it was safe to restart his postponed tour of the Indian kingdom. Bartram's overenthusiastic portrayal of the Cherokee mountains continues to attract tourists even in today.
After visiting the Cherokee villages along the Little Tennessee River, Bartram returned to join a trading caravan headed for Liberty County, and then on to what would become Mobile, Ala., and the Creek country. He avoided Augusta and Savannah, where Sons of Liberty made life difficult for those who wished to remain neutral.
Bartram's journal provides the most valuable historical record of Creek life at the time of the American Revolution (1775-83). His travels took him to Liberty, Mobile and Pensacola, Fla., and by boat to the Mississippi River.
When he returned to Savannah in January 1776, the Revolutionary War had started. Georgians, under the command of Bartram's friend Lachlan McIntosh, fought against British warships in the Savannah River.
Objectivity was no longer an option for the Quaker. Though he did not mention it in his book of travels, Bartram's private papers reveal that he actually participated in a scuffle with British soldiers and their Indian allies along the Florida border.
As soon as he could, Bartram put the war behind him and returned to his father's garden in Pennsylvania as something of a celebrity. He enjoyed eight months of camaraderie with his father before John Bartram died in September 1777.
Bartram wrote his book while the founding fathers drafted a constitution for the republic. He saw heavenly direction at work in the shaping of the new country.
"I foresee a magnificent structure and would be instrumental in its advancement," he wrote.
His book exalted the human spirit and celebrated the richness of America's natural world. He called upon Americans to respect the rights of Indians, to eradicate slavery, and to live up to the best in themselves.
Sign up for our e-newsletters