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LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE

OF

_POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE._



SEPTEMBER, 1880.



EKONIAH SCRUB: AMONG FLORIDA LAKES

[Illustration: THE FORD.]

[Note: Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by J.B.
LIPPINCOTT & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at
Washington.]



"And if you do get lost after that, it's no great matter," said the
county clerk, folding up his map, "for then all you've got to do is to
find William Townsend and inquire."

He had been giving us the itinerary for our "cross-country" journey, by
way of the Lakes, to Ekoniah Scrub. How many of all the Florida
tourists know where that is? I wonder. Or even _what_ it is - the
strange amphibious land which goes on from year to year
"developing" - the solid ground into marshy "parrairas," the prairies
into lakes, bright, sparkling sapphires which Nature is threading, one
by one, year by year, upon her emerald chaplet of forest borderland?
How many of them all have guessed that close at hand, hidden away amid
the shadows of the scrub-oaks, lies her laboratory, where any day they
may steal in upon her at her work and catch a world a-making?

There are three individuals who know a little more about it now than
they did a few weeks since - three, or shall we not rather say four? For
who shall say that Barney gained less from the excursion than the
Artist, the Scribe and the Small Boy who were his fellow-travellers?
That Barney became a party to the expedition in the character, so to
speak, of a lay-brother, expected to perform the servile labor of the
establishment while his superiors were worshipping at Nature's shrines,
in nowise detracted from his improvement of the bright spring holiday.
It was, indeed, upon the Small Boy who beat the mule, rather than upon
the mule that drew the wagon, that the fatigues of the expedition fell.
"He just glimpses around at me with his old eyeball," says the Small
Boy, exasperate, throwing away his broken cudgel, "and that's all the
good it does."

We knew nothing more of Ekoniah when we set out upon our journey than
that it was the old home of an Indian tribe in the long-ago days before
primeval forest had given place to the second growth of "scrub," and
that it was a region unknown to the Northern tourist. It lies to the
south-west of Magnolia, our point of departure on the St. John's River,
but at first our route lay westerly, that it might include the
lake-country of the Ridge.

"It's a pretty kentry," said a friendly "Cracker," of whom, despite the
county clerk's itinerary, we were fain to ask the way within two hours
after starting - "a right pretty kentry, but it's all alike. You'll be
tired of it afore you're done gone halfway."

Is he blind, our friend the Cracker? Already, in the very outset of our
journey, we have beheld such varied beauties as have steeped our souls
in joy. After weeks of rainless weather the morning had been showery,
and on our setting forth at noon we had found the world new washed and
decked for our coming. Birds were singing, rainbows glancing, in
quivering, water-laden trees; flowers were shimmering in the sunshine;
the young growth was springing up glorious from the blackness of
desolating winter fires. Such tender tones of pink and gray! such
fiery-hearted reds and browns and olive-greens! such misty vagueness in
the shadows! such brilliance in the sunlight that melted through the
openings of the woods! "All alike," indeed! No "accidents" of rock or
hill are here, but oh the grandeur of those far-sweeping curves of
undulating surface! the mystery of those endless aisles of
solemn-whispering pines! the glory of color, intense and fiery, which
breathes into every object a throbbing, living soul!

For hours we journeyed through the forest, always in the centre of a
vast circle of scattered pines, upon the outer edge of which the trees
grew dense and dark, stretching away into infinity. Our road wandered
in and out among the prostrate victims of many a summer tempest: now we
were winding around dark "bays" of sweet-gum and magnolia; now skirting
circular ponds of delicate young cypress; now crossing narrow
"branches" sunk deep in impenetrable "hummocks" of close-crowded oak
and ash and maple, thick-matted with vines and undergrowth; now pausing
to gather orchis and pitcher-plants and sun-kisses and andromeda; now
fording the broad bend of Peter's Creek where it flows, sapphire in the
sunshine, out from the moss-draped live-oaks between high banks of red
and yellow clays and soft gray sand, to lose itself in a tangle of
flowering shrubs; now losing and finding our way among the intricate
cross-roads that lead by Bradley's Creek and Darbin Savage's tramway
and the "new-blazed road" of the county clerk's itinerary. Suddenly the
sky grew dark: thunder began to roll, and - were we in the right road?
It seemed suspiciously well travelled, for now we called to mind that
Middleburg was nigh at hand, and thither we had been warned _not_ to
go.

There was a house in the distance, the second we had seen since leaving
the "settle_ments_" near the river. And there we learned that we were
right and wrong: it _was_ the Middleburg road. After receiving sundry
lucid directions respecting a "blind road" and an "old field," we
turned away. How dark it was growing! how weirdly soughed the wind
among the pine tops! how bodingly the thunder growled afar! There came
a great slow drop: another, and suddenly, with swiftly-rushing sound,
the rain was upon us, drenching us all at once before waterproofs and
umbrellas could be made available.

[Illustration: "NOT ALL THE BLANDISHMENTS OF THE SMALL BOY AVAILED."]

It was then that Barney showed the greatness of his soul. In the
confusion of the moment we had run afoul of a stout young oak, which
obstinately menaced the integrity of our axle. It was only possible to
back out of the predicament, but Barney scorned the thought of retreat.
Not all the blandishments of the Small Boy, whether brought to bear in
the form of entreaties, remonstrances, jerks or threats, availed:
Barney stood unmoved, and the hatchet was our only resource. How that
mule's eye twinkled as from time to time he cast a backward glance upon
the Small Boy wrestling with a dull hatchet and a sturdy young
scrub-oak under the pelting rain, amid lightning-flash and
thunder-peal, needs a more graphic pen than mine to describe. A
better-drenched biped than climbed into the wagon at the close of this
episode, or a more thoroughly-satisfied quadruped than jogged along
before him, it would be difficult to find.

As suddenly as they had come up the clouds rolled away, and sunlight
flamed out from the west - so suddenly that it caught the rain halfway
and filled the air with tremulous rainbow hues. Then burst out afresh
the songs of birds, sweet scents thrilled up from flower and shrub, the
very earth was fragrant, and fresh, resinous odors exhaled from every
tree. The sun sank down in gold and purple glory and night swept over
the dark woods. Myriad fireflies flitted round, insects chirped in
every hollow, the whippoorwill called from the distant thicket, the
night-hawk circled in the open glade. A cheerful sound of cow-bells
broke the noisy stillness, the forest opened upon a row of dark
buildings and darker orange trees, and barking of dogs and kindly
voices told us that rest was at hand.

No words can do justice to the hospitality of Floridians, whether
native or foreign. We were now to begin an experience which was to last
us through our entire journey. Here we were, a wandering company of
who-knows-what, arriving hungry, drenched and unexpected long after the
supper-hour, and our mere appearance was the "open sesame" to all the
treasures of house and barn. Not knowing what our hap might be, we had
gone provided with blankets and food, but both proved to be superfluous
wherever we could find a house. Bad might be the best it afforded, but
the best was at our service. At K - - 's Ferry it was decidedly _not_
bad. Abundance reigned there, though in a quaint old fashion, and very
soon after our arrival we were warming and drying ourselves before a
cheerful fire, while from the kitchen came most heartening sounds and
smells, as of fizzling ham and bubbling coffee.

Never was seen a prettier place than this as we beheld it by the
morrow's light. The house stands on a high bluff, worthy the name of
hill, which slopes steeply but greenly down to the South Prong of Black
Creek, better deserving the name of river than many a stream which
boasts the designation. We crossed it upon a boom, pausing midway in
sudden astonishment at the lovely view. A long reach of exquisitely
pure water, bordered by the dense overhanging foliage of its high
banks, stretched away to where, a mile below us, a sudden bend hid its
lower course from view, and on the high green bluff which closed the
vista were seen the white house and venerable overarching trees of some
old estate. The morning air was crisp and pure; every leaf and twig
stood out with clean-cut distinctness, to be mirrored with startling
clearness in the stream; the sky was cloudless: no greater contrast
could be imagined from the tender sweetness of yesterday. The birds,
exhilarated by the sparkle in the air, sang with a rollicking
abandonment quite contagious: the very kids and goats on the crags
above the road caught the infection and frisked about, tinkling their
bells and joining most unmelodiously in the song; while Barney,
crossing the creek upon a flatboat, lifted up a tuneful voice in the
chorus.

We turned aside from our route to visit Whitesville, the beautiful old
home of Judge B - - . It is a noble great mansion, with broad double
doors opening from every side of a wide hall, and standing in the midst
of a wild garden luxuriant with flowers and shrubs and vines, and with
a magnificent ivy climbing to the top of a tall blasted tree at the
gate. "I came to this place from New Haven in '29," its owner told
us - "sailed from New York to Darien, Georgia, in a sloop, and from
there in a sail-boat to this very spot. I prospected all about: bought
a little pony, and rode him - well, five thousand miles after I began to
keep count. Finally, I came back and settled here."

"Were you never troubled by Indians?" we asked.

"Well, they put a fort here in the Indian war, the government
did - right here, where you see the china trees." It was a beautiful
green slope beside the house, with five great pride-of-Indias in a row
and a glimpse of the creek through the thickets at the foot. "There
never was any engagement here, though. The Indians had a camp over
there at K - - 's, where you came from, but they all went away to the
Nation after a while."

"Did you stay here through the civil war?"

"Oh yes. I never took any part in the troubles, but the folks all
suspected and watched me. They knew I was a Union man. One day a
Federal regiment came along and wanted to buy corn and fodder. The men
drew up on the green, and the colonel rode up to the door. 'Colonel,'
says I, 'I can't _sell_ you anything, but I believe the keys are in the
corn-barn and stable doors: I can't hinder your taking anything by
force.' He understood, and took pretty well what he wanted. Afterward
he came and urged me to take a voucher, but I wouldn't do that. By and
by the Confederates came around and accused me of selling to the
Federals, but they couldn't prove anything against me."

"There used to be Confederate head-quarters up there at K - - 's?" we
asked.

"Oh yes, and the Federals had it too. General Birney was there for a
while. One day, just after he came, a lot of 'em came over here. One of
my boys was lying very sick in that front chamber just then - the one
you know, the county clerk. Well, an orderly rode up to the door and
called out, 'Here, you damned old rebel, the general wants you.' - 'I
don't answer to that name,' said I. - 'You don't?' - 'No, I
don't.' - 'What! ain't you a rebel?' - ' I don't answer to that name,'
said I. - 'Well, consider yourself my prisoner,' says he; so I walked up
there with him. Judge Price was at head-quarters just then, and he knew
me well. It seems that the general had heard that I kept a regular
rebel commissariat, sending stores to them secretly. Well, when the
judge had told him who I was, the general wrote me a pass at once, and
then asked, 'Is there anything I can do for you?' - 'General,' said I,
'my son lies very sick. I should like to see the last of him, and beg
to be permitted to retire.' - 'Is that so?' said the general. 'Would you
like me to send you a doctor?' I accepted, and he sent me two. He came
up afterward, and found that his men had torn down the fences, broken
open the store and dragged out goods, set the oil and molasses running,
and done great damage - about four thousand dollars' worth, we
estimated. You see, they thought it was a rebel commissariat. When he
came into the house he asked my wife if she could give him supper.
'General,' said she, 'you have taken away my cooks: if you will send
for your own, I shall be very happy to get supper for you.' He did so,
and spent the night here, sleeping in one of the chambers while his
officers lay all over the piazzas. Next day they all rode away, quite
satisfied, I guess. There were several skirmishes about here afterward,
and we have some pieces of bombs in the house now that fell in the
yard."

[Illustration: LAKE BEDFORD.]

The judge pressed us to stay and dine, but we had arranged for a gypsy
dinner in the woods and were anxious to push on. Push on! How Barney
would smile could he hear the word! He never did anything half so
energetic as to push: he did not even pull.

So we bade farewell to our genial host and started westwardly again. We
were now upon the high land of the Ridge, the backbone of the State,
and though, perhaps, hardly ninety feet above the sea, the air had all
the exhilarating freshness of great altitudes. All through the week
which followed we felt its tonic inspiration and seemed to drink in
intoxicating draughts of health and spirits, and never more than during
the fifteen-mile drive between Black Creek and Kingsley's Pond.

Kingsley's Pond, the highest body of water in the State, is the first
of a long succession of lakes which, lying between the St. John's and
the railway, have only lately been, as it were, discovered by the
Northerner. It is perfectly circular in form, being precisely two miles
across in every direction. Like all the lakes of Florida, it is of
immense depth, and its waters are so transparent that the white sand at
the bottom may be seen glistening like stars. In common with the other
waters of this region, it is surrounded by a hard beach of white sand,
rising gradually up to a beautifully-wooded slope, being quite free
from the marshes which too often render the lakes of Florida
unapproachable.

One of the Northern colonies which within the last two years have
discovered this delightful region has settled on the shores of
Kingsley's Pond. Although an infant of only twenty months, the village
has made excellent growth and gives promise of a bright future. Farming
is not largely followed, the principal industry of these and the other
Northern colonists being orange-culture - a business to which the
climate is wonderfully propitious, the dry, pure air of this district
being alike free from excessive summer heats and from the frosts which
are occasionally disastrous to groves situated on lower ground in the
same latitude.

Though there are few native Floridians in this part of the country, the
neighborhood of the lake rejoices in the possession of a Cracker
doctress of wondrous powers. Who but her knows that chapter in the book
of Daniel the reading of which stays the flowing of blood, or that
other chapter potent to extinguish forest-fires? One does not need a
long residence in the State to learn to appreciate the good-fortune of
the Lakers in this particular.

Not far from the village, on the western shore of the pond, lives the
one "old settler." He met us with the hearty welcome which we had
learned almost to look for as a right, and sitting on his front piazza
in the shade of his orange trees, gladdening our eyes with the view of
his vine-embowered pigpen, we listened to the legend of the pond:

"Yes, I've lived yere four-and-twenty year, but I done kim to Floridy
nigh on forty year ago: walked yere from Georgy to jine the Injun war.
I done found this place a-scoutin' about, and when I got married I kim
yere to settle. The Yankee folks wants to change the name o' the pond
to Summit Lake and one thing or 'nother, but I allays votes square agin
it every time, and allays will. You see, hit don't ought to be changed.
I don't mind the _pond_ part: they mought call it lake ef they think it
sounds better, but Kingsley's it _has_ to be. K-i-n-g-l-e-s-l-e-y:
that, I take it, is the prompt way to spell the name of the man as
named it, and that's the name it has to have. You see hit was this
a-way: Kingsley were a mail-rider - leastways, express - in the _old_
Injun wartime, I dunno how long ago. They was a fort on the pond them
days, over on the south side. Wal, Kingsley were a-comin' down toward
the fort from the no'th when he thort he see an Injun. He looked
behind, and, sure enough, there they was, a-closin' in on him. He
looked ahead agin. Shore's you're bo'hn there was a double row on
'em - better'n a hunderd - on all two sides of the trail. He hadn't a
minit to study, and jist one thing to do, and he done hit. He jist
clapped spurs to his critter and made for the pond. He knowed what they
wanted of him" - confidentially and solemnly: "it were their intention
to ketch him and scalp him alive, you know. Wal, they follered him to
the pond, a-whoopin' and a-yellin' all the way, makin' shore on him.
When he got to the pond he rid right in, the Injuns a'ter him, but his
critter soon began to gin out. When he see that he jist gethered up his
kit and jumped into the water, and swum for dear life. Two mile good
that feller swum, and saved his kit and musket. The Injuns got his
critter, but you never see nothin' so mad as they was to see him git
off that a-way. The soldiers at the fort was a-watchin' all the time.
They run down to meet him: they see he looked kinder foolish as he swum
in, and as soon as he struck the shore he jist flung himself on the
sand, and laid for half an hour athout openin' his eyes or speakin'.
Then he done riz right up and toted his kit to the commander, and axed
to hev the pond named a'ter him. The commander said it mought be so,
and so hit was; and so it _has_ to be, I says, and allays will."

[Illustration: TWIN LAKE.]

It would be impossible to detail the exquisite and varied beauty of the
way between Kingsley's Pond and Ekoniah Scrub. Through the fair
primeval forest we wandered, following the old Alachua Trail, the very
name of which enhanced the charm of the present scene by calling up
thrilling fancies of the past; for this is the famous Indian war-path
from the hunting-grounds of the interior to the settlements on the
frontier, and may well be the oldest and the most adventure-fraught
thoroughfare in the United States. We could hardly persuade ourselves
that we were not passing through some magnificent old estate - of late,
perhaps, somewhat fallen into neglect - so perfect was the lawn-like
smoothness of the grassy uplands, so rhythmical were the undulations of
the slopes, so majestic the natural avenues of enormous oaks, so
admirable the diversity of hill and dell, knoll and glade, shrubbery
and lawn, forest and park, interspersed with frequent sheets of
water - Blue Pond, rivalling the sky in color; Sandhill Pond, deep set
among high wooded slopes, with picturesque log mill and house; Magnolia
Lake, with its flawless mirror; Crystal, of more than crystal
clearness, with gorgeous sunset memories and sweet recollections of
kindly hospitalities in the two homes which crown its twin heights;
Bedford and Brooklyn Lakes, with log cottages beneath clustering trees;
Minnie Lake, and its great alligator sleeping on a log; starry
Lily-Pad; and Osceola's Punch-bowl, deep enough, and none too large, to
hold the potations of a Worthy; Twin Lakes, scarce divided by the
island in their midst; Double Pond, low sunk in the green forest slope,
a perfect circle bisected by a wooded ridge; Geneva Lake, dotted with
islands and beautiful with shining orange-groves; - always among the
lawns and glades, the forest-slopes and aisles of pines, with sough of
wind and song of bird, and fragrant wild perfumes. Always with bright
"bits" of life between the long, grand silences - a group of men faring
on foot across the pine level; a rosy, bareheaded girl - the only girl
in the place - searching for calves in the dingle, who gave us flowers
and told us the road with the sweet, lingering cadence of the South in
her velvet voice; two men riding by turns the mule that bore their
sacks of corn to mill; two boys carrying a great cross-cut saw along a
sloping lakeside, a noble Newfoundland dog frisking beside them; the
fleet bay horse and erect military figure of our host at Crystal Lake
guiding us among the intricacies of the Lake Colony. Always with sunny
memories of happy hours - gypsy dinners beside golden-watered "branch"
or sapphire lake; the cheery half hour in the log house on the hill
above the little grist-mill, with the bright young Philadelphians who
have here cast in their lot; the abundant feast in the farm-house under
the orange trees, and the "old-time" stories of the after-dinner hour;
the pleasant days at Crystal Lake, where our first day's drenching
resulted so happily in a slight illness that detained us in that lovely
spot, and showed us, in the new colony lately settled on this and the
adjacent lakes, how refinement and cultivation, lending elegance to
rude toil and harsh privation, may realize even Utopian dreams.

The great farm on Geneva Lake was the first old plantation which we had
seen since leaving Kingsley's, and this lies on the outskirts of
Ekoniah Scrub, which has long been settled by native Floridians or
Georgians. "Hit ain't a farmin' kentry, above there on the sandhills,"
said our host of the thrifty old farm on Lake Geneva. "It's fine for
oranges an' bananas, but the Scrub's better for plantin'. Talk about
oranges! Look a' that tree afore you! A sour tree hit were - right smart
big, too - but four year ago I sawed it off near the ground and stuck in
five buds. That tree is done borne three craps a'ready - fifteen oranges
the second year from the bud, a hundred and fifty the third, and last
year we picked eight hundred off her. Seedlin's? Anybody mought hev
fruit seven year from the seed, but they must take care o' the trees to
do it. Look a' them trees by the fence: eight year old, them is. Some
of 'em bore the sixth year: every one on 'em is sot full now - full
enough for young trees.

"Yes, that's right smart good orange-land up there in the sandhills.
Forty year ago, when I kim yere, they was nothin' but wild critters in
that lake kentry, as the Yankee folks calls it: all kind o' varmints
they was - bears, tigers, panthers, cats and all kinds. Right smart
huntin' they was, and 'tain't so bad now. They's rabbits and 'coons and
'possums, sure enough, and deer too; and - Cats? Why, cats is plenty,
but they ain't no 'count.

"I niver hunted much myself, but I've heerd an old man tell - Higgins by
name. Ef you could find him and could get him _right_, he'd tell you
right smart o' stories about varmints, and Injuns too. I've heerd him
tell how he went out with some puppies one time to larn 'em to hunt
bear. He heerd one o' the puppies a-screechin', and kase he didn't want
to lose him he run up. The screechin' come from a sort o' scrub, and he
got clost up afore he see it was a she-bear and two cubs. The bear had
the puppy, but when she see Higgins she dropped hit and made for him.
Now, you know, a bear ain't like no varmint nor cow-beast; hit don't go
'round under the trees, but jest makes a road for itself over the
scrub. Higgins hadn't no time to take aim, and ef he'd 'a missed he was
gone, sure 'nough; so he jest drawred his knife, and when she riz up to
clutch him he stuck her plum in the heart. Killed her, dead.

"No, I never had no trouble with Injuns. They was all gone to the
Nation when I settled yere, but I see Billy Bow-legs onct, and Jumper,
too. I was ago-in' through the woods, and I met a keert with three men


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