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Bulloch History with Roger Allen
First bird expert loved Bulloch
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William Bartram is considered by most knowledgeable people to be the first and, at the time, foremost expert on the North American continent’s birds. What is not widely known is that Bartram chose to spend a substantial amount of his time right here in Bulloch County. He was born to John Bartram and Ann Mendenhall in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania on April 20, 1739.
His father is considered to be the father of American Botany, and was the co-founder of the American Philosophical Society in 1742. John Bartram had world famous box gardens on his Quaker farm. As William grew up, he traveled with his father, who searched the eastern regions for more flowers which he would bring back to grow on his farm.
Not surprisingly, young William soon developed a fascination with the colonial flora and fauna. Therefore, in he set of on a four year sojourn through the eight Southern Colonies, arriving in Savannah in the spring of 1773. He soon headed up the Savannah River, after learning of an Indian Congress being held between the Creek and Cherokee Chiefs in the Augusta area.
One Indian Chief nick-named him “Puc-Puggee” (or flower-hunter), as he was obviously nuts about collecting specimens everywhere he went. This relationship with the Indian, however, allowed him to travel in safety throughout their territories. Returning to Philadelphia in 1791, he wrote of many things, including the herds of Buffalo he found throughout the central counties of Georgia.
He actually was assigned the job (by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs) to travel the Indian lands with the chiefs to survey and record the new boundaries between the white and Indian territories. In his journals he wrote of his discovery of a most unusual site in Georgia: a “Buffalo Lick,” located along the Broad and Oconee Rivers at the head of the Great Ogeechee River.
This natural oddity, known to the local Indians and white trappers as well, was found in open forests of pine and scrub oaks, There were a number of these “licks” in Georgia. They were found where there was a greasy mix of different colored clays close to the surface which had a sweetish taste when licked. The eastern herds of buffalo found to these spots very much to their liking.
Called “licks” because of the pits which soon appeared in the earth as the buffalo licked up the salt, the holes might be as deep as five or six feet, and might cover an area of as much as one acre. There have been remnants found in at least four places: near both Sunshine and Union Point in Greene County, and in Oglethorpe County near both the eastern edge and to the north of Philomath.
Bartram wasn’t the only one who discovered these sites. One of the earliest travelers to the new country, Dr. John F.D. Smyth, wrote “Travels In The United States Of America” in 1784, in which he described these “Buffalo Licks.” They were common on the banks of rivers or creeks where the earth was impregnated by salt particles. This chalky or calcareous earth was especially popular with the herds of buffaloes found in the area. As a matter of fact, the would-be founder of the Margravate of Azilia, Sir Robert Montgomery, wrote of his travels, stating that “all the Land that lies between two great rivers, Allatamaha and Savanna… and abounding with large herds of Deer, wild buffalo’s, and most kinds of Beasts”.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger
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