[Letter] 1827 May 8, Milledgeville, [Georgia], to Geo[rge] M. Troup, Governor [of Georgia], Milledgeville, Georgia / Thomas Spalding

Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842
[Letter] 1827 May 8, Milledgeville, [Georgia], to Geo[rge] M. Troup, Governor [of Georgia], Milledgeville, Georgia / Thomas Spalding
Spalding, Thomas, 1774-1851
Date of Original:
Indians of North America
United States, Florida, 28.75054, -82.5001
United States, Georgia, 32.75042, -83.50018
official reports
This is a letter dated May 8, 1827 from Thomas Spalding, a Georgia commissioner involved in running the boundary line between Georgia and Florida, to George M. Troup, Governor of Georgia (1823-1827), reporting that the temporary boundary line has been finished and detailing his examination of the St. Mary's River. Spalding concludes that the true source of the river is not accurately represented by the surveys of Mr. Ellicot. He presents evidence, including references to ancient Indian paths, to counterdict Ellicot's reports and alleges that Ellicot never fully explored the source of the river and subsequently, surveyors have perpetuated his errors. Spalding asks the governor to consider his findings before the legislature approves a permanent boundary line.
Digital image and encoded transcription of an original manuscript, scanned, transcribed and encoded by the Digital Library of Georgia in 2001, as part of GALILEO, funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Local Identifier:
Metadata URL:
Digital Object URL:
IIIF manifest:
Bibliographic Citation (Cite As):
Cite as: [title of item], Telamon Cuyler, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries, presented in the Digital Library of Georgia
7 pages/leaves
Original Collection:
Manuscript held by the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries, Telamon Cuyler, box 06, folder 03, document 04.
Holding Institution:
Hargrett Library
Rights Statement information

Page: [1]

May 8. 1827.
Dear Sir/
Our Labors upon the Line having terminated, I conceive it but my duty to state to your Excellency the impressions that have been produced upon my mind, by the Examination given to the River St Mary's and its source. You will unquestionably be surprized [surprised] when I say to you that I am quite satisfied that no Georgian before ourselves had ever been at Ellicots mound marked (B.) Cap [Captain] Cone has heretofore been the person relied upon as the only Guide to the mound, and he had not only never been there, but even had never heard of there being a second mound. When I shewd [showed] him Mr Ellicots Book, he told us he had lead [led] the Commissioners who had been sent down to explore to a mound that had been years before pointed out to him, as the mound of Ellicot, and which is mark'd [marked] in the map (A.) and which was the encampment of the Commissioners in
1807 and the point from whence, they commenced their traverse line, and which is fourteen miles or nearly so from the point indicated as the Source of the River. The Mistake is easily accounted for, and without the Notes of Ellicot, was a natural one, it is a mound obvious to the Eye, it stands upon the Eastern Bank of the River, it was the head of navigation, and in fact when justice is done if in this world of prejudice, Justice should ever be done, will be found little variant, in latitude, from the real Source of the St. Marys. But I will proceed to give my own narrative as the ground of my opinion. As we progress'd [progressed] to the point upon the St. Marys where we were directed by the notes of Ellicot, to search for its source, we pass'd [passed] a Cypress glade some five or Six miles before we reach'd [reached] the River, the Water was of considerable width, and to my surprize [surprise] I no [document damaged: ted ] the current set briskly to the North, we had there with us Two Guides

Page: [2]
they at once pointed out to us, this Cypress glade, as the St. Marys or its Source, it had taken its rise, south of our then position, it was running North, and its course is even delineated in Mr Ellicots map, with a pathway we were then tracing, When we reach'd [reached] the ancient Indian crossing place, call'd [called] the Pine Log, we were admonished not to cross there, for if we did, we should have another Stream, wider and more difficult of passage, we therefore turn'd [turned] down the River, about four or five hundred yards, and cross'd [crossed] below the seperation [separation] of the Streams, by a temporary Bridge of our own; At the forks of these two Streams, which is three miles below the mound (B) the Eastern branch turns East, the other turns South of West, we crossd [crossed] [added text: the Eastern ] in going from the forks to the mound, within the point determind [determined] by the commissioners of Spain and the United States, and consequently at a point containing all the waters of that Stream, and we cross'd [crossed] the South West branch, Ten miles and an half from the fork, and at that extended distance, it appear'd [appeared] to carry much more water, than the Eastern Branch, -- The paper marked (1) will shew [show] your Excellency, that I have instructed a man competent to the undertaking to measure the width and depth of these two Streams at their several points of Junction, because first, I believe, and in this opinion I am supported by the persons living near the place, that the South Western fork, of the Eastern Branch, is the principle and the larger, and the longer -- And again, that if upon mature deliberation, we should seek the Source of the River in the Eastern Branch, it will be found, South of the path way, we travelld [travelled] when we cross'd [crossed] the Cypress glade, mention'd [mentioned] before, for that the Streamlet that comes into it from the North, out of a small swamp which Mr Ellicot fix'd [fixed] upon, as the Source, is much inferior to the Branch with which it mingles its waters. -- This then I would repeat, that Mr. Ellicot should have sought the Source, if in this Branch of the River at all, at the head of Aligator Creek, or he should have sought it,

Page: [3]
at the head of the South Eastern Branch, some four or five miles only, East of his Encampment, But he should not in any event have sought for it in the puny Streamlet on which he fix'd [fixed] . --
The paper marked (2) is a Certificate from a man, who was born, and rear'd [reared] within a few miles of the Spot, and it is as you will see confirm'd [confirmed] by Capn [Captain] Cone, I impress'd [impressed] those persons when giving this Certificate, to consider themselves under the Solemnity of an oath, although I was not prepar'd [prepared] to administer one, this Certificate declares that a Stream making out, just above the mound (A) is the larger branch of St. Mary's River, and particulars are given in relation to it, demonstrative of the fact -- When the Commissioners asked Mr Whitton, if the Lake spoken of, did not resemble the Swamp near the other head of the St Marys he replied, it did not, for it came out a bold stream, from a Lake which was many miles in extent, where the waters run high and dangerous to small Boats -- Is it accident then, or is it a previous knowledge of that region in the Spanish and English Governments, which has introduced the phrase, "Source" into the Spanish Treaty, for what phrase is so appropriate, to a Lake, which gives rise to a River, as Source? I cannot then hesitate pressing your Excellency to give a thorough examination to this River, before the claim of Georgia for a different boundary Line, than that agreed upon by Ellicot & Minor, is brought before the Legislature of the Union, In declaring thus explicitly against the determination, of Mr Ellicot as to the real head or source of the St. Marys it is proper for me to give some reasons for the error I suppose him to have committed, and reasons in number

Page: [4]
may be found, in two circumstances alone, The Country as he tells us, was then cover'd [covered] with water, and Indian tribes, which he does not tell us of, establish'd [established] upon the Western Shores of the St Marys, itself, one large Indian Village at least occupied the Banks of the Western Branch of the St Marys, and these Indians were among the worst, of the bad, that had insulted and driven him away from the Junction of the Flint and Chatahoochie. Mr Ellicot therefore, as his map will shew [show], set himself down most cautiously on the Eastern Shore, his notes also shew [show], that he confided the Search for the Source of the River to his men, and himself and Minor only stole up one afternoon, and went over the Eastern branch two hundred yards, where they erected the Mound (B) as a Guide post to the point they had determin'd [determined] upon. --
Now the whole Topography of the Country should have directed him to the West, and not to the East, for he had found his Encampment by his previous observations, nearly fifty miles West, and at least Twenty miles South, of the mouth of the River at the ocean, this circumstance alone should have instructed him, that the River St Marys had taken a Configuration different from that of all the Rivers, North of it, and as we should with them, seek for their Source in a position North West of their navigable waters, so we should with the St. Marys, as with the St. John's whose character, it begins to assume, seek for its source in a position South West of its navigable Waters, but from all that we can learn, from the recollections of the time, from all we can learn from his notes or his map neither himself or his men, ventur'd [ventured] to Set an exploring foot upon the Western Shore

Page: [5]
of the River, it would have been probably at that time dangerous, for any of his [added text: men ] to have been found, either with Chain or Compass, for this particular portion of Indians were under Spanish influence, and peculiarly hostile to our venerable Agent Colo [Colonel] Hawkins, who had been the shield and Protector of Mr Ellicots party in their earlier operations, but who could not repress, at all future periods some expression of Ridicule, of Mr Ellicot, for his deep and mortal dread of Indian outrage thro' [through] his whole route. -- And again we see that Mr Ellicot had been told, that the St. Mary's River had no connection with the Okofokoke Swamp, but after his limited examination, he pronounced it to have, hundreds now know that a high ridge seperates [separates] that Swamp from the St. Mary's and that the Suwanee penetrates, with a navigable Stream thro' [through] it. When therefore he saw at a period of abundant water, a stream [deleted text: discharging ] [added text: running ] into the side of the St. Mary's, he believ'd [believed] himself to be at the borders, of this great morass, of fable of Chimera, and of dread, with a magnitude of hundreds of miles in Extent; instead of which he was pointing to a Swamp of no great extent, and when we were there, only ankle deep in water, as our Surveyors report -- The Okofonoke as Your Excellency now knows, is greatly limited in its extent, its boundaries have been measured, and it is found altogether to belong to the Suwanee, without one Stream connecting it with the St. Mary's, The level of which, must be an hundred

Page: [6]
feet below it, from our observations upon the Suwanee.
I make no apology for having with these impressions upon my mind, continued to Extend the Line. If Mr Ellicots conclusions were correct, the Line we were running would have been a correct one, as the Certificate marked (3) will shew [show] you, but at all periods of our operation Gov [Governor] Randolph had declar'd [declared] to me, that our work could not be final, for that the War Department had fail'd [failed] to furnish him with Ellicot & Minors original report, and that the printed Book, might or might not be correct, but was of no authority --
Our Report then was finally to have been made up at Milledgeville, when I intended as I now do, to give you my opinions in detail.

And I Remain most Respectfully yr [your] Excellencys Very Ob St [Obedient Servant]
[Signed] T. [Thomas] Spalding
To His Excellency Geo. [George] M. Troup.

Page: [7]

Thomas Spalding
Commissioner of Georgia
for running the Florida
Line -- dated Milledgeville

8th. May 1827
ordered to be filed