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Bartram Trail Conference

Bartram’s Louisiana Travels

Taylor McGaughy. “Peregrinations to Pontchartrain: William Bartram’s Westerly Wanderings.”

Abstract. In late 1775, unaware that the imperial crisis had ruptured into armed hostilities and nursing a potent epidermal malady, William Bartram disembarked from a vessel at the fork of the Amite and Iberville rivers and set out overland for Fort Manchac. Upon passing under the canopy of a majestic forest for nine miles, he arrived at his destination and witnessed the torrent of the Mississippi, or “the great fire of rivers.” From there, he launched into the far western leg of his famed journey to the American Southeast, surveying the flora, fauna, and peoples of British West Florida. This research tracks Bartram’s jaunt through modern-day Mississippi and Louisiana.

Taylor McGaughy is a doctoral candidate at Auburn University.  His dissertation research focuses on East and West Florida during the British period.

Dennis Jones: Sweet Home Alabama: Evidence for an 18th Century Native American Occupation at the Chatsworth Plantation Site (16EBR192) in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.

Abstract: The Native American group known as the Alibama is presently part of the federally recognized Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. The Alibama traveled west from their ancestral homeland within the state that now bears their name as a result of France’s defeat in 1763 during the Seven Years, which is commonly known in North America as the French and Indian War.  Living in the vicinity of the French Fort Toulouse in Alabama, the Alibama Indians were persecuted by their neighbors who were allied with the British. A group of the Alibama found refuge for approximately 20 years during the late 18th century within a portion of what is now recorded archaeologically as the Chatsworth Plantation site (16EBR192) in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. While this site was primarily the scene of an early 19th to early 20th century sugar cane plantation, archaeological data recovery investigations conducted at the site between 2010 and 2014 recovered a smattering of artifacts that are evidence of the late eighteenth century Alibama Indian occupation.  William Bartram visited this site briefly in 1775 after he had traveled to the Mississippi River via Bayou Manchac, which was then an international boundary between British West Florida and Spanish Louisiana. He complimented the natural setting of the village and noted that his companion, William Dunbar, purchased baskets and pottery while they were there.

Dorinda G. Dallmeyer.  “White Cliffs, Deep Time: William Bartram and Geology.”

Abstract: While Bartram’s Travels is still hailed for its descriptions of flora, fauna and landscape along with the native and frontiers-people he met, much less attention is now paid to his observations on geology. Historically, however, that was not the case. Many followed in his footsteps, among them the noted British geologist Sir Charles Lyell, whose journal of his visit to the southeast in 1846-1847 follows Bartram’s track closely. Of particular interest to Lyell were the White Cliffs of the Mississippi that Bartram described in 1775. This talk will focus on the formation, the literature, and enduring allure of these cliffs for geologists and nature-lovers alike.

Dorinda G. Dallmeyer directs the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program at the University of Georgia and is past president of the Bartram Trail Conference.

Marking Bartram’s Trail

Peggy Davis Coates. “Louisiana’s Bartram Trail Revisited”

LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum is leading a regional partnership to commemorate naturalist William Bartram’s travels through Louisiana in cooperation with the Bartram Trail Conference. Bartram’s trail is marked with signage placed through the fundraising of the partners. This presentation will trace Bartram’s path through the greater Baton Rouge area to the westernmost point of his journey in Pointe Coupee Parish, focusing on six sites where historical markers have been erected. 

Peggy Davis Peggy Coates, a native of South Louisiana, joined the LSU Hilltop Arboretum as Executive Director in June 2007. Peggy’s last position, one she held for 12 years, was with Baton Rouge Green as their Program Director. Peggy received her Master’s Degree of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University and her Master’s of Science Degree in Urban Forestry from Southern University. In nine years of service at the LSU Hilltop Arboretum she has worked in concert with the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum, LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, and a core of amazing volunteers to develop the arboretum into a regional environmental destination. Major site, plant collection and facility improvement projects make a substantial impact on the Baton Rouge area, and through programs, events and activities for gardeners of all ages.

Sam Carr. “Regional and National Bartram Trail Efforts.”

Abstract: This presentation will review the work done by the Bartram Trail in Putnam County, Florida as well as the national effort underway by the Bartram Trail Conference to achieve recognition by the National Park Service as a national heritage trail. It will include national and regional trail entities that are involved in establishing trails and how the Bartram Trail Conference can assist.

Sam Carr was instrumental in the establishment of the Bartram Trails in Putnam County, Florida. He works for a variety of historical and heritage tourism causes along the St. Johns River and is a Governor’s appointee to the Florida Greenways and Trails Council.

Literature, Art, And The Natural World

Elizabeth Athens. “‘A Lively Animated Picture’: William Bartram and Drawing Ad vivum

Abstract: In the eighteenth century, recognition of nature’s inherent mutability presented a challenge for artist-naturalists such as William Bartram. In the absence of any single true form in the natural world, representation was always in danger of reifying its object in a manner that runs counter to lived experience. In this presentation, I discuss how Bartram’s emphasis on drawing over other media countered representation’s tendency to reify. Drawing possesses an “open” graphic structure that allows figure and ground to retain their autonomy; moreover, it carries a sense of directness and immediacy quite unlike etching and engraving, which usually require a series of transfers and reversals to translate the original composition into print. The immediacy and ambivalence of the drawn line—its ability to refer back to its creation and out toward the world—allows for a more dynamic form of representation, one that operates in multiple registers. It demands an imaginative collaboration of artist-naturalist and viewer that invests the drawing with a sense of mutability, as though it were perpetually coming into being. I argue that Bartram’s drawings of alligators and teratogenic plants, made during his travels through the American South, take full advantage of his chosen medium of drawing. Through his portrayal of natural wonders via graphite and pen and ink, Bartram emphasized the importance of imaginative collaboration in the creation of an animate, living image.

Elizabeth Athens is the Assistant Curator of American Art at the Worcester Art Museum, where she oversees the Museum’s collections of American paintings, furniture, and decorative arts. She completed her Ph.D. from Yale University, where her research focused on William Bartram’s graphic influences and his theory of representation.

Andrew B. Ross. “‘Within a Few Inches of Your Eye’: Visual and Narrative Mediation in Bartram’s Travels.

This presentation suggests that unlike other texts that celebrate the author as a credible source of knowledge, in his Travels, Bartram tries to minimize authorial mediation. Doing so allows the author to narrate natural history fieldwork in such a way as to make his readers to feel as though they are naturalists themselves; the audience becomes viewers, participants, and at times even commentators in the course of the narrative. More narrowly, this analysis highlights the impact of shifts in space, time, and focalization that occur throughout Travels, focusing upon Bartram’s legible concern with how a written medium transmits an experience of visual spectatorship. In making this interpretation, I position Travels as a book that theorizes perception in a way that exemplifies the connection between ways of seeing and ways of knowing that inform philosophy, politics, and aesthetics at the end of the eighteenth century. 

Andy Ross is a doctoral candidate in the English department of the University of Nevada, Reno where he is completing a dissertation about the visual culture of early American natural history.

Randy Harelson, “Native Flora of Louisiana: the Watercolor Drawings of Margaret Stones.”

Abstract: Australian botanical artist Margaret Stones created 224 watercolor drawings of Louisiana’s native plants over 14 years in the 1970s and 80s. (Some of those plants are ones John and William Bartram noted in their extensive work in the 18th century.)  Stones drew all the plants only from life, using no photographs or other devices except a magnifying glass and microscope.  Randy Harelson, curator of a recent LSU Museum of Art exhibition of Margaret Stones’s work, will show a number of these amazing botanical artworks, and tell the story of Stones’s career at Kew Gardens in London, and illustrating native flora, first of Tasmania, then of Louisiana.

Randy Harelson is an artist, writer, horticulturist, and educator, originally from Baton Rouge.  He owns and lives in the historic LeJeune House in New Roads, Louisiana.  He is the author of New Roads and Old Rivers (LSU Press, 2012) with Brian Costello, photographs by Richard Sexton.

Remembering John Hall

Thomas Hallock.  “Remembering John Hall: The work of the BTC and the Good Nature of Environmental Education.”

Abstract: “How do we use William Bartram to connect with the natural world? Amidst our many differences, how do we keep the focus our threatened ecosystems? This short talk honors the life of our friend, long-time BTC member John Hall. With a quick recap of John’s life and work, we offer his model as a legacy to follow.”

Thomas Hallock is Professor of English at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He co-edited ith Nancy Hoffmann, Wllliam Bartram, the Search for Nature’s Design: Selected Art, Letters and Unpublished Writings. His volume, John and William Bartram: Travels on the St. Johns River, co-edited with Richard Franz, is due out in January. Hallock is at work on a series of travel essays that explain why he loves teaching the American literature survey, called A Road Course in American Literature (

Forty Years On: The History Of The Bartram Trail Conference

This roundtable discussion, moderated by former BTC president Chuck Spornick, will feature charter members of the Bartram Trail Conference.  Three Louisiana members, Charles Fryling, Sally Daigle, and Polly Williams, will discuss their early adventures and their hopes for the future of the Bartram Trail Conference.  

Keynote Address

Daniel H. Usner. “A prospect of the grand sublime”: The Louisiana-Florida Borderland Seen and Unseen by William Bartram

Abstract: When William Bartram traveled between Pearl River and Pointe CoupĂ©e in 1775, this part of the Lower Mississippi Valley was undergoing one of its most transformative periods--which matters a lot considering the region’s later experiences with Americanization, the Civil War, and Hurricane Katrina.  Spain’s acquisition of Louisiana and Britain’s acquisition of Florida after the Seven Years’ War had drastically altered the geopolitical configuration of the Lower Mississippi Valley, making the great river an international boundary between European empires while heating up commercial development of the region.  A sudden migration of European, African, and Native American peoples into the region during the 1760s and 1770s also raised plenty of new opportunities and challenges.  Although only vaguely described by Bartram, whose visit was cut short by high fever, headache, and impaired vision, the volatility experienced by inhabitants along the Louisiana-Florida border constituted an important setting for this phase of the naturalist’s travels across the Deep South.

Daniel Usner is the Holland N. McTyeire Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and a past president of the American Society for Ethnohistory.   He teaches courses on colonial North America, American Indian history, and Atlantic World empires and borderlands.  A native son of New Orleans, Usner also specializes in the cultural and environmental history of south Louisiana.  His research focuses on the American South during the colonial and early national periods and on relations between the United States and Indian nations to the present.  Usner is the author of Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy (1992), American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley (1998), Indian Work: Language and Livelihood in American Indian History (2009), and Weaving Alliances with Other Women: American Indian Work in the New South (2015).  He is currently writing a book entitled From Bayou Teche to Fifth Avenue: How Chitimacha Indian Baskets Moved across America.

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