About Carolina: excerpts from the Natural History

The Natural History includes many pages where Catesby described his experiences and observations about the Carolinas. These are a few excerpts from the text.

"Carolina was first discovered by Sir Sebastian Cabot, a native of Bristol, ... about the year 1500; but the settling of it being neglected by the English, a colony of French protestants, by the encouragement of Gaspar Coligni Admiral of that kingdom, were transported thither, and named the place of their first settlement Arx Carolina, in honour of their Prince, Charles IX King of France; but in a short time after, that colony was by the Spaniards cut off and destroyed, and no other attempt made by any European power to resettle it, till the 29th of May, 1664, when eight hundred English landed at Cape Fear, and took possession of the country, and in the year 1670 King Charles II in pursuance of his claim by virtue of the discovery, granted it to certain noble persons, with extraordinary privileges, as appears by the patent of that king, unto George Duke of Albemarle, Edward Earl of Clarendon, William Earl of Craven, John Lord Berkley, Anthony Lord Ashley, Sir George Cartwright, Sir William Berkley, and Sir John Collinton, Baronet, who were thereby created true and absolute Lords and Proprietors of Carolina, to hold the same in Capite of the crown of England, to them, their heirs, and assigns for ever."
"Carolina contains the northernmost part of Florida, and lies in the Northern Temperate Zone, between the latitude of twenty-nine and thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes north. It is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by the Pacific or South Sea, on the north by Virginia, and on the south by the remaining part of Florida."
"... in a climate parallel to the best parts of the Old World... It is very little incommoded by the excess of either heat or cold. June, July and August are part of them sultry; but where the country is opened and cleared of wood, the winds have a freer passage, and thereby the heats are much mitigated, and the air grows daily more healthy. About the middle of August the declining of the heats begins to be perceived by the coolness of the nights, and from September to June following, no country enjoys a more temperate air... The coldest winds in Carolina usually blow from the north west, which in December and January produce some days of frost; but the sun's elevation soon dissipates and allays the sharpness of the wind, so that the days are moderately warm, tho' the nights are cold; after three or four days of such weather usually follow warm, sun-shiny days, thus it continues many days with some intervals of cloudy weather, which is succeeded by moderate soaking showers of rain, continuing not often longer than a day, then the air clears up with a sudden shift of wind from south to north-west, which again usually brings cold days, and so on."

"... in the beginning of February some few trees and smaller plants decorate the woods with their blossoms, yet the spring makes but slow progress till the beginning of April, when it advances suddenly with frequent rains."

"In May, June and July it rains not often but vehemently, with much lightning and very loud thunder, which produces numerous effects of its vehemence on trees split from top to bottom..."

"At the latter end of July or August it rains in great quantities usually a fortnight or three weeks, overflowing all the Savannah and lower ground..."

"Those parts of Carolina near the sea are not always exempt from fogs, but the upper parts of the country are seldom otherwise than serene."
The weather in relation to plant life
"The Northern Continent of America is much colder than those parts of Europe which are parallel to it in Latitude; this is evident from the mortal effects the frosts have on many plants in Virginia, that grow and stand the winters in England, tho' 15 degrees more north..."

"The frosts of Carolina and Virginia continue not long without intervals of warmer weather, yet by their ill effects cause a deficiency of many useful productions, which countries in the same latitude in Europe are blessed with, such as wine, oil, dates, oranges and many things impatient of hard frost."

"Many, or most part of the trees and shrubs in Carolina, retain their verdure all winter, tho' in most of the low and herbaceous plants, nature has required a respite; so that the grass, and what appears on the ground, looks withered and rusty, from October to March."
The soil
"... that which is generally cultivated consists principally of three kinds, which are distinguished by the names of Rice Land, Oak and Hiccory Land, and Pine barren Land: Rice Land is most valuable, though only productive of that grain, it being too wet for anything else... usually at the head of creeks and rivers, and before they are cleared of wood are called swamps, which being impregnated by the washings from higher lands, in a series of years are become vastly rich, and deep of soil, consisting of a sandy loam of a dark brown colour."

"...Oak and Hiccory Land; those trees, particularly the latter, being observed to grow mostly on good land. This land is of most use, in general producing the best grain, pulse, roots and herbage, and is not liable to inundations... The land is generally light and sandy, with a mixture of loam."

"...Pine barren Land... The soil is a light sterile sand, productive of little else but Pine Trees..."

"The richest soil in the country lies on the banks of those larger rivers, that have their sources in the mountains..."

"At the distance of about half way between the sea and mountains, ten miles wide of Fort Savannah, there lies, scattered on the Earth, irregular pieces of white stone, or alabaster, some very large, but in general they were from the size of a bushel to various degrees less; some lay under the surface, but none seemed to lie deep in the earth. These stones or pieces of rock extended five miles in width, where we crossed them, and, as the traders and Indians affirmed to me, three hundred in length, running in a north-westerly direction."
The water
"The large rivers in Carolina and Virginia have their source in the Apalatchian Mountains..." "Those rivers which have not their sources in the mountains rise from cypress swamps, ponds and low marshy grounds at different distances from the sea."

"In September 1722, at Fort Moor, a little fortress on the Savannah River, about midway between the sea and mountains, the water rose twenty-nine feet in less than forty hours. This proceeded only from what rain fell on the mountains, they at the fort having had none in that space of time.
It came rushing down the river so suddenly, and with that impetuosity that it not only destroyed all their grain, but sweeped away and drowned the cattle belonging to the garrison. Islands were formed and others joined to the land. And in some places the course of the river was turned. A large and fertile tract of low land, lying on the south side of the river, opposite to the fort, which was a former settlement of the Savannah Indians, was covered with sand three feet in depth, made unfit for cultivation. This sterile land was not carried from the higher grounds, but was washed from the steep banks of the river."
The Peach-Tree
"Of peaches there are such abundance in Carolina and Virginia, and in all the British Continent of America, that, were it not certain that they were at first introduced from Europe, one would be inclined to think them spontaneous, the fields being everywhere scattered with them, and large orchards are planted of them to feed hogs with, which when they are satiated of the fleshy part, crack the shells and eat the kernels only."
© 2010 Lisa J. Miner ♢ Content License ♢ Contact: webmaster@Plantilus.com