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Swampland in Florida

Recently I came across an interesting map of Florida in our collections. Dated 1823, the map was made only four years after the territory of Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain, and 22 years before it became a state in its own right. The map, authored by surveyor Charles Vignoles and engraved by Henry Schenck Tanner, caught my eye due to its age and its detail, which includes the names and descriptions of natural and inhabited places, land grants, and trails throughout the peninsula. One name in particular stood out, and after a little research, I learned that this map is generally considered to be the first map to use the name “Everglades” (or really, “Ever Glades”) for the enormous wetlands which dominate the southern part of the Florida peninsula.

Printed map of Florida. The Everglades bear the label "Extensive inundated region covered with pine and hummock islands, of all sizes, and generally called The Ever Glades."

Map of Florida. Charles Blacker Vignoles, cartographer. Henry Schenck Tanner, engraver, 1823. Geography and Map Division.

Finding this map piqued my curiosity. What else has the Everglades been called throughout recorded history? How else has it been mapped?

Florida began to appear on European maps in the early 1500s, but the peninsula was rarely mapped in much detail aside from the coast. This 1562 map is typical of such depictions, showing not much more than an elongated stretch of land with some vague coastal topography.

Detail of printed map of the Americas showing Florida as a peninsula off of mainland North America, near Cuba.

Detail of Americae sive qvartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio. Diego Gutiérrez and Hieronymus Cock, 1562. Geography and Map Division.

Near the tail-end of the 1500s, a lake – or an island in a lake – called Serrope becomes the first notable interior feature of the Florida peninsula shown on Spanish maps. This is Lake Okeechobee, the headwaters of the Everglades wetlands. While there are a handful of islands in Lake Okeechobee, the large central island depicted on these maps is conspicuously absent from the 1977 LANDSAT photo.

Floridae Americae provinciae recens & exactissima descriptio auctorè Iacobo le Moyne cui cognomen de Morgues... Shows lake with an island in it labeled "Lacus & Insula Sarrope"

Floridae Americae provinciae recens & exactissima descriptio auctorè Iacobo le Moyne cui cognomen de Morgues…. Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, [1591]. Geography and Map Division.

Carta geografica della Florida nell' America settentrionale. Shows lake with an island in it labeled "Serrope I."

Carta geografica della Florida nell’ America settentrionale. Guillaume de L’Isle, [1750]. Geography and Map Division.

LANDSAT satellite photo of Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Lake Okeechobee, Florida, satellite image map : NASA LANDSAT-1, 1:500,000 N2723W08016. NASA, 1977. Geography and Map Division.

By the 18th century Serrope generally becomes the lake of Espiritu Santo, or on French maps, Lac du St. Esprit, both meaning “Lake of the Holy Spirit.” That appellation soon gives way to the name Lake Mayaco or Macaco, after the Mayaca Indigenous people.

Detail of "Carte réduite des côtes et de l'interieur de la presqu' île de la Floride" showing a lake labeled "Lac du St. Esprit"

Carte réduite des côtes et de l’interieur de la presqu’ île de la Floride…. Dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine, 1780. Geography and Map Division.

Detail of "Map of the lands belonging to R.S. Hackley, esq., in east Florida" showing a lake labeled "Lake Macaco Majaco or Major formerly called Spirito Santo"

Map of the lands belonging to R.S. Hackley, esq., in east Florida. Richard Hackley, [1823?]. Geography and Map Division.

Another name which appears south of the lake in several maps is that of Ancient or Old Tegesta. The Tegesta, also called the Tequesta, were another Indigenous community of south Florida.

Detail of "The Peninsula and Gulf of Florida or Channel of Bahama with the Bahama Islands..." showing a lake labeled "Spiritu Santo Lagoon" and with much of southern Florida bearing the label "Ancient Tegesta"

The Peninsula and Gulf of Florida or Channel of Bahama with the Bahama Islands…. Thomas Jeffreys, 1775. Geography and Map Division.

Some cartographers depicted southern Florida – or in some cases, the whole peninsula – as a jumbled collection of large islands, blurring the distinction between river, wetland, and sea. My favorite of these includes a note between the southern end of the peninsula and the islands of the Florida Keys, stating “tout ceci est peu connu” – “all this is little known.”

A new and accurate map of east and west Florida

A new and accurate map of east and west Florida. [1765]. Geography and Map Division.

Karte des oestlichē oder ehemahligē englischen Amerika nach den Besitzungen und Grænzen nach dem Frieden von 1783.

Karte des oestlichē oder ehemahligē englischen Amerika nach den Besitzungen und Grænzen nach dem Frieden von 1783. Johann Jakob Moser, [1784]. Geography and Map Division.

Carte réduite des costes de la Louisiane et de la Floride.

Carte réduite des costes de la Louisiane et de la Floride.. Jacques Nicolas Bellin, 1764. Geography and Map Division.

While a few earlier maps depict perhaps swamp-like vegetation along rivers in southern Florida, the 1823 Vignoles map is the oldest map I could find which gives any name at all specifically to the Everglades wetland region. However, “Everglades” evidently wasn’t the only name in use. This 1838 map by the Bureau of US Topographical Engineers gives it two names – Pay-Hai-O-Kee and Grass Water. The first of these comes from the Hitchiti language, closely related to Mikasuki, which is still spoken today by descendants of survivors of the Seminole Wars of the 19th century.

Detail of printed map of Florida. Shows vegetated region in southern Florida labeled "Pay-Hai-O-Kee or Grass Water."

Map of the seat of war in Florida. Bureau of Topographical Engineers, 1838. Geography and Map Division.

On American maps, anyway, it was the name Everglades which stuck.

“Extensive marshes called the Everglades” appear on this circa 1841 map by David H. Burr, Geographer to the US House of Representatives.

Map of Florida : Exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads, &c.

Map of Florida : Exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads, &c.. David H. Burr, [1841?]. Geography and Map Division.

Here the Everglades are mapped almost as a massive delta with braided river channels flowing southwest from Lake Okeechobee.

Map of the State of Florida showing the progress of the surveys accompanying annual report of the Surveyor General for 1859.

Map of the State of Florida showing the progress of the surveys accompanying annual report of the Surveyor General for 1859. US General Land Office, [1859]. Geography and Map Division.

This birds eye view by John Bachmann shows numerous small lakes in a vast dark green landscape.

Close-up of "Birds eye view of Florida and part of Georgia and Alabama" showing the southern region of Florida

Birds eye view of Florida and part of Georgia and Alabama. John Bachmann, c1861.

Today, much of the Everglades region is part of Everglades National Park, which was established in 1947. With their detailed visitor maps, the National Park Service takes their place in a long tradition of mapping this interesting region.

Everglades National Park, Florida. National Park Service, 2015. Geography and Map Division.

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