In Spring of 1774, William Bartram (1739-1823) moved westward from the St. Johns River to the Alachua Savanna, an area now known as Paynes Prairie:
"The extensive Alachua ia a level green plain, above fifteen males over, fifty miles an circumference, and scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen on at. It is encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and a fragrant Orange grove, rising from a exuberantly fertile soil. The towering Magnolia grandiflora and transcendent Palm stand conspicuous among them.. Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful fleet Siminole horse, flocks of turkeys, civilized communities of the sonorous watchful crane, mix together, appearing happy and contented in the enjoyment of peace."
Selections from his writings provide an early sense of The Gator Nation.
"The evening was temperately cool and calm. The crocodiles began to roar and appear in uncommon numbers along the shores and in the river. I fixed my camp In an open plain, near the utmost projection of the promontory, under the shelter of a large Live Oak.. MY apprehensions were highly alarmed...and the alligators gathered around my harbour from all quarters; from these considerations concluded to be expeditious in my trip to the lagoon... I therefore furnished myself with a club for my defence, went on board, and penetrating the first line of those which surrounded my harbour, they gave way; but being pursued by several very large ones, I kept strictly on the watch, and paddled with all my might towards the entrance of the lagoon, hoping to be sheltered there from the multitude of my assailants; but ere I had half-way reached the place, I was attacked on all sides, several endeavouring to overset the canoe. My situation now became precarious to the last degree: two very large ones attacked me closely, at the same instant, rushing up with their heads and part of their bodies above the water, roaring terribly and belching floods of water over me. They struck their jaws together so close to my ears, as almost to stun me, and I expected every moment to be dragged out of the boat and instantly devoured..."