The Scenic Corridor’s First Residents
Long before European settlers, the Timucuan Native American people flourished in North Florida and Southeast Georgia. This included the area of the present-day scenic corridor, where the ecology along the St. Johns River provided sustenance to Timucuans (also called Timucua) as long as 4,000 years ago.
The Timucuans lived in more permanent settlements, building round timber houses thatched with palmetto braches. A chief and council of elders led each settlement and a shaman conducted the ceremonies that marked key events such as planting and harvesting.
Like today, fishing was plentiful, and Timucuans erected a type of wooden fence in waterways to catch fish as the tide went out. Timucuan men also used bows, blowguns, spears and clubs to kill a variety of game, including alligators, deer, turkeys and more. Meat was smoked over an open fire for preservation. Agriculture was an equally important part of Timucuan life, with corn, squash, beans and other crops forming an essential part of their diet.
They shared a common language and many cultural attributes, but differing dialects and cultural elements existed among the varying Timucuan tribes. Those who lived along the present-day William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway were ultimately participants in what archaeologists now call the St. Johns culture, which is identified by certain pottery styles.
Estimates vary on the size of the Timucuan population at the time of European contact—ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 in 35 chiefdoms.