say you never tasted such pies and puddings," and when the dinner was finished we all agreed with him. The menu consisted of soup, shad deliciously broiled, turkey well-cooked and tender roast beef. Oh, that pumpkin pie. I have cause to remember it, for I ate too much to feel exactly comfortable.
Life on the "Okeehumkee" is more like life on a houseboat than on a regular river steamer. The captain and the stewards are not only willing, but anxious to make it pleasant and comfortable for all on board. The captain, as gallant and sociable as an old time friend, chats freely with each passenger and knows each by name. After dinner all gather on the three decks and away we float down the St. Johns river for twenty-five miles. The scenery is beautiful, but much like any other river.
About 4o'clock we saw what looked like a little creek emptying into the river. Soon we turned and lo, the little creel is the Ocklawaha, and the steamer begins to wander here and there, first toward one bank and then the other, trying to find a place to get out of the maze of sudden turns, fallen trees and sunken logs, but seemingly without trouble, for the well tried pilots are equal to their task, having the experience of many years to guide them. By this time all are acquainted and chatting together as cordially as old friends. Then came excited exclamations of "How are we going to get around that turn ahead?" and "Look out for that tree, it is going to strike the boat!" etc. We are now in the midst of immense old cypress trees hidden by their veil of hanging moss. Dogwood covered with exquisite white blossoms. Holly with its coral necklaces, and interspersed here and there exquisite lilies, pure white and red and yellow. Suddenly the sun disappears and up rises the "Queen of the Night" in her full beauty. "Where am I?" "Is this fairy land?" A patch of azure blue above me. The full moon floating like a silver ball in the midst. The banks of the river are fringed with stately palmettos and all kinds of shrubs of tropical growth peeping through their veils of moss. Certainly I have seen this scene before. But what is this under the water? Are we sailing through an under-ground forest? No it is only the reflection of the banks above, but so perfect that it bewilders one. I look up and the captain is by my side. "What a weird and unusual scene this is," I said. "Yes, but wait until tomorrow, and you will see one still more beautiful," was his reply. "Hark! what is that sad wailing cry in the swamp?" I asked. "A large bird," he replied. "You will hear them all night," and so we did, sounding like the pitiful cry of some lost spirit in the woods. About 8 o'clock we listened to some negro melodies, sung by the colored waiters, then reluctantly went to our staterooms with the firm resolution to get up with the sun; and we, three, ladies, were up on the deck long before the sun rose, and were well rewarded for our trouble by the rainbow shades of reflected light on the dark water. Oh, how hungry we were for our breakfast, and how delicious it was. Thin-sliced broiled ham, fresh eggs, tender beefsteak, home coffee, cornbread and biscuit. After breakfast, the great excitement was to watch for alligators. Sure enough, soon we heard, from the upper deck, "'Gater just ahead." On a rotten stump lay a huge alligator, the captain said was at least eight feet long. He gave us a good chance to look at him, then slid off, and quietly swam to his native haunts. We saw seven or eight others, but not as large. We also saw a great number of turtles and several moccasin snakes. The captain kindly stopped to let us go into a large orange, lemon, fig and grapefruit grove. It was a beautiful and a novel sight to us Northerners. He also allowed us to stop and watch the bringing in by an engine a huge cypress tree. The end was covered by a large funnel-shaped arrangement to prevent it being clogged by underbrush. They hauled it a mile through a cleared space in the swamp.
About 10:30 we entered the Silver Springs waters. How can I describe its wonderful beauty? Certainly it is the home of the naiads. The water is so transparently clear that one can see the bottom as distinctly as if one were on a visit to their palaces. The bottom must consist of some kind of peculiar rock, for it shades from emerald green to azure blue, and is constantly changing. Here and there are patches of dark green weed, then pale green, then bleached white linen on some buried cypress tree, whose huge trunk has been changed to a thing of beauty by these mystic waters, as it takes its colors of beauty greens and blues. Here is the home of the green turtle, and all kinds of fish. We could see distinctly schools of immense pike and other species we did not recognize. The anglers among us were obliged to cry "sour grapes."
At last reaches the railroad station called Silver Springs, where we hire a rowboat and go out to view the scene. The colored rower takes us to the "ladies' parlor." A part of the spring, about eighty feet deep, where they have thrown a chair and some dishes to the bottom, and they have become so colored by some process of the water to beautiful green and blues. One can see them as distinctly as if one were there ready to sit down and rest. The entire bottom of the spring is a moving kaleidoscope of the primary colors, green, yellow, and red, and is beyond description. Even tin cans and old sticks and pieces of paper thrown in become things of exquisite beauty. While we are waiting for the train to come in, we amused ourselves by talking to an old negress, who everyone days is one hundred and eighteen years old. At last the captain is ready to start back for Palatka, and off we go to enjoy another eight or ten hours of the beautiful scene. One more comfortable night's rest and we reach our destination. The kind captain escorts us to our boats, shakes hands with us all, and we leave behind with regret our vision of beauty.
State Archives of Florida: Collection M81-7, Box 02, Folder 1
Promotional pamphlet for Okeehumkee Steamer trip.