“The Witchery of Archery,” Maurice Thompson’s Early Description of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

Cover of the Witchery of Archery, 1879, Maurice Thompson.
Cover of the Witchery of Archery, 1879, Maurice Thompson.
Maurice Thomson as photographed for book publication.
A young Maurice Thomson as photographed for book publication.

One of Lake Okeechobee’s earliest accounts was written by Maurice Thompson in 1879. Thompson’s book the “Witchery of Archery” is “credited with reviving the sport” and is still considered an American classic.

For me what is most interesting is Chapter VIII, entitled: “The Mysterious Lake,” written about an “untouched” Lake Okeechobee in South Florida just west of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

You can go to the link at the end of this blog and read the entire book or chapter on-line, however for the blog reader, and for the beauty of the visual, I am providing some slides of the first few pages, and will quote–pulling, changing tense,  and mixing a few lines:

“Lake Okeechobee, formerly called Mayaco, or Macaco, ever since the discovery of Florida by Europeans.. and  long before, —has slept in a sort of poetical fog of mystery.

No doubt the far-famed story of the Fountain of Youth hidden away in the wild tangles of the Land of Flowers, being once disproved let fall something of its delightful romance upon the lake, which though hemmed in with most impassable swamps  marshes, and everglades, and jealously guarded by all the cunning of its wild owners, really did and does exist…

This vast body of water lies on the Floridian peninsula, far towards its southern point, having a shape not unlike that of a great spider, from whose elliptical outline of body radiate short, crooked legs…

All around it stretch the cypress swamps and wet prairies, through which innumerable dark sluggish streams crawl like indolent serpents. Its shores are in most places low, only a few inches above the water, and a great portion is unapproachable…

The islands in the lake…are wild gardens of tropical fruit and parterres of fabulously beautiful flowers among which all sorts of gaudy birds and butterflies float and feast the year round. Springs of health giving water well up through he snow while sands and perpetual breezes blow cool from the rippling lake…

Vegetation is variegated and luxuriant beyond compare; gorgeous flowers and gay foliage make the woods and banks dazzlingly bright and beautiful…

No wonder the lake is jealousy guarded by the Indian, and still less the wonder that his descriptions of it are touched with the coloring of romance, and bathed in an atmosphere of fascination and mystery. “

How beautiful this place, our Lake Okeechobee, must have been…

*Lake Mayaco, Macaco, and names of similar derision were named after the native Maraca people of Florida who came from the upper area of the St. Johns River and migrated to the Lake Okeechobee region in the early 18th century. “Port Mayaca” on the east side of the lake in Indiantown, Martin County, preserves their name today.

1. Chapter 8 The Witchery of Archery
1. Chapter 8 “The Witchery of Archery” first shared with me by historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
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Full text: Witchery of Archery: https://www.archerylibrary.com/books/witchery/

Maurice Thompson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Thompson

3 thoughts on ““The Witchery of Archery,” Maurice Thompson’s Early Description of Lake Okeechobee, SLR/IRL

  1. Kudos, again, to you, Jacqui, for passing on this fascinatingly lovely tale of the past. What beautiful language Mr. Thompson possessed! I had to look up words along the way like frith – an Old English word meaning “peace; freedom from molestation, protection; safety, security”. That sums up what ‘La Florida’ once was.

    This was such an inspiring read for me. I desire to know more and will read as much of this book as you have made available. Thank you for giving my day a fragrance of the written word that once was.

    Like

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