National Wildlife Refuge System
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The Georgia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard takes part in the dedication of a grave several years ago on the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
The Georgia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard takes part in the dedication of a grave several years ago on the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
Credit: Piedmont NWR
Historic gravestones in Clowers Cemetery are among the cultural resources at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.
Historic gravestones in Clowers Cemetery are among the cultural resources at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia..
Credit: Piedmont NWR

Honoring the Past

With the waning of sunlight and the dropping of leaves come thoughts of other natural endings. Perhaps that — along with the mild outdoor temperatures —is what draws so many visitors this season to explore historic cemeteries on national wildlife refuges.

National wildlife refuges protect not only natural resources but cultural ones as well, including graveyards and burial grounds, archeological remains, historic homes and other structures. Some refuge burial grounds date to the 1700s and earlier. In some parts of the country, local communities take an active part in refuge efforts to preserve and restore these resting places, to which many feel strong cultural or historic ties.

On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, for example, year-round residents help tend three 19th-century cemeteries on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, cleaning and removing debris from the sites. Two of the cemeteries are on Assateague Island and one is on Wallops Island.

In central Georgia, descendants of those buried in some 34 cemeteries on Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge also take an avid interest in refuge efforts to preserve these grounds. Headstones mark the graves of Revolutionary War as well as Civil War veterans, and several cemeteries are regularly visited by family and friends. The respect with which the refuge views the cultural treasure is clear from language on its web site, which notes, “The gravestones are cultural artifacts that can teach us much about our American forebears.”

Some ancestral grounds on national wildlife refuges predate even these. At South Carolina’s Santee National Wildlife Refuge, for example, a nearly 30-foot-tall Indian mound once used for burial and ceremonial purposes is a leading visitor attraction. It dates back more than 3,500 years.

Some other national wildlife refuges that contain historic cemeteries or burial grounds include:
Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge, HI (http://www.fws.gov/bakerisland)
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, IL (http://midwest.fws.gov/craborchard)
Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge, AL (http://www.fws.gov/keycave/)
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, HI (http://www.fws.gov/kilaueapoint)
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, TX (http://southwest.fws.gov/refuges/texas/STRC/santaana/Index.html)

For more information about Chincoteague, Piedmont and Santee Refuges, visit:
http://chinco.fws.gov
http://www.fws.gov/piedmont/
http://www.fws.gov/santee/

For more information about cemeteries and burial grounds on national wildlife refuges, visit:
http://www.fws.gov/piedmont/cemeteries.html

For information about historic preservation of cultural resources on national wildlife refuges, visit:

http://www.fws.gov/historicPreservation/

 

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June 19, 2012m1 -->June 19, 2012