More Than Nature: Conservation and Cultural History

May 29, 2015

More than nature
TLC's property near Buckhorn Creek – a great place to relax and travel back in time

When Triangle Land Conservancy reworked its vision and mission statements a little over a year ago, four main goals were established to direct our work and what we do every day. Protecting Wildlife Habitat, Supporting Local Farms and Food, Connecting People to Nature, and Safeguarding Clean Water are our four main public benefits. While these four public benefits are the driving force behind our work, I’m here to tell you the work we do really has more than just these four types of benefits .

I’m big into unique history and more importantly, local history. On any given weekend, when I’m not leading a TLC event, I’m most likely living my other non-profit life – working at a railroad museum on steam engines and other equipment that’s nearly a century old. It’s a step back in time every trip down there. That moment when history comes alive is what drives me and makes every bit of my time worth it.

My other passion – trains

How’s this relevant to my work at TLC? Let me change to a more pertinent train of thought…. It’s about that time of year when I start to monitor all of our owned parcels. From Smithfield to Hillsborough, from Sanford to Rougemont, we have property spread all around with various hidden treasures from the past. Just last week, I was on a property adjacent to Buckhorn Creek that has remnants of an old mill dam that dates back to the early 1800’s. The only history I can dig up traces back to 1810, when Burwell Rollins moved to Chatham County to build and run a mill on Buckhorn Creek into the 1850’s. Just like many of y’all would do, I sat down next to this step back in time and found relaxation in the waters falling from the breach in the dam. I tried to think back in time, when this mill was a major building block for the community now overshadowed by an ever-expanding Holly Springs.

We also own properties like Horton Grove and Johnston Mill Nature preserves you can visit anytime to take a journey back in time. Although Johnston Mill Nature Preserve in Orange County was protected primarily for water quality, wildlife habitat, and connecting you to nature, it also protects a small feature of our culture and to me, that’s one of the greatest things about it. Visit Johnston Mill to see small remnants of a mill dating back to the 1820s (and while you’re there, note the new signage I created and recently installed).

Earth Week 2015 participants walked through the past at Horton Grove and Horton Grove Nature Preserve

TLC's Horton Grove Nature Preserve is adjacent to the Stagville Historic site which was once a part of the largest pre-Civil War plantation in the South. Preserving cultural history is often overlooked in today’s society, but thankfully places like Historic Stagville exist to both protect history and bring it to life. Join them this Saturday, May 30th for Freedom 150 to commemorate and experience the end of the Civil War through the lens of the recently freed slaves. As part of the event, TLC will be leading hikes through Horton Grove Nature Preserve at 10:30am and 1pm, linking the cultural history with natural history.

Next time you’re out and about hiking, take a minute and research what neat paths you’ll be travelling. Whether it’s an old logging railroad bed in Pisgah National Forest, or a mill race on one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of old mill sites across the piedmont of NC, remnants of what built our current society shouldn’t be unnoticed. This is The Dirt, a blog to give you a different perspective of the places we love and the land we need.

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