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Tradewinds March 2015 Web Final

March 2015

The Great Dismal Swamp

The Great Dismal Swamp and the Underground Railroad by Wanda E. Hunt McLean The Great Dismal Swamp is perhaps one of the greatest wonders and mysteries of the world. The name “dismal swamp” originated in the 18th century for the swampy area of land that lies between the James River in southeastern Virginia (Norfolk) and the Albemarle Sound (Edenton) in northeastern North Carolina. Estimates of the size of the original swamp have exceeded one million acres. The swamp is presently located approximately 30 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean within the city limits of Suffolk and Chesapeake in southeastern VA and the counties of Gates, Camden, and Pasquotank in northeastern NC. As of 2015 the remaining portions of the Great Dismal Swamp are owned by private citizens, North Carolina State Parks (North Carolina Great Dismal Swamp State Park), US Fish and Wildlife Service (Great Dismal Swamp Headquarters), the US Army Corps of Engineers (Dismal Swamp Canal), the NC Department of Transportation (Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center), and Elizabeth City State University (ECSU Great Dismal Swamp Boardwalk Project). The Great Dismal Swamp should not be mistaken as part of another swamp system farther south in North Carolina covering parts of Washington, Tyrrell, Dare and Hyde counties on 18th and 19th century maps labeled as the Great Alligator Swamp, Dismal Swamps, Alligator Dismal Swamp, or the Little Dismal Swamp. Today this swampy area is divided into four National Wildlife Refuges; Alligator River, Pocosin Lakes, Swanquarter and Mattamuskeet. In 2003 the Great Dismal Swamp was designated as part of the Underground Railroad history through the National Underground Railroad (UGRR) Network to Freedom (NTF) Program-National Park Service (NPS). It is the first designated site in the country to reach into two states. And, of all of the swamps in the country this swamp is identified by historians and surveyors as playing host for hundreds, if not thousands, of runaway slaves. Many freedom seekers used this swamp as a safe haven until they could run farther south or north. Once the Dismal Swamp Canal was completed many slaves escaped by vessel on the canal traveling north or farther south into the Carolinas and beyond. Countless numbers of slaves built structures and lived in the swamp anywhere from 10 to 30 years. This is part of the UGRR story, and scientists and sociologists refer to this living arrangement as maroon communities. One of the first documented sightings of runaway slaves living in the swamp was in 1728 when William Byrd II of Virginia and Carolinian John Lovick were hired as part of a surveying team to draw a dividing line between the two colonies. The task was relatively easy going until the team encountered the Great Dismal Swamp. During this same tour, on March 11, 1728, Byrd and Lovick came up on a family camped out in the swamp. In his ledger for documentation Byrd recorded and listed this family as mulattos who were runaway bondsmen. Part 2 next month Your local computer repair store. From Laptop Repair to virus removal we do it all. Located in Elizabeth City NC. 252-562-0987 Albemarle Tradewinds has never required contracts from it’s clients. 22 Albemarle Tradewinds March 2015 albemarletradewinds.com

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