This weekend, May 3, local citizens are joining together to clean up two cemeteries out on Pondberry Preserve, nestled between Roseboro and Salemburg. The area, which is 2,100 acres, is state-owned property that was originally cordoned off as a nature preserve for the Pondberry plant.
Organizers are hoping others will join them in the clean-up effort.
Arrangements have been made with state caretakers to access the area, and Bill Scott, senior vice president at the First Citizens Bank in Clinto, is launching an effort to get brush and debris picked up and removed from the preserve.
Scott is a board member for the Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail, a group with high hopes of getting a part of the Mountain to Sea Trail cut through the preserve.
The Mountain to Sea Trail is around 1,000 miles that goes from the N.C. mountains all the way to the Outer Banks. The trail is a foot trail that volunteers have carved out. The trails are maintained by those volunteers in conjunction with the state.
“We will be working on cleaning up two cemeteries in the Pondberry Preserve,” said Scott in an interview Tuesday. Parts of the trail go through the Neuse River Basin and follow along secondary, county roads. Sampson County’s planned portion starts up near the Bentonville Battleground area in the northern part of the county and moves south toward Roseboro and moving into Cumberland County.
“Pondberry Preserve was created to protect the Pondberry plant, which is a federally endangered plant,” said Scott. The area is also a long leaf pine and wire grass savannah.
“The area is commonly known as the White Woods property, because it was owned by the White family,” Scott explained. The property was owned by Governor Gabriel Holmes in 1821 through 1824 and subsequently given to his daughter who married a man whose last name was White, said Scott. Out on the Pondberry Preserve there are ruins from the governor’s house as well as one of the stage coach houses.
“Rob Evans is the manager of that tract,” said Scott. “He opens the property on a limited basis.”
“We are trying to help him develop the preserve,” explained Scott, as he pointed to the location on a map of the property.
“This is a great educational, recreational, and historical opportunity for Sampson County,” said Scott. “There is the old governor’s mansion there, and the old state coach route.” Naval stores were also shipped down to Wilmington through the property via Little Coharie Creek, he said. That was how they moved turpentine, the sap, pitch and other products down the river. Plus the stage coach house was used for boarders.
The top floor was used for boarders to stay the night and the main floor was for the business aspect. Under the property in a cellar like area is where the horses and slaves were kept he said.
The structure is now falling down in ruin.
“There are no hiking trails in Sampson County,” said Scott of the thought behind clearing the preserve. “This would give people in Sampson County a place to go.” This would also open doors for interpretive trail walks on the nature trail which goes through the Carolina Bay area.
“We have already blazed five miles of trail,” Scott clarified. “Some of it is through the woods and existing pathways.”
The preserve has two cemeteries, the White family cemetery and a slave cemetery, which is called the Ben Howard Family Cemetery.
“We are going to clean up and restore these cemeteries,” said Scott. “There is a lot of heritage and historic value.”
The group will meet Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. at Hunter’s Cafe which located beside Dollar General in Roseboro.
“We will be having a work and recreation day,” said Scott. The group will start cleaning up and then break for lunch. Participants need to bring their own lunch, snacks, water, and hand tools. After lunch the group will go on a hike.
Boy Scouts will be working on the clean up and Scott hopes to get students from NC Tarheel ChalleNGe as well.
More help is needed on these cleanup efforts. For more information contact Bill Scott on his cell phone at at 910-990-3474.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd