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Cover to Moores Creek National Battlefield - An Administrative History
Cover Page


Table of Contents



Chapter One,
The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge

Chapter Two,
Preservation and Development of the Moores Creek Battleground Prior to NPS Control

Chapter Three,
Planning and Development at Moores Creek

Chapter Four,
Interpretation and Visitor Services

Chapter Five,
Resources Management and Protection at Moores Creek


Appendix One,
A Chronology for Moores Creek NMP/NB

Appendix Two,
Moores Creek MNP/NB Superintendents

Appendix Three,
Moores Creek NMP/NB Annual

Appendix Four,
Acts and Resolutions of the North Carolina General Assembly

Appendix Five,
Federal Legislation

Chapter 1 Notes

Chapter 2 Notes

Chapter 3 Notes

Chapter 4 Notes

Chapter 5 Notes

List of Figures


Moores Creek National Battlefield:
An Administrative History
Chapter 5
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Through the years, the diverse cultural resources of Moores Creek have undergone various levels of documentation, preservation, and restoration. The park's physical size belies its abundance of cultural resources. Historic structures and features at the park include the partially reconstructed Negro Head Point Road causeway and earthworks, the six monuments erected between 1857 and 1931, the headstones at the graves of Mary and Ezekiel Slocumb, and two property boundary markers placed by the MCMA. In addition, the park contains nine known archeological features, including the battlefield, the savannah, the historic bridge site, the Negro Head Point Road site, the site of the earthworks, four tar kiln sites of unknown date, and the remains of a twentieth-century structure.[1] The most complex resource is the landscape, which has evolved from the swampy 1776 battle setting to a commemorative park setting. Each of these cultural resources continues to present new challenges to park managers.[2]

Like all NPS units, Moores Creek was listed on the National Register of Historic Places with enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act on October 15, 1966.[3] However, no formal National Register documentation was completed for over a decade. Prepared by Superintendent Raymond L. Ives between 1975 and 1976, official National Register documentation for the park was approved by the keeper of the register in November 1977. Ives's documentation identified the earthworks, the historic road causeway, and the six monuments as contributing elements to the park's significance.[4] In February 1987, the NPS approved a boundary increase written by Superintendent Boyles the previous year. This action extended the boundary identified in the National Register documentation to include lands acquired by the park between 1974 and 1982.[5] Another amendment to the National Register listing was approved in June 1996. In an attempt to clearly delineate significant park resources, this amendment, prepared by the Southeast Support Office, cited the two MCMA boundary markers as contributing elements to the park. The amendment designated the earthworks as noncontributing since they constitute neither the original earthworks nor a full reconstruction. However, because the ground beneath the earthworks may contain significant archeological data, the amendment cited the location of the earthworks as contributing for archeological potential. In essence, the amendment argued for the integrity of the site as a commemorative landscape rather than as an actual Revolutionary War battlefield landscape.[6]

In addition to listing on the National Register, the park's historic structures were documented through the List of Classified Structures (LCS) program, an NPS survey and inventory that documents National Register-eligible resources in the parks. The LCS for Moores Creek was originally conducted in 1975 by Southeast Regional Office staff and included the earthworks, the Negro Head Point Road causeway, and the six monuments. An updating of the LCS by Southeast Regional Office staff in 1995 added the Slocumb headstones and the MCMA boundary markers.[7]

Although not initially considered cultural resources, the monuments erected at the battleground were eventually given that recognition. Consequently, their preservation was acknowledged as a legitimate management responsibility, and this prompted the park to arrange for a background study of the monuments in 1989. Conducted by an intern from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, this study provided comprehensive information on each monument, including original appearances and locations, and historical information on adjoining fences and plantings.[8] In 1993, historical architects from the Southeast Regional Office were invited to inspect the monuments and recommend proper maintenance actions. As a result of this effort, the monuments were subsequently cleaned using appropriate methods and procedures were devised for quarterly inspections and yearly cleanings.[9] In 1995, based on the monuments background study, the park restored the Patriot Monument to its original appearance by reinstalling the ornamental iron fencing and decorative plantings. In some ways, the park's management philosophy with regard to the monuments had come full circle. After being erected as part of a commemorative landscape, the monuments came to be seen as intrusions when the park removed the surrounding fencing and plantings during the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1990s, the park began viewing the monuments and their surroundings as significant in their own right and as important components of the commemorative history of the battleground.[10]

Archeology at the park has occurred sporadically through the years. Initial work was conducted by NPS Archeologist Thor Borresen during King's attempt to restore the earthworks in the 1930s. Borresen was largely successful in determining the original dimensions of the earthworks, thereby providing valuable information for any earthworks reconstruction attempts. In August 1958, a metal detector survey of the entire park was conducted by John W. Griffin. Since only a few eighteenth-century artifacts were found, Griffin recommended dredging Moores Creek in an effort to find additional artifacts. However, the park never acted on his suggestion. In 1973, John W. Walker of the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) performed a pedestrian survey of the area where Highway 210 was to be relocated. Two years later, he opened the cornerstone of the Patriot Monument. In 1974, Timothy Thompson of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources investigated the earthworks, but found no eighteenth-century artifacts. During the same year, an archeological team from the same agency planned an underwater survey of the creek at the historic bridge site, but the survey was canceled due to equipment problems.[11]

During the 1980s, archeological investigations at Moores Creek were undertaken to provide information on the historic bridge in preparation for the bridge's reconstruction. A survey of the creek using magnetometric remote sensing to locate bridge remains was performed in 1983 by a team led by David M. Brewer of SEAC. The survey was unsuccessful in discovering any remains from the 1776 bridge, although remains from the 1931 bridge were found. In 1984, further archeological surveys, performed by Greg Komara, Travis Gray, and Alan Cooper, investigated the west bank of Moores Creek, a tar kiln site on newly acquired property, and the part of the historic causeway where Highway 210 was to be relocated. However, results of the survey were inconclusive. Three years later, the park again tried unsuccessfully to find remains of the historic bridge with Tom Hargrove's archeological survey.[12]

archeological investigation
Figure 17. An archeological investigation at Moores Creek during the 1970s.

During the summer of 1994, a team of SEAC archeologists led by John Cornelison and Brewer undertook the first archeological survey that included all NPS property at the park. The primary goal was to discover new information on the 1776 battle scene-a goal that the archeologists achieved with several important findings. In addition to revealing the height of the battle-period earthworks, the investigation confirmed that eighty percent of the partially reconstructed earthworks matched the location of the original earthworks. Remains of a campfire built on the eve of the battle were located near the earthworks. The team dug a trench through the historic road causeway in order to trace its evolution over time. Besides new information on the battle scene and landscape changes, the survey located a number of artifacts, including a musket ball, a metal box, and nails.[13]

Cultural landscape management at the park has often been directed at the accomplishment of more than one goal. Many of the planting efforts under natural resources management have been undertaken to restore the battle-period appearance of the site's cultural landscape. The earliest example of such efforts was when the NPS began removing the MCMA's exotic plantings around the monuments and along the park roads during the 1930s. Native trees and shrubs were planted in their place. In 1972, the fields of fire between the two cannon and the bridge site were cleared of brush and other screening vegetation in the belief that this would have been done in preparation for the battle. These efforts were undertaken without a comprehensive plan for cultural landscape restoration and management.[14]

In 1985, the park contracted for the first comprehensive study to compare and contrast the historic plant community patterns with the park's current natural features. The study recommended establishing the original creek channel configuration to restore wetland communities, continuing maintenance of the savannah area around the earthworks, allowing the revegetation of the pine ridge behind the earthworks, and planting long leaf pines throughout the open meadow east of the park entrance.[15] The park took several steps to implement the recommendations of the study, beginning with the planting of hundreds of long leaf pines in 1985, 1991, 1993, and 1996. In accordance with the recommendation to maintain the savannah, the park began an annual prescribed burn program in 1988. As part of this program, the savannah was burned in an attempt to reduce blackberry and tree growth. Although this effort was largely successful, it was unable to restore the historic wetlands setting due to decades of drainage activities at the park. In addition, the two wooded acres around the Tarheel Trail were burned annually to reduce fuels and ticks.[16]

In 1994, Moores Creek undertook a Cultural Landscape Inventory (CLI), a relatively new NPS management emphasis that emerged during the 1990s with a focus on park historic landscapes. The three-stage CLI process included an inventory of current conditions and recommendations for alterations to restore landscapes to their historic appearance. Darrel Morrison, a landscape architect from the University of Georgia, conducted the field work and compiled a draft CLI for the first level of the program. In 1997, this draft was revised and finalized by staff from the Southeast Support Office. The CLI briefly outlined the historic vegetation patterns and divided the park into five zones, including swamp woodlands, transitional wetlands, savannah, upland pine woodlands, and open meadows and maintained facility areas. Morrison recommended the restoration of the savannah since drainage efforts had decreased its natural and historic wetness. In coordination with the NPS Water Resources Division, the park began a hydrologic study of the savannah by installing monitoring wells during the summer of 1996. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of restoring the wetness of the savannah area. In addition, the park received funding in 1997 for a cultural landscape report to address cultural landscape management recommendations in more detail.[17]

In 1994, the park prepared a resources management plan to provide a unified, cohesive approach to the management of it's varied cultural resources. The plan identified fundamental needs of the program and recommended projects necessary to achieve and maintain the park's ultimate preservation objectives. Among the plan's priorities were the continued preservation of the earthworks, the preparation of a historic landscape management plan, the development of a preservation maintenance plan for the monuments, and the completion of an archeological survey and base map for the entire park acreage.[18] As part of the 1997 GPRA strategic planning process, the park envisioned eventually restoring six disturbed acres, including the former Highway 210 roadbed and the Tarheel Trail.[19]

landscaped grounds
Figure 18. Much of the cultural and natural resources management at Moores Creek has dealt with restoring the park to its battle-period appearance by removing the commemorative landscape installed by the MCMA as seen in this circa 1935 view of the Heroic Women Monument.


Although Moores Creek NMP was established in 1926 for its historical significance, the management of the park's natural resources has long been an important concern of the NPS. Early park staff documented the flora and fauna of the site along with gathering information on the park's historical significance. In 1936, nine varieties of oak trees, two of cypress, two of hickory, two of pine, and three of gum were identified. During the same year, the venus flytrap was first reported as being present in the park. Although this plant was not native to the park, it was known to grow in the area. Other plants identified were the Carolina maple, holly, persimmon, wild olive, sassafras, sycamore, willow, white ash, dogwood, huckleberry, spider lily, pitcher plant, butterwort, and swamp orchid.[20]

Early attempts to protect the park's flora from insect infestation usually consisted of spraying. Lead arsenate was used to combat walnut caterpillars that infested oak and hickory trees. For trees with webworms, affected branches were cut and burned. In addition, fire was sometimes employed to combat destructive insects.[21] In the 1930s, wildlife in the park consisted of squirrels, wild turkeys, quail, and an occasional bear. By 1938, fifty bird species had been identified. Prohibitions against hunting within park boundaries allowed the battleground to become a bird sanctuary.[22]

In addition to naturally occurring plants, park staff undertook a reforestation effort in 1937, resulting in the planting of ten juniper, eight red cedar, ten dogwood, ten long leaf pine, six Christmas holly, six yellow poplar, and fifteen flowering ash trees. Although there was no plan or design for this planting, care was taken to place each variety in its natural environment. The regional associate wildlife technician suggested further planting of trees and shrubs to encourage birds and animals to move into the park. To further promote reforestation, park staff decided to reduce mowing of the battleground, except around buildings, monuments, road shoulders, the picnic area, and the earthworks.[23] Due to the park's forested nature, fire protection played an important part in the natural resources management program during the 1930s. A fire lane was cut and maintained along the park's perimeter to protect against outside fires. Fires that happened to jump the lane or the creek were quickly suppressed.[24]

Numerous studies have been conducted through the years to document the number and types of flora and fauna in the park. Between 1937 and 1938, a wildlife study and a bird checklist were completed. In 1940, a similar checklist was prepared for flowering plants. The following year, the park superintendent reported that 275 species of flora other than trees and over fifty varieties of trees had been identified. Documentation efforts continued sporadically until 1982 when Dr. David Sieren, a professor in the botany department of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, completed the first comprehensive floristic study of the park's vascular plants. Dr. Sieren identified 108 families, 297 genera, and 539 species.[25]

Until more recently, attempts to restore the park's natural environment to some resemblance of its historic appearance lacked a coherent approach. In some cases, new plantings were designed to accomplish a management objective rather than to restore the historic scene. In 1957 for example, one hundred southern pine seedlings were planted to mark the park boundary in the vicinity of the old picnic grounds. In 1972, the regional resources management specialist recommended the use of low growing native thorny plants to control traffic that drifted off of established trails. Areas without grass were routinely seeded to improve their appearance or to facilitate erosion control. As previously mentioned, management of the park's natural resources in the context of cultural landscape considerations became a major planning objective during the 1980s and 1990s.[26]

In 1997, the NPS Water Resources Division finished a water quality analysis for the creek, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission completed a study revealing that no threatened or endangered mussels inhabited Moores Creek. Later that year, the park set a five-year strategic planning goal to increase the natural resources inventory by five percent with the addition of an aquatic wildlife survey.[27]


Due primarily to Moores Creek's rural setting, law enforcement activity has never been a major issue at the park. Most incidents during the first four decades of NPS management concerned drunk drivers, speeding violators, minor vandalism, and hunting violations. Most incidents were handled with verbal warnings until an incident reporting system was established in 1972.[28] By the 1970s, increased visitation mandated upgrades to the park's law enforcement program. In 1974, equipment was purchased to bring the park up to minimum standards. Two years later, the park hired its first full-time law enforcement ranger. In September 1976, the law enforcement ranger assisted members of the U. S. Customs Service, local narcotics officers, and personnel from two county sheriff's departments with a marijuana arrest in the park.[29]

Despite an occasional incident, law enforcement was a minor concern at Moores Creek during the 1970s. Enforcement consisted mainly of patrolling abandoned buildings on newly acquired property and occasionally uncovering marijuana plants for eradication. Consequently, the law enforcement position was reclassified as a park technician position in 1979. Without a commissioned ranger on staff, employees who lived on site were responsible for building security and grounds patrol. In addition, an alarm system was installed in the visitor center in 1981.[30]

During the 1980s, incidents of vandalism began to increase at the park. As a result, the park installed additional signs prohibiting illegal activities. In July 1984, concurrent jurisdiction with state and local law enforcement authorities became effective. Since that date, the Pender County Sheriff's Department has assisted in the protection of park resources.[31]

Further improvements in law enforcement and safety measures occurred during the 1990s. In 1991, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the park and the Atkinson Volunteer Fire Department for structural fire fighting support within the park and wildfire suppression both within the park and on adjacent lands. In addition, a chain-link fence was erected along portions of the western boundary in 1996 to prevent casual entry from the old Highway 210 remnant outside the park.[32]

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Last Modified: May 20, 2001 10:00:00 pm PST