Monday, August 11, 2008

Families Reunite at Nature Preserve

Ridgeway, VA— Over the past few months, the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) has been putting together a puzzle of sorts. With help from the Bassett Historical Center, family members, and local citizens, they have been identifying grave sites at the historic Burgess Cemetery located within the Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve in Ridgeway.

A special visit from descendants of the Burgess family this past week helped to put a few more pieces of the puzzle together. John Burgess 7th, Cherie Jane Burgess Dean, and Peggy Burgess Salamon, all great-grandchildren of plantation owner John Henry Burgess, traveled from eastern Virginia and Pennsylvania to spend time in the family cemetery. While visiting the cemetery they identified the grave of John Burgess 3rd, the plantation owner’s father, who died in 1835. “This was a great discovery,” said Mr. Burgess.

The three siblings also had the opportunity to meet a distant cousin, thanks to Nancy Bradshaw of Martinsville. Ms. Bradshaw, who is a local business owner and relative of the Burgess family, arranged for Judge Kenneth Covington to visit the preserve and meet the Burgess family and DRBA staff member, Jennifer Doss. Judge Covington was very pleased with the preservation of the cemetery where several relatives are buried, including his grandfather William D. Covington. Mr. Burgess and Judge Covington spent some time talking about the genealogy of their family and sharing information with each other.

Other projects are also underway to preserve the history of Uncle John Burgess, a former slave on the plantation. The new information provided to DRBA will be included in a family tree handout that will soon be available to visitors at the Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve.

Self-guided tours of the Gravely Nature Preserve’s two miles of trails can be taken by picking up a brochure at the main kiosk. For information on guided tours and other programs, please contact Jennifer Doss, DRBA’s Rivers & Trails Project Manager, at 276-634-2545 or

The Richard P. Gravely, Jr. Nature Preserve is funded in part by the Harvest Foundation, which invests in programs and initiatives in the areas of health, education, and welfare. Development of the preserve was made possible through a partnership of Henry County and the Dan River Basin Association.

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