National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
Restoring the Historic Landscape in the Great Meadows
Alien species of plants have invaded the historic battlefield of Fort Necessity and a different brand of
warfare is being waged. When the first battle of the French and Indian War occurred here on July 3rd,
1754, the landscape of the Great Meadows looked different from what you are seeing today. The hillsides were covered with huge trees and the Great Meadows was a large, open S-shaped wetland about
1-1/2 miles long and 200 yards wide. George Washington had described the Great Meadows as “a
charming field for an encounter.” He liked the meadow because there was grass for livestock, water
for men and animals, and the open terrain allowed him to use line tactics against the French. Sixteen
years after the battle, Washington purchased the Great Meadows. He owned it until his death in 1799.
A New Battle in the
When Washington’s heirs sold the property, the
Great Meadows began to change. Subsequent owners timbered and farmed the land around the battlefield area. The streams were straightened. Ditches
and drain tiles were installed to drain the meadow.
In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps planted evergreen trees to control erosion and brought
tons of fill dirt from the surrounding hills to the fort
area. The non-native pine
plantations you see today
were not here in the 18th
century. The fill dirt created
a drier, open landscape. Agricultural practices and other
human disturbances introduced alien plant species.
These species thrive in
the new environment, to the
detriment of the native species.
The introduction of Morrow’s honeysuckle
(Lonicera morrowi L.) has also inhibited the return
of the historic forest/meadow landscape. These land
use changes and alien plant invasions make it difficult for visitors to imagine the landscape at the time
of the battle.
There is still a battle raging around Fort Necessity. A
war to preserve native species amidst an invasion of alien plants. Eventually we hope to
return the Great Meadows to what George
Washington saw when he first described it as
Before restoring the landscape, the National Park
Service had to determine what plant life was in the
Great Meadows over 250 years ago. The first step
was researching 18th century accounts of people
who visited the area before the significant changes
from human activity. From the archeology done by
J. C. Harrington in 1953 we know the original fort
was made of white oak logs. In 1994 soil cores were
taken from the battlefield and surrounding area.
Analysis of the pollen found within these samples
confirmed the dominant tree on the hillside was oak.
Some of the other pollen found was from chestnut,
beech, walnut, hickory, alder, hazelnut, and maple.
showed the ground near the fort was a marsh dominated by sedges and grass. A mixture of shrubs and
herbs, with a grass understory, occupied the portion
of the meadow between the forest and the marsh.
Washington mentioned removing bushes from the
meadow for his soldiers to have a clear field of fire.
Most of the bushes that Washington removed appeared to have been alders, arrowwood and hawthorns. At the fringe of the forest were alders. Grass,
meadow rue, goldenrod and ironweed were on the
driest ground closer to the fort.
The Great Meadows needs rehabilitation to preserve
it’s historic character. One option for rehabilitating
the historic landscape is mowing or pulling out the
alien species. This method has been used here for
over 20 years. Once an area is cleared of alien plant
life, however, native species must be planted to prevent re-infestation of alien species. Another option is
Work planned for 2007 includes both methods. The
alien shrubs will be mowed in late winter or early
spring to reduce the amount of “canopy” foliage. A
National Park Service approved herbicide will be applied in August. This method allows more acreage to
be treated with herbicide. It also allows the spray to
reach the smaller alien plants beneath the canopy.
After treatment this area will look brown. The dead
honeysuckle plants will be left in place temporarily
to keep the hillside from eroding and to discourage
deer from browsing on young native plants trying to
thrive. The soil will be tested for nutrient content
and fertilizer will be applied if needed. Once the site
is prepared, native trees from the Park’s nursery and
other sites within the park will be planted. Plastic
fencing will be used to protect the saplings from the
Helping Species of
Fort Necessity is home to a variety of plants and
wildlife. Many species of birds and animals commonly seen include turkey, deer, squirrel and
groundhog. Other animals seldom noticed by visitors are fox, bear, bobcat, and fishers. We recently
conducted a flora and fauna survey within the park’s
American Woodcock habitat. Found were several
‘species of concern.’ Habitat loss is the biggest
reason plants and animals become endangered.
Returning the historic forest/meadow landscape will
be beneficial to the native plant and animal species
listed as ‘special concern’ by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Please remember that Fort Necessity is
a wildlife sanctuary and all plants, reptiles, birds and
animals are protected.
The American Woodcock, or Timberdoodle, (Scolopax minor) is becoming more uncommon due to
habitat loss. This long billed, “chunky” little bird
enjoys eating almost his weight daily in earthworms,
insects and seeds in early evening and before dawn.
Although they have other songs, during the mating
season from early March to mid-May the male uses
his distinct “peent” sound to attract a female.
project is being conducted through a partnership
with West Virginia University and the Great Lakes/
Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies
During the courtship ritual, the male will fly up
to 300 feet making a whistling sound, then spiral back to earth warbling a song as he returns.
For nesting, woodcocks are attracted to edges
of moist woodlands with alder, aspen, hawthorn,
and crab apples. To help this uncommon bird, the
American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project will
restore 25 acres of habitat in the Park. This
How You Can Help!
You can help with the historic forest/meadow rehabilitation project. If
you or your group would like to contribute your time or resources
to this project, please contact the Park’s Volunteer Coordinator at
724-329-5473 or the Park’s Natural Resource Specialist at 724-329-5818.
You can also help fight the alien invasion by removing exotic plants from your
yard and replacing them with native plant species, and encouraging others to do
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