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Sea level rise imperils historic grave site on Eastern Shore of Maryland

If Joe Fehrer hadn’t stumbled across the grave site, it might never have been found. 

Flanked by an encroaching marsh, it sits a half mile walk from the nearest road through water that threatens to flow over the tops of mud boots. 

On a sunny Friday morning on the way to the site in the Robinson Neck preserve on Taylors Island, Fehrer tests the water depth with a well-worn staff. 

“This channel is too deep to cross,” he says, looping back to chart a new course.

His mission for the day was to measure and record information about a group of historic graves located inside the Nature Conservancy’s preserve in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Dating predominantly from the early 19th century, a cluster of family gravestones peaks out of the wooded ground at the edge of the marsh. 

Some are sunken but some still stand tall after a couple hundred years.

Last year he relocated the site.

His goal is to get it added to the inventory of historic places through the Maryland Historic Trust. He embarked on the process of filling out the required documentation.

“This is one of many sites across the Eastern Shore that run the risk of being lost,” said Fehrer. “Before that happens sites like this just need to be documented, because this is part of the history of Dorchester County.”

The site includes only a handful of graves, almost all with the last name of Robson. 

Fehrer believes Robson is a precursor to the name Robinson, which the area “Robinson Neck” is named after.

All are facing a fate that is predicted to become commonplace over the next few centuries on the Eastern Shore. 

“Like everything else in Dorchester County, it’s wet and getting wetter,” said Fehrer, who works as the lower Eastern Shore project manager for the Nature Conservancy. 

The county has been identified as one of the “ground zero” sites for the impacts of climate change in the United States. 

Within the next hundred years, the stones will likely be underwater. There are dozens of other grave sites in the county that could be similarly impacted.

More: 6 benefits of a Delmarva Now digital subscription

Historic grave site’s path to recognition

The family grave site can’t be found on any public maps. 

“I just stumbled on it, probably 12 years ago when I was walking the preserve,” said Fehrer. “I saw the headstones but I didn’t have a GPS.”

Story continues on the Delaware Online website.

Published by Salisbury Daily Times, January 29, 2019. Written by Jenna Miller.

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