reserve

In his Ornithological Biography, John James Audubon quotes a letter from his friend, the South Carolina clergyman and naturalist John Bachman, who had paid a visit to Chisholm Pond, about seven miles outside Charleston, South Carolina, to seek nesting anhingas. The pond, Bachman noted, was artificial, and was a sort peculiar to the rice-growing regions of the Carolina low country. Such an impoundment, he wrote, “in this country is called a ‘Reserve.’ It is situated at the upper part of ricefields, and is intended to preserve water sufficient, when needed, to irrigate and overflow the rice.” The definition cannot be improved upon. As nineteenth-century rice planters increasingly relied on diked fields and tides, reserves, no longer useful for irrigation, became permanently flooded swamps. Many survive, and several, made into bird sanctuaries, were crucial to the restoration of species threatened by the millinery trade. And so these particular impoundments have come to combine, quite by coincidence, two distinct senses of the word reserve: on the one hand, a reservoir, that is, a place where water is stored; on the other hand, a reservation, that is, land set apart for a special purpose.

Franklin Burroughs