Emma Susan Weakley on the porch of the family homestead at Big Meadows (ca 1920).
For at least 9,000 years people have lived on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Prehistoric humans have hunted and gathered game, fruit, nuts, and berries on the upland slopes, and some constructed permanent villages at the lowest elevations in the piedmont and Shenandoah Valley outside the park. The earliest European settlers moved into the lower areas of the mountain range by the mid-18th century, ever moving upward in search of land for farming, grazing, and orchards. Later, some purchased mountain land for the extraction of resources: copper, lumber, bark for tanning of leather, and water power for the operation of mills. Others early saw the beauty of the Blue Ridge as a commercial product in itself, and built resorts catering to visitors from the cities. Shenandoah's is a long history, filled with many themes and tales. Some are known, many are being researched, and others await future study.