Mountain Farms

In the 1700's, some people came to the Catoctin area to escape troubles in Europe. Many of them were farmers and they struggled to make a living on this land.

Watch the video below to learn more about these farmers and their way of life. Once you've finished watching it, answer the questions below to complete this activity.

Open Transcript


It's hard to believe it when you look at all the rocks, but Catoctin Mountain was once dotted with farms. The most obvious remnants of those days are these stone walls that run all the way through the woods here up and down the mountain. But if you look closely you can find other signs. You can find house foundations, barn foundations, farm lanes, trash piles, and many other things. We also have written records of the people who lived up here and photographs that were taken of these farms in the 1930's when this land was acquired by the government. Interviews were always done with people who had grown up in the park in the 1970's. So we know a lot about these hard scrabble farms and the tough people who lived here. The first farmers in the park were Germans who came down from Pennsylvania in the late 1700's. Digging around some of the old farm sites in the park, our archeologists have found artifacts going back 200 years. So some of these farms were set up then around 1800 and people lived in them right down until 1936. Up here on the mountain people built out of the materials at hand which meant for the foundations and the chimneys and wood for the houses. I'm sitting here in the stone cellar hole of one of the oldest farms in the park. There are artifacts lying on the surface too. But most of them are from the time the farms were abandoned in the 1930's. To find early artifacts, archeologists have had to dig in the soil. Digging at this spot, they found artifacts going back to the late 1700's so this is one of the earliest farm sites here in the park. It was hard to make a living for farmers up here on the mountain because there wasn't enough level land to grow a lot of crops. So farmers did a lot of different things to get by. A lot of the land up here was actually pasture for sheep or cattle that's [the reason for] all the stone walls Many people had orchards up here. Other people raised hunting dogs or rabbits or birds. Some people did lumbering although most people didn't have enough timberland to make a living that way. Even so, a lot of people couldn't make a go of it just from farming up here and they had to take jobs down in the valley at least some parts of the year. So it was a tough life up here. But some people kept it up right down until the land was bought by the government in the 1930's.

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2 minutes, 32 seconds

Mountain Farms


Question 1. What are some signs that there was once farms in this area, as far back as 200 years ago?

A. Satellite dishes

B. Rock walls, foundations of buildings, farm lanes (roads), trash piles

C. Power poles and electric wires


Question 3. Who were the first farmers in what is now the park?




Question 4. When was the land in the park bought by the government?


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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