Catoctin Mountain Park
Historic Resource Study
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A study such as this--limited to one year's research and writing--by definition leaves many questions unanswered. Local history is particularly time consuming and frustrating. In some cases, even the smallest fact or generalization can require hours of painstaking research. And important records, such as county records which in this study might have illuminated significant parts of the story, often have been either lost or thrown out. As such, this report should be seen as only a preliminary guide or inquiry into the history of the mountain area. As future research endeavors are considered--and there are a number of exciting and potentially fruitful avenues that might be taken--I would urge that the following areas be given attention.

Park visitors, my own experience has suggested, are particularly interested in the role that Native Americans might have played in the area. As my study suggests, their role was certainly minimal. However, issues such as rhyolite procurement and hunting in and around the present-day park deserve more consideration. One hopes that Catoctin Mountain Park will continue to work with both amateur and professional archeologists to seek out whatever evidence may still exist. A coordinated effort, in which each new initiative follows up and consciously adds to previously collected information might help to yield a fuller picture of the Native American presence around the park. In this endeavor a strong relationship with the Maryland Historic Trust, in particular State Archeologist Tyler Bastian, and the Archeological Society of Maryland is encouraged.

We still know little about those who made their homes on what has become parkland. Land records do provide names of homesteaders from the eighteenth through to the early twentieth century. Discovering information about these settlers inevitably will be hard and time-consuming work. One way to approach the problem would be to establish a data-base of landholders. Gradually over time, using the censuses, tax records, and other sources, information on the landholders could be gathered and put into the data base. Oral interviews could supplement our knowledge of twentieth-century land owners.

A similar project would involve pinpointing the location of old roads, farms, boarding houses, and other sites of historic interest. The historic base maps prepared for this study might offer a starting point. One would hope that over the years more and more relevant sites will be added to the map.

Questions about the Revolutionary War and Civil War contributions of the Catoctin Iron Furnace also require further research--again with the understanding that absolute answers may never be found. Government records and the correspondence and papers of prominent figures could be combed for further information. However, such research would resemble the proverbial needle in a haystack search, and, again, definitive answers may never be found.

Finally future research projects might aim at a more comprehensive understanding of the activities of the military and Office of Strategic Services during World War II. The National Archives currently is opening OSS records for research and military records related to WWII training also exist, While my preliminary efforts to get at relevant records did not yield results, a sustained effort might well help us fill this void. Important questions include: What did these military and intelligence groups do at Catoctin, how they changed the landscape, and during what precise dates were they there?

One would also hope that the park will make efforts to work cooperatively with many of the excellent organizations that proved so helpful in the preparation of this study. Among these groups are the Thurmont Historical Society, under its director Ann W. Cissel, the Frederick County Historical Society, the Fredrick County Planning Commission, the National Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni Association in Saint Louis, and the Maryland Hall of Records. One particularly promising partner might be the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies at Frederick Community College, under the direction of Bruce Thompson and Dean Herrin. While the organization was still in its planning stages as this study got underway, it has since blossomed. Recently the center was the recipient of a grant from the Department of Transportation to study the history of local transportation networks. One hopes that Catoctin Mountain Park might cooperate with such a project to the mutual benefit of all parties. Future joint projects, involving local college students, might also be a part of these exciting new developments. Indeed, there is reason to believe that, despite obstacles, the future of the study of the past of Catoctin Mountain may be bright.

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Last Updated: 31-Oct-2003