This year, for 2015, I wanted to do something different. As my readers recall, during the 150th cycle, I have written much about the Civil War and the campaigns that occurred in the area. I also did a piece on the War of 1812 with the 200th Anniversary of the Burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore. I finished the 2014 year with the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Truce, which occurred during World War One. Now, I am changing things up.
As many of you may or may not know, I am the Washington Township Historian, appointed by the Washington Township Board of Supervisors in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. I am also the Museum Director of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum, both positions are volunteer positions. I have also served as the historian for South Mountain State Battlefield, as well as a historical adviser for many organizations in the Tri-State region, and have been featured in several documentaries over the course of my fifteen year career.
Over the last year and a half the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., has been working on building a museum and preserving the Civil War battlefield of Monterey Pass. With the October 18 grand opening behind us, and with preservation plans moving forward and taking shape, I wanted to share with you what its like to be part of a new Civil War battlefield.
Over the course of the last three years, many have heard about the Maria Furnace Road, which runs though our battlefield and is a vital part of our preservation efforts. Three years ago, 116 acres of battlefield land came up for sale. After taking inventory of the land, and writing up a summary of events that occurred on the land, we decided that it needed to be preserved. After talking with a few preservation organizations, we decided to go after the land on our own. With the help of Washington Township, we applied for two grants. We were just awarded 100,000.00 for the first grant and the second grant was just submitted in December. If all goes well, we’ll close on the purchase this coming March. We are also looking into purchasing another four acres of land for access to the battlefield property.
So what happens to the land after it transfers to the battlefield? Six years ago, I went before the Washington Township Board of Supervisors with Management, Interpretation and Conceptual Plans with regard to the battlefield, and what needs to be done step by step. The supervisors approved the plans, and since then those plans have been applied to the battlefield, and the end result is that it has been growing, and more importantly, being preserved.
So, what about the road and why is it important? The Maria Furnace Road is a unique piece of land. The road bed itself dates back to 1747, as part of the Great Wagon Road that led to the south via modern day Williamsport, and allowed for the settlements of what would become Appalachia. During the French and Indian War, travel along this road was decreased due to the threat of Indian attacks. After the Revolutionary War, farms were being built in the area. By 1820, the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike was completed, connecting to the Maria Furnace Road. Over the course of the early 1800’s, Monterey Pass became an important transportation hub, where five roads connected to the toll house and several side roads ran parallel to the main turnpike.
The property itself shows signs of newly forested trees due to the industry of the area from charcoal that was being used to fuel to copper smelters and furnaces. Many of the trees are less than one hundred years old. The land does border private property, as well as Pennsylvania State property. Given that, the Maria Furnace Road property does appear to look much as it did during the Civil War battle.
When I conducted a study of the land, it was determined that Monterey Peak was included in the property. It has been said that during the Resort era (1870-1940), many visitors would venture to the overlook, and on a clear day one could see all the way to Baltimore. Although, one would not see Baltimore due to Parr’s Ridge in the east, it does provide a beautiful overlook. Many overlooks on South Mountain near Monterey Pass do overlook the Gettysburg Battlefield, as well as the Cumberland Valley. This is why I created a new program that I launched this year called the Retreat from Gettysburg Overlooks Tour.
After the purchase of the road is complete, my plans call for several things. The first is marking out the boundary. The second will be repairing the roadway itself. Erosion has taken a toll on the road. After years of heavy rains, many areas have washed out the road creating ruts, and in other areas, large trees have fallen over the road. But other than that, the road is accessible by one who is physically fit. Stone dust or mulch will cover the mile long roadway for public safety. In those areas where erosion is a concern, we will use the same methods as Antietam used for the beach gravel roadway by the Antietam Creek near the Burnside Bridge. This will help to keep the road from being washed out during major storms.
The third item on my list is the establishment of interpretive waysides, and at least two kiosks blocking visitors from entering onto private property along the actual road. The main theme is going to be the Battle of Monterey Pass and the Confederate Retreat. However, some sub themes will be written for a few of the waysides to reflect the Great Wagon Road and the industry of the area prior to the American Civil War. And finally will be the creation of walking trails to Monterey Peak.
Funding is going to be needed to help with this project. For the interpretive panels and metal dry-coated frames we are looking at a cost of over $10,000.00. To keep the cost down, I will once again, write and design the panels, like those you see along the driving tour route. This helps simply because there is no third party involved.
The interpretive panels will be tan on blue with the main theme at the top. The sub theme will be listed under the main theme. For example, a main them could be “The Battle of Monterey Pass” with a sub theme of “The North Carolina Sharpshooters Deploy.” Followed by text to help the viewer understand the historical event in the area they are viewing.
Before I close, the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum is looking for a few good interns or volunteers to help run the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park’s museum during the 2015 tourism season. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Docent and Interpreter positions are unpaid. Duties will include working with the public, preparation of interpretive programs, and provide assistance to visitors at the park information table. If you like to talk about history and you are looking to make a difference, we are looking for you! http://www.montereypassbattlefield.org