During my winter furloughs when I am not working for the park service, I try to stay active. I go for walks on the Appalachian Trail, give presentations of the area’s rich Civil War history. This year I was given a position as the Washington Township Historian focusing on the Civil War history that occurred within the township of Franklin County. This is strictly a volunteer position and I am honored to have received this title. With that being said, located next to the township office is Renfrew Museum and Park. I must say that I am fascinated by this Cultural Resources Park. To me this is Washington Township’s and Waynesboro’s best kept secret.
The park itself covers 107 acres of the original 150 acres that was once part of a rich self efficient German farmstead. Located along the eastern branch of the Antietam Creek and rich in natural resources, the park features more than five miles of hiking trails, which take you through the farmstead, along the creek as well as through the woods, fields and wetlands. Besides the beauty of the natural resources, Renfrew is full of history.
The original farmstead traces back to the late 1790’s when a tannery and a limestone kiln were first built. Soon afterwards a small stone house, milkhouse and a grist mill were built on the land. In 1812, what would become the main farm house was built and was shortly added onto.
During the American Civil War, many locals joined the Union army to preserve the Union. During the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1863, the area saw witness to Confederate troops prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Many of the farms in the area still spoke the German language, “O mien Gott, Die Rebels, Die Rebels”. The Emmitsburg-Waynesboro Turnpike that runs past the farm saw the majority of the Confederate marching back into Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg.
The farm itself became a park in 1975 when the late Mrs. Emma G. Nicodemus and her sister Hazel Geiser willed the property to become a museum and parkland. The Federalist period farmhouse serves as the main museum where historical German artifacts of the time period decorate the interior. The barn itself serves as the visitor’s center.
Today we are lucky to have such a wonderful multi-use resource. For more information about park hours and fees associated with guided tours, please log onto their website.
If you go there, here is what you can see: