Sunday, July 24, 2016

Building a Mountaintop Community

4-8 Grades (Running Time: 60 minutes)
By John A. Miller
Maximum number of volunteers: 4-6 living history interpreters.


Students will obtain a better understanding of what life was like at Monterey Pass from the 1740’s to 1900 by interacting with a living historian. The living historian will show students various hand held tools and equipment used to farm and build a mountaintop community called Monterey from the 1740’s to the 1900. Students will also learn how life in the community changed prior and after the American Civil War and will demonstrate some of the common activities children would have done to help out around the house/farm.


Using antiques tools and firsthand accounts, students will be able to learn what people from the area would have worn, carried, and used on a daily basis.

Materials Used:

1. Building houses and structures: Carpenters Tool Box filled with tools such as saws, hammer, drill and other carpentry tools of the trade.
2. Building Roads: Shovels and common tools for road building.
3. Farming the land: Common farming tools such as the wheel barrel, plow, seeder and sickle.
4. Logging the Forest: Various axes and cross saw.
5. Mining for Minerals: Pickaxe and copper samples.
6. Building the Railroad: Small piece of track, railroad spikes, and tools used to lay tracks and hammer in spikes.


1. The Living Historians (5) would set up period correct items, and display those items in such a way to make them visible to the group.
2. Student groups could be broken up and sent to a station to be rotated every ten minutes.

Key Time Periods:

The 1740’s-1780
  • The founding of the Great Wagon Road
  • The first farms appear after the Revolutionary War
  • The Emmitsburg & Waynesboro Turnpike
  • Agriculture and Inns
The Resort Era
  • The Building of mansions and hotels
  • Copper is discovered
  • The Railroad comes to the area
  • Wealth, Prosperity and Carnivals were a way of life
  • The Decline, Depression and World War II
Topics to Highlight:

It’s not hard to believe today that Monterey Pass was at one time a very wealthy place, especially when many of the mansions still stand today. Monterey Pass has roots that date back to the 1747 when the first road went through the area for immigration to Appalachia. By the end of the American Revolution, the first farms were built in the area.

By 1820, a new turnpike had been completed and inns began to pop up such as the Monterey Inn. This new road would allow goods to be transported to Baltimore rather than to Philadelphia. Many furnaces that ran off of the forest (Charcoal) were established for iron ore and industry was born on the mountaintop.

After the Civil War, copper was discovered and mines opened up with smelting furnaces running off of charcoal produced by the forest trees. In 1890, the Western Maryland Railroad was in full operation through Monterey Pass during the Resort era when money and wealth controlled mountain pass. By the Depression, industry and wealth slowed to a trickle and the end of era came about.

The Main Themes:

1. Carpentry 1740-1900
Show some of the common tools used to build homes, fences and farms.

2. Road Building 1740-1820
Explain the three main types of roads that ran through Monterey Pass. Show some of the common tools used.
  • Dirt
  • Macadamize
  • Corduroy              
3. Farming 1740-1900
Explain what types of farming took place on the mountain from grains, corn to ginseng. Show some of the common tools used for farmers.

4. Logging 1840-1900
Renewable energy resources such as the forest provided the wood needed to industry. Logging was common. Show some of the common tools used.

5. Mining 1868-1900
Copper was a mineral that was very valuable and was used in many goods. Explain the process of mining for minerals and some of the tools that were used. Show some of the common tools used.

6. Railroad 1880-1900
With the railroad came money. Now goods and people could be transported to and from Monterey Pass by way of the train. Show some of the common tools used for laying track.

Closure: Ask the students what they think of life on the mountaintop and could they have done what people needed to do?  Do you think it was easy or hard?

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