Shenandoah National Park
Establishment of Shenandoah National Park
In the early 20th century, the United States' government wanted to create more national parks, and looked to the East Coast for land. The Appalachian Mountains were a natural choice for the creation of a new park. In the year 1926, Congress passed authorization for purchasing park land with the State of Virginia funding the project. From here the Civilian Conservation Corps took over the actual building of the park while other organizations such as the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club constructed trails. Shenandoah National Park officially opened in the year 1935.
Removal of the Blue Ridge Mountain Families
In the year 1935, the establishment of Shenandoah National Park altered the way of life for those 465 families of people residing within the boundaries of the newly established federal land. During this time of turmoil for these hundreds of mountain folk families, the media began to report on this story and told the story of the ‘poor mountaineer’. Why did the 1930s society perceive the families residing in the Blue Ridge Mountains as ‘backwards’ and ‘simple’ when the archeological and oral history records suggest otherwise?
The hundreds of mountain families had resided in the Blue Ridge Mountain region for generations before the land was staked for federal use right from underneath them. Those mountain folk, had not only lived, rather thrived in the region for years before factors outside of their control made them a target of American society. Various forms of poverty found their way into the mountain folk’s life due to hardship, which in turn attracted the attention of others that painted the families in a light that ‘proved’ they were in need of great assistance by others that were more evolved and connected to American culture and society. Due to concerns about the mountain folk, the government became involved as they laid out a relocation program that would remove the families so they could build a new national park, while ‘saving’ the poorest of the mountain folk families.
Ultimately, the hundreds of mountain families were removed from their homesteads during the period following the establishment of Shenandoah National Park and the negative perception of the people remained.
For simplicity sake and with the time constraints, this project discusses the issues of the mountain folk's removal exclusively. This project does not touch on the issues of racism or oppression of the African Americans or Native Americans that also resided in the Blue Ridge Mountains.