Appalachian Trail Histories


Browse Exhibits (2 total)

The history of the Appalachian Trail can only be understood if one understands the role of federal and state governments in the building, maintenance, and sustaining of th Trail. The National Park Service, the National Forest Service, various state and local park authorities, the legislatures of 14 states, and innumerable county, city, and town councils, all played and continue to play a part in the complex history of America's oldest long distance hiking trail.

This exhibit includes a number of the most important public documents in this history of federal, state, and local involvement in the history of the Appalachian Trail.


Perhaps the best known, or at least the most studied, example of the displacement of the mountain people of the Appalachians to make way for national and state parks in the 1930s was the removal of hundreds of families from the lands that now encompass Shenandoah National Park. Forced by the Commonwealth of Virginia to sell their lands so that the park might be completed, the residents of Virginia's northern Appalachians, many of whose families had lived in the hollows and on the hills of the region since just after the American Revolution, either left the area entirely, or were sent to transitional communities managed by the Farm Security Administration's Resettlement Administration.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail sometimes pass a low stone wall, a crumbling chimney, or an overgrown family cemetery, but little else remains of the people displaced by the building of Shenandoah National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and other well-known public spaces.

One of the few intact homes of the mountain people who were removed to make way for today's hikers is Corbin Cabin in Shenandoah National Park. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the cabin is situated along the banks of the Hughes River, and was the heart of George Corbin's small farmstead.

Because Corbin Cabin is the only remaining intact structure in the Hollow, it conveys the misleading impression of a community of subsistence farmers eking out a living on tiny farms. The image of a hardscrabble life in the mountains offers a powerful example of what the historian Sara Gregg calls "removing the people from the narrative" of the natural landscape.