200 Years Earlier
Q.I walk through Valley Forge several times a week. I always wonder what the landscape looked like 200 years ago. Were there farms? Who did this land belong to? Were there forests? Did Washington's army cut fown lots of trees to keep warm? Just curious!
Mary Rayme, Conshohocken, PA
A.The land that the Continental Army encamped on was originally inhabited by Native Americans — the Lenni Lenape tribe.
Eventually it was settled by "white men" starting with the property — thousands upon thousands of acres, being given to William Penn in the 17th century.
The Valley Forge grounds were originally called Mt. Joy Manor after one of the two hills in Valley Forge [Mount Joy and Mount Misery].
It eventually came to be known as Valley Forge for the forge located in the valley between the two hills.
Eventually parcels of the property were sold off by descendants of Penn.
Interestingly, he originally rented it to his daughter and son-in-law John and Letitia Penn Aubrey for one beaver skin a year!
Those purchasing property were of Welsh-Quaker descent.
The community around Valley Forge was built because of the business of the forge.
All of the property surrounding was agricultural and farmed by many different families.
There were forests — trees were cut down not only for firewood, but for huts as well.
The encampment had 11,000-13,000 people here over a period of six months.
There were hundreds of huts all over the place!
After the army left, the land reverted back to farmland and the farmers dismantled the huts to use for their own uses...fences, firewood, structures.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society