Labor Day Throughout The Journey

Holidays are not intended to just be days off from school or work.  They should be treated as special occasions, including taking the time to pause and reflect what the holiday is about and why it was created in the first place- and Labor Day is no different.  Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country and became a federal holiday in 1894.

Within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA, there are several places that pay homage to the history of work in America.  Here are just a few examples you can visit to observe Labor Day (by county):


Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Gettysburg may be best known for its Civil War history, but the area is also the heart of Pennsylvania ‘s Apple Country.  Therefore, it is fitting to recognize the important role that agriculture, farms, orchards, wineries and the farmers and producers of these goods have not only on this region but the entire country.  Just north and west of the Gettysburg battlefield, more than 20,000 acres of apple orchards produce over 35 varieties of apples, and many of them are sold to processing plants today for things like apple juice and apple sauce.  In fact, the are is home to the National Apple Harvest Festival, which takes place over two weekends in early October each year.  To get additional details, visit


From Gettysburg, continue south along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway into Maryland.  Arrive in the City of Brunswick, located at the southern end of Frederick County.  Situated along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Brunswick became a company town with an exploding population and reportedly had the largest and busiest railroad yards in the world at one point  Although the railroad isn’t as important to our nation as it once was, you can still see the engines whistling down the track in Brunswick.  In addition, the town does serve as a major stop on the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) Train line which takes commuters in and out of the greater Washington, D.C. area each weekday.  The Brunswick Heritage Museum is a great place to visit as it tells the stories of the railroaders and their families in the early 1900’s and houses one of the largest model train layouts on the east coast. For more information, visit


Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

In addition, the C&O Canal was a major economic engine for people living along the Potomac River, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century.  Visitors to the C & O Canal can learn stories of western expansion, transportation, engineering, the Civil War, immigration, industry and commerce.   There are several access points to the C&O within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, but one suggested location would be the Williamsport Visitor Center.  Here, there are several examples of major canal structures visible within close proximity.  For more information, visit


Harpers Ferry became a major industrial center during the first half of the 19th Century, particularly with the establishment of The United States Armory and Arsenal there.  During its heyday, the armory was producing hundreds of thousands of muskets, rifles, and pistols.  Not only were there over 400 workers employed at times but inventions helped revolutionize the manufacturing process from craft-based production to machines.  The town also housed other industiries, including a sawmill, flour mill, machine shop, two cotton mills, tannery, and iron foundry. Only ruins remain today of most of this history, but visitors can still get quite the sense of this once industrious town.  For more information, visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park at


Gristmills once dotted the landscape of rural America, but most of them have now vanished or stand abandoned as silent witnesses of the past., However, Aldie Mill, located in Aldie, Virginia, offers visitors and students a glimpse of how life was lived in the rural South during a time when the Mill served as a vital center of the community.  Find out more at


Manassas is a good place to learn about our country’s rich military history..  Everyone knows about the two Civil War battles that took place there and may also be familiar with the nearby National Museum of the Marine Corps.  However, tucked away inside the Manassas Regional Airport is the Freedom Museum.  The Freedom Museum honors those Americans who made the supreme sacrifice in defense of freedom and pays tribute to those who served our country with honor and distinction.  The thrust of this Smithsonian Affiliate focuses on the 20th Century. Learn more at


For more than four centuries our forefathers had been producing fresh whiskey in the hills of Virginia.  At Belmont Farm Distillery, their whiskey is produced in a genuine solid copper pot still and they have America’s oldest operating pot still.  Although this form of whiskey production had been abandoned in the United States, the folks at Belmont Farm have chosen to preserve a national tradition of copper pot still fresh whiskey (their copper pot still was constructed in 1930).  For more information, visit


Located at Montpelier (the former home of President James and Dolley Madison) sits the Gilmore Cabin, a post-Civil War African-American’s house. Former Madison slave George Gilmore built this log cabin for his family in the early 1870s. President Madison’s nephew owned the land. George Gilmore was more than 90 years old when he purchased the house and 16 acres for $560, just before the death of Dr. James Ambrose Madison in 1901. The property offers a glimpse of what life was like for African-Americans in the years during the Reconstruction era. Museum educators will be on hand to demonstrate the techniques of 19th-century farm life.  Check out

Photo by Shuan Butcher. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photo by Shuan Butcher. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership


And finally, make sure you take a ride on the Hatton Ferry, a historic ferry across the James River and the only poled ferry still operating in the United States. A ride on the ferry is a unique opportunity to experience times past.  Two hundred years ago, there were a thousand poled ferries carrying people across rivers and streams throughout the United States.  Ferries served Albemarle County from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid- nineteenth century, and provided a means by which European settlers could communicate with other settlers and establish commercial ventures.  There’s no better way to experience the beauty and tranquility of the James River- and to get a glimpse of a simpler way of life- than by taking the ferry at Hatton.  The Hatton Ferry is located in southern Albemarle County, a few miles outside of Scottsville.  Be sure to check out their website for hours and operating conditions at

In addition to the sites listed above, there are several other places to visit within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  Those interested in other suggested itineraries or to request a map should visit

Student-Created Vodcasts Available For Video On Demand Viewing through Partnership with Comcast

Comcast has made six new vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, created by middle school students through the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s innovative and award-winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® program, available for free viewing through Xfinity On Demand.  The student programming can be viewed by Xfinity TV customers in the Richmond, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., and Roanoke areas.  The programming can be found by going to the Xfinity On Demand menu and choosing either Get Local/Community Investment/Hallowed Ground or Get Local/Entertainment/Hallowed Ground.IMG_4034

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® is a service-learning project that connects middle school students to the American Civil War as they use primary source documents, humanities scholarship, music, dance, dramatic readings, role-playing and digital technology to create vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, for the National Parks in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  From beginning to end, the students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, film editors and now young history stars with deep connections to our national history.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership completed new vodcasts with students from Orange County Public Schools.  The vodcasts covered various topics relating to the Battle of The Wilderness and the start of the Overland Campaign These student-generated vodcasts will become part of the official interpretive materials at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and are available to educators, students and visitors worldwide through various websites. IMG_4091

Cate Magennis Wyatt, JTHG Partnership President, stated “We are so very excited to be able to share these educational vodcasts with parents, teachers and students. These works provide great insight into creative teaching as well as best practices for learning history.”

The collaboration between Comcast and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership was initially introduced through History.  “History Channel is delighted to join our cable partners in helping these local student productions reach a wider audience,” said Libby Haight O’Connell, Senior Vice President, Corporate Outreach and Chief Historian, History. “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s work in preservation and education is outstanding, and the student documentaries highlight the value of local history.”IMG_4154

In addition to History, generous support for this project is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation.  In addition to placing these and previous student-created vodcats, Comcast supported this initiative by creating a Comcast Newsmakers segment from the 2013 program in Gettysburg, providing an overview of the process.  To check out that video, visit  For more information about the Of the Student, By the Student For the Student® program, visit

EXTREME Journey Summer Camp – Loudoun’s Last Session Begins!

Monday was a fantastic day on the river! As soon as we got on the bus, the campers began to de-code their Piscataway names. One of our favorite was Etchemin which means Canoe Man. The campers also spent time de-coding a leadership word to get us started thinking about the big theme of the EXTREME Journey: leadership throughout history and today.

Once we got to the boat ramp, we met Mr. Mike and Mr. Dave, who were our river guides. We learned the parts of the boat including the bow, starboard, stern, port, and thwart. After our quick canoeing lesson, we got on the river!

The campers were so impressive – no one tipped overboard and some of us became canoe experts pretty quickly! While on the river, we saw a bald eagle, many blue heron, and a few deer. We stopped for lunch at Conoy Island where we got to meet a member of the Piscataway Tribe, Hope Butler, who arrived on the island singing a traditional Piscataway song. Hope gave a presentation on the history of the Piscataway, their culture, leadership within the group, and how they have evolved as a people. She even did a traditional dance to respect the four directions: North, South, East, and West. We were so impressed that the campers remembered their Piscataway names to share with her.

Hope finished the rest of the canoe trip with us. But before boarding the buses, we jumped into the river to cool off. When using the life-vests to float, the current would take you for quite a ride!

After boarding the bus for the trip home, we stitched and decorated medicine pouches to keep the memories of this EXTREME Journey we just started together.

Wrapping Up the First 2014 Session of EXTREME Journey Summer Camp in Loudoun

This Wednesday, we ventured north on Route 15 to Gettysburg, PA. Here, we met our amazing guide, Bob, and embarked on a 15-mile bike tour of one of the most famous battles in American history. We made several different stops at Devils Den, the Virginia & Pennsylvania monuments, the area where Pickett’s Charge took place, and even went to the top of Little Roundtop! We had time for a pit stop at the bookstore and gift-shop at the visitor’s center. I’m sure all our campers were very tired at the end of the day – I know I was!

As we approach the World Premiere of the campers’ videos, the students are working on finishing up their movies–adding credits, finalizing editing, and perfecting their titles. I know they’re excited to show everyone all their hard work. But first, we headed to Camp Highroad in Middleburg, VA. Here, students worked together as a team to complete the low challenge course and the zip line!

Summer Camp Allows Students to “Take the Journey”

EXTREME-Harpers-FerryExtreme Journey, the award-winning summer day camp organized by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, uses multimedia, local experts, and the region’s own historic resources to provide middle school students a chance to experience the nation’s 38th National Heritage Area like never before. A successful camp took place last month in Albemarle County and the first of three Loudoun sessions is wrapping up this Friday with the premiere of the camper’s vodcasts. The second camp has just begun and the third camp begins next week (the specific camp dates are July 7-18, July 14-25, and July 21-August 1). The first and third camps take place place at Smart’s Mill Middle School while the second camp is held at Harper Park Middle School. Due to popular demand, the third camp was added this summer and all three camps sold out with a waiting list before they began.

EXTREME-Journey-RangerNow in its ninth year, the Extreme Journey takes students on hiking, biking, and canoeing trips through our National Parks, historic sites and scenic rivers between Gettysburg and Monticello. After being recruited as agents in the “Journey Intelligence Agency, students spend time with National Park Service Rangers, expert historians, archaeologists, naturalists and educators to unlock the stories and lessons of leadership that are demonstrated throughout this region. They visit many of the nation’s most historical heritage sites, assuming the identities of those who actually lived there, and are faced with the same set of circumstances as they “walk in their boots” to better understand the choices and decisions of those who forged this nation.

The students record their trials, triumphs and lessons of leadership learned from the pre-Revolutionary period through the Civil War, using digital cameras to create a video documentary, or “vodcast,” of “What Leadership Means to Me.” The vodcasts are then shared on the JTHG Partnership website, Facebook, and YouTube, creating a “viral” effect of the student’s new found knowledge and appreciation of the nation’s heritage. The vodcasts will be premiered at an event open to the public upon completion of the camp.


“We transform traditional text-book learning into a truly stimulating experience that exists only outside the confines of the classroom,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “Coupling the latest technology with creative curriculums, on-site visits, expert accounts, with the region’s breathtaking landscapes, Extreme Journey will leave students riveted by the past and ready to discover the future.”

To find out more details about the camp, to view a video about this program, or to see examples of the work of previous secret agents, visit

EXTREME Journey Camp, Loudoun Session II, Days 1 & 2

Thank you for sending your wonderful campers to us for the next two weeks! Our first day was so beautiful, as we canoed down the Potomac River. In total, we traveled 8 miles down the river putting in at the Lander Lockouse and ending at the mouth of the Monocacy River. Our river guide, Mr. Mike, taught the campers all about water safety and how to respect the river. He also gave them a lesson on how to canoe. It took some of the campers a bit longer than others to become master canoers, but they all figured it out by the end!

Along the way, we stopped at Conoy Island, where we met Hope, a member of the Piscataway Indian tribe. She brought with her some artifacts from her tribe for your campers to examine and wear. She also gave all the campers a Piscataway Indian name and they learned what their name translated to in English. Ask any camper you know if they remember what their Indian name meant. We even learned an Indian welcome dance before campers got some time to just kick back and relax in the Potomac River. They swam, floated, and created a camper train in the river. It was so much fun for us to watch them enjoy themselves and be kids!

Next up, our campers were in the computer lab at Harper Park Middle School, while they learned how to use their iPad minis to make their leadership movies. They also participated in a scavenger hunt to learn about the leaders we will profile as we make our “Journey through hallowed ground.” In the afternoon, we travelled to Morven Park, home of Westmoreland Davis, where they learned about the Progressive Era and developed skills critical for effective democratic involvement.

EXTREME Camp, Loudoun Session I–Exploring Monticello and Antietam

Hello! Last Friday, we had our longest journey of camp, to Charlottesville where we saw Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. We hiked the 2.5 mile trail to the entrance and then enjoyed a tour detailing the daily lives of the Jefferson family. Students also had a chance to visit the hands-on Discovery Center (and the gift shop, of course).

So far this week, we’ve braved the storms in Antietam, home of the bloodiest battle in Civil War history. Each student was given a role of a solider or someone who witnessed the destruction of this battle for the day. Campers were given the opportunity to practice loading and firing a cannon and communicating the way that soldiers did during the Civil War using signal flags! We also saw a demonstration on Civil War medicine, and the difficulties surgeons faced. Then, we marched from the north, carrying our muskets to Dunker Church. Due to the impending thunderstorms, our wonderful guide was able to extend his tour an extra two hours and allowed us to tour the Newcomer House, the Sunken Road, and the Burnside Bridge; but unfortunately, we were not able to tube Antietam Creek. If you’d like to see our adventures from the last two days, check our our Facebook page.

400 Years of History on One Tank of Gas

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

With gas prices where they are, families may be wondering what to do this summer or where to travel. There is a place where travelers can get 400 years of unparalleled American history and heritage on a single tank of gas- that is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. This 180 mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA includes nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, the largest single collection of Civil War sites in the nation, 30 historic Main Street communities to stay and dine in, many of the country’s best wineries and restaurants to enjoy, and to top it off, a National Scenic Byway with breadth taking landscapes, rivers and trails nearby to explore. And it’s all within a short drive from Washington, DC, Baltimore MD, Philadelphia, PA, Harrisburg, PA, and Richmond, VA.

Known as Where America Happened™, this region holds more American history than any other in the nation and can be enjoyed on just one tank of gas. As fuel prices rise and air travel becomes more unwieldy, now more than ever is the time to Take the Journey™ to discover some of the nation’s most picturesque landscapes and explore 400 years of American heritage.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Visitors can discover the stories of Abraham Lincoln and Gettysburg, PA; Civil Rights and Harpers Ferry, WV; historic downtowns like Frederick, MD and Leesburg, VA; the Iroquois Indians and the Potomac River; the inspiration of James Madison and the U.S. Constitution at Montpelier; the genius of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello; as well as locally grown foods, a perfectly aged barrel of Virginia grapes and so much more.

“There are few things that match the joy of discovery when exploring the unmatched history and heritage found in this spectacular National Heritage Area,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, president and founder of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “The Sesquicentennial Commemorations of the American Civil war are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and make it the perfect time walk the battlefields; explore the exceptional historic downtowns; and taste the vibrancy of the farms and vineyards. It’s only by visiting these remarkable places, that the stories of the heroic men and women who lived here during the Civil War become real.”

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area contains the single largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation, including the beginning, middle and end of the Civil War. Sites include: Aldie, Antietam, Appomattox Court House, Ball’s Bluff, Brandy Station, Bristoe Station, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Kelly’s Ford, Manassas, Middleburg, Rappahannock Station, Spotsylvania Court House, Thoroughfare Gap, Upperville, Wilderness and many others. In fact, July 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy, near Frederick, Maryland. Plan your itinerary, request a map, and get more travel information at

EXTREME Camp, Loudoun Session | Harper’s Ferry, Smart’s Mill, and more

On Wednesday, our Loudoun Session I campers started in Brunswick, MD and biked to Harper’s Ferry, WV, making several stops along the historic C&O Canal. Once we arrived in Harper’s Ferry, we participated in an activity that demonstrated the campers’ survival skills and taught us a lot about Lewis and Clark’s preparations for their expedition while in Harper’s Ferry. Then, we learned about important moments in African American history by role playing John Brown’s raid. Later, we went up to the Upper Town to see Storer College and discussed the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. Finally, we made the most important stop of the day–ice cream before biking back to Brunswick. All the while, several groups began shooting their vodcasts while we explored.

Thursday marked the beginning film editing for many. All our groups are filming portions of their opening scenes and thinking of creative titles during the lab day at Smart’s Mill. Any group filming today or Monday at Antietam are choosing costumes, writing scripts, and brainstorming filming locations. After lunch, we headed to The Marshall house, where students toured the mansion (more to come on that one in our next post!).

Loudoun EXTREME Camp, Session 1, Day 1

We started our first day of the EXTREME Journey Summer Camp by cracking the codes needed to discover our Piscataway names and leadership words while we travelled north to the Potomac River, where our canoes waited. Each student had a unique Piscataway name and word that was unique to them – if you meet a camper, be sure to ask what theirs is! We began in Brunswick, Maryland, and learned the basics of canoeing from our guides Mike and Shane, from River & Trail Outfitters. We then began the 10-mile canoe trip and made various stops along the way. On Conoy Island, we met Hope Butler of the Piscataway tribe, where we got to touch and see artifacts of the Piscataway people, who once inhabited the island. We also stopped at a famous Native American fishing area to swim and play in the Potomac. We saw several Blue Herons and even a couple of Bald Eagles! We finished our journey near the Monocacy Aqueduct. If you would like to see pictures from our adventures, check out the Facebook page.

Over the next couple of days, the students will select the leaders they wish to research for their camp vodcasts, and will begin to truly focus on what leadership means to them. We will venture just a little ways from our host school, Smarts Mill, to visit the mansion at Morven Park and learn about Westmoreland Davis, a former governor of Virginia. Then, we will begin in Brunswick and bike to Harper’s Ferry, making four stops along this route. We will learn about one of America’s most famous leaders, George Washington, and the role he played in connecting the Potomac River with the territories west.