African American Heritage Trail
¼ mile (no blaze)
The trail begins at the ruins of the historic Catoctin Furnace located in Cunningham Falls State Park and leads visitors along an easy, self-guided stroll dotted with wayside panels describing the iron making process, Catoctin Furnace’s historic buildings, and offering a window into the lives of the people who worked and lived there.
The historical importance of Catoctin Furnace to Maryland’s and the nation’s industrial development is well known and documented. The furnace produced a variety of tools and household items, as well as ammunition for George Washington’s army at the siege of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. But the contributions and life experiences of the many enslaved and free African Americans who toiled there between the 18th and 19th centuries had nearly been erased.
In 1979, an archeological investigation conducted in preparation for an expansion of US Route 15 revealed the remains of 35 bodies in a previously unknown slave cemetery. In graves marked only by unadorned field stones lay the bodies of African Americans who provided the majority of the labor required to run the furnace.