by Brenda Barrett

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in the Living Landscape Observer and appears here with the permission of the author and founder of that publication, Brenda Barrett.  We appreciate Brenda’s contributions and reporting on this subject.

Oley Valley gristmill.  Credit: Zachary Pyle.

Oley Valley gristmill. Credit: Zachary Pyle.

Even in a state famous for its agricultural landscapes, the Oley Valley in southeast Pennsylvania is an exceptional place. Located in a in a bowl-shaped valley flanked by the forested hills of the Reading Prong and underlain by limestone, the region is drained by two small creeks, the Manataway and the smaller Monocacy. English Quakers, French Huguenots, and Palatine farmers from Switzerland and Germany settled in the valley as early as 1725 in search of religious freedom and good farmland. They found both, producing an 18th-century pattern of farmsteads, fields, and villages that has marked the landscape ever since. Continue reading