Editor’s Note: Our friends Mary and Brian Elliot are setting out this summer with their son to become “Very Important Parks People.” If you visit 15 mandatory parks and forests and five more of your own choosing, you get a $25 gift card, a patch and bragging rights. They’re blogging about their experience and have agreed to let us post their stories here on WeHeartWV.
School is ending and the days are finally starting to get warmer and the family was ready to get out on some new adventures. Not even the rain or a plague of cicadas could keep us inside.
Our first stop on our weekend park exploration was to Prickett’s Fort State Park. Located just off exit 139 in Fairmont, the park is located where Prickett’s Creek and the Mon River meet.
If you grew up around Fairmont, you’ve probably been here on a field trip or two…
Prickett’s Fort was built in the 1970’s as a reconstruction of an original fort that was meant to provide protection to the settlers of 1774 from Native American attacks. The fort now provides visitors with a glimpse into early America life on the frontier.
Our first stop was at the Prickett’s Fort gift shop. It is delightfully air conditioned, which was pleasant on the first day the mercury hit 90 this year. The kid had a good time playing with the toy rifles they have available for purchase, though he was a bit upset that we didn’t purchase one. For those of you interested in local lore, they have a large selection of texts about the state.
This is also where you purchase your admission for the fort. A steal at only $8 for adults and free for those under 5!
From there we went to the blacksmith’s shop. He explained the history of blacksmithing in the area and provided a demonstration of how the forge and all of the tools work. It really sparked my interest in metal working. It was delightful to see the live demonstration of smithing and the smell of the burning coal furnace is the essence of West Virginia.
A stop here absolutely has to be a part of your visit. He offered an in depth explanation and history all while bending iron as if it were putty.
In addition to being extremely knowledgeable, the staff was also great with the kid. Here he is with a piece of iron ore from the blacksmith.
Next we moved into the main fort.
As we stepped through the entrance we encountered some of the local Prickett’s Fort fauna. This may have been the kid’s favorite part…
Once we got past the guard cat, we entered into the part of the fort where the women weave and make cloth. They take wool shorn from the sheep on site and weave it into fabrics. You get to see how a loom works, and my favorite was watching the spinning wheel as one of the staff made yarn.
We were lucky to be there on a day when they were hand shearing the sheep. The staff explained to us the entire process that would take the wool from warming the skin of the sheep to warming the skin of the pioneers. It really makes you realize just how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.
They have plenty of bunks and smaller rooms set up around the perimeter of the the fort to give you a good idea of what life would have been like back then. There is a gift shop where you can purchase lots of goodies that will let you bring a little bit of the fort home with you.
Although it wasn’t scheduled for the day, we were lucky to have an impromptu tour of the Job Prickett house. This house was built by the great-grandson of the man whom the fort was named after. It is a two story brick house filled with true West Virginia history.
Although our day was cut a little short, there are plenty more things to do at Prickett’s Fort. There is museum on the second floor of the gift shop, picnic areas, nature trails, bike rentals and a boat launch. The state park’s website is the best way to keep up with events such as workshops to teach you smithing, concerts, children’s events, fishing tournaments, and heirloom plant sales.
Up next is Audra!