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Prickett's Fort: A frontier jewel

June 24, 2014

AIRMONT - Visitors can see how life was on the American frontier at Prickett's Fort State Park just off Interstate 79 near Fairmont in Marion County.

Construction of the recreated fort was finished in time for the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976. It is located at the site of the original fort and overlooks the mouth of Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River.

Prickett's Fort State Park is the venue of many living history events where blacksmiths, spinners, gunmakers, potters and other traditional crafters are dressed in period clothing to interpret life on the frontier of Western Virginia.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy West Virginia Department of Commerce
A presenter at Prickett’s Fort State Park in Marion County hones a small hatchet during a demonstration at the recreated fort off Interstate 79.

The 100-by-100 reconstructed fort is surrounded by 12-foot high log walls. Inside blockhouses are at each corner, 14 cabins, a meeting area and a store house.

It was a safe haven for around 80 families in the area when there was threat of attack.

The original Prickett's Fort was constructed in 1774 by Jacob Prickett, a militiaman under the command of Capt. William Haymond. Haymond arrived in 1777, charged with the protection of the Monongahela Valley.

Greg Bray is executive director of the state park, having started there in 1994 as the blacksmith. Activities at the park run the gamut of education to entertainment and the School of the Long Hunter, which was held in April, is among the most popular, Bray said.

Prickett's Fort will celebrate West Virginia's 151st birthday on Friday with half price admission from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. to the fort. The free Prickett's Fort Lecture Series will be on "The First West Virginians Paleoindian: Life on an Ice Age Frontier" with John Boback. a professor of history from West Virginia University.

Other events coming up include Bray, a knifemaker, leading a workshop on blacksmithing on Aug 15-17. A workshop on making brooms will be held Aug. 16.

On Aug. 22, GRKMANIA featuring the Joe Grkman Polka Band will be held at the amphitheater.

The West Virginia Story Telling Guild will hold a two-day storytelling festival.

A big show coming on Nov 1-2 will be Survival Weekend with Dave Canterbury, Bray said. TV personality David Canterbury and his survivalists will teach survival techniques and skill building.

"That ought to be a big event," Bray said.

The Prickett's Fort Nature Trail includes 25 interpretive stations about the environs, picnic tables, a boat launch and the 400-seat amphitheater.

Another aspect of the park that is becoming more popular is the connection to the MCtrail, Bray said. The 2.5-mile rail trail runs along Prickett's Creek includes a 1,200 foot lighted tunnel.

"That's gotten to be real popular," he said. "We're getting more and more out of it every year."

The fort for 2014 will be open until Oct. 31 and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays after Labor Day. The hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

The gift shop, orientation gallery and administration are open year-round 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors over 60, $4 for youth 6-12 and free for children under 5.

To get to the state park from Parkersburg, take U.S. 50 to I-79 in Clarksburg, go north on I-79 toward Fairmont and take exit 139 north of Fairmont. Follow the signs to the park or turn left onto Bunner Ridge Ridge then left onto Meadowdale Road and then the first right onto Prickett's Fort Road and the entrance road to the park.

South of the fort is the Job Prickett House built in 1859 by Jacob Prickett's great grandson. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains artifacts from the Prickett family.

On the road to the reconstructed fort is Prickett Cemetery, just before the state park, where Col. Zackquill Morgan is buried. Morgan, who died in 1795, is credited for founding Morgantown where he opened the frontier city's first tavern in 1783.

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