Two-Hour Trips: Fairmont is center of state, history
Located in the middle of West Virginia, Fairmont, a small college town with a lot of historic flavor, hosts Prickett’s Fort State Park.
Started through volunteer initiative in 1974, the rustic log fort is a 1976 re-creation of the orginial fort built in 1774, a refuge for several colonial families from Native American war parties of the time. Now, interpreters dress in period attire and show artisan skills such as blacksmithing, sheep sheering, loom weaving and more of the time period and answer questions for visitors.
The fort is a 100-by-100 feet square with 12-foot high log walls and blockhouses at each corner, with 14 tiny cabins, a meetinghouse and a storehouse.
Outside of the fort is a small 18th century garden that shows basic plants and their usages.
Also on the property is the Job Prickett House, built in 1859 by the great-grandson of Pricketts Fort namesake, Capt. Jacob Prickett.
Now a National Register of Historic Places building, the house has antiques originally used by Prickett family and is recreated from the memories of the last-born child there, who lived to be 104.
On the property is also the visitors center, which has a museum gallery upstairs with artifacts from the 1700s and later, as well as a gift shop.
The park also has an amphitheater, picnic area, boat launch for fishing and a nature trail to hike. Bicycle rental is available and visitors may see many bikers along the park.
“Last year was the second highest visitation the park has ever had,” said Greg Bray, executive director of the Prickett’s Fort Foundation.
“We do a lot with kids,” he said. “We do a special program on Wednesdays during the summer looking at colonial life through kids’ eyes, they can be in the militia, do kids games and listen to a story.” While the program is mostly geared toward grade school, he said most of the programs are family-oriented and there are even some adult classes.
He also touted the free outdoor concerts during the summer. “We have polka bands to bluegrass.”
“We try to be diversified,” he said. “We’re a membership based organization and we run all of the programming in the state park.”
Another set of history in the town is the Civil War Trails Markers in the area, with the A. Brooks Fleming House, Attack on Fairmont, Battle for the Bridge, Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike, Francis S. Pierpont Home and Graves of the Pierponts, all in the town or right outside of it.
While Valley Falls State Park is nearby Prickett’s Fort and has plenty of outdoor fun for families, Palatine Park in downtown Fairmont has a splash park open daily through September and a concert pavilion that has shows several times a month, whether its a concert or a family movie night.
Families can also have fun playing minture golf and learn about the coal mining industry at Coal Country Miniature Golf in Fairmont. This golf course’s hazards and holes are all built using mining equipment, with signs at each hole discussing what it is used for. There is also a small mining museum on site.
For those following the #AlmostHeaven sticker sites, Prickett’s Fort State Park and Valley Falls State Park are both places to pick up the free stickers.