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Prickett’s Fort offers view into history

May 12, 2012
By Casey Houser Special to The Inter-Mountain , The Inter-Mountain

The city of Fairmont is home to Prickett's Fort, a living history museum that displays the architecture and culture of American life, stretching as far back as 1770.

A fort was built in 1774 by Jacob Prickett, on land that the museum now occupies. Originally, it was used as a refuge for civilians, so they could find safety from Native Americans who lived in that part of western Virginia. Today, tours are conducted by the Prickett's Fort staff, allowing visitors to see the fort and get a sense of what life was like for the people living through the Revolutionary War.

The fort that stands today is a reconstruction, but it is modeled after the original and is placed in the same location. In addition to the main fort, the museum also features Job Prickett's house. It was built by Jacob Prickett's great-grandson, and it remains standing after being built more than 150 years ago.

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Interpreters at Prickett’s Fort in Fairmont show what life was like as far back as the 1700s.

Every physical structure gives visitors a picture of where settlers lived, but it takes the museum's staff to display how they lived.

"Our goal is for visitors to have an authentic experience," said Melissa May, who works at the fort.

They provide this experience through a "small but very talented staff," May said, including some who have been working there more than 20 years.

Within the fort and house, interpreters show their skills at specific trades. There are blacksmiths, locksmiths, gardeners and hunters, to name a few. Patrons get to see each trade being performed, up close, by an experienced professional. The history behind each skill, including who performed it and why the trade was a necessary part of life, also is offered by the interpreter.

Furthermore, if visitors want to become more immersed in a trade, classes are offered. One current class teaches the skill of powder horn building.

A more generalized history of the 1770s time period includes stories that cover the situations of both Americans and Native Americans. Both sides include the details of their respective militias, how they hunted and how they grew crops. A large part of the conflict between settlers and Indians came from the fur trade and usage of forests, which is explained at length during the tour.

There are many student tours throughout the month of May. As school comes to a close the for summer, the visiting groups become more varied.

The fort brings in new tourists with the use of live concerts at its outdoor amphitheater. Concerts are free to the public, and they tend to bring in people who are visiting the nearby rail trail and boat lodge.

Anyone interested in contributing to the activities of the fort can apply for a foundation membership, which includes a newsletter, free admission to the museum and an annual membership dinner. Volunteers also can lend a hand with events and be a part of museum committees.

More information about the history of the fort, the foundation and tours can be found at or 304-363-3030.



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