Monday, July 23, 2007

A Virtual Tour of Prickett's Fort (Part 3)

Warning: The following images and descriptions are of the reconstructed Memorial Fort, NOT the actual eighteenth-century fortification. The original Prickett's Fort disappeared from the written record around 1780. Unfortunately, nobody alive today knows what the historic fort looked like.

Within the walls of the Memorial Fort are sixteen hewn log buildings, a blacksmith shop, and several small herb gardens. Upon arrival, visitors should walk down the sidewalk and enter the large log building on the left. This building is called the Meeting House. It is used primarily as a place where visitors can sit down and hear about the history of Prickett's Fort. In addition, the building is used to demonstrate the domestic arts including spinning, weaving, sewing, and hearth cooking.

Benches in the Meeting House

When I worked at Prickett's Fort as a costumed historical interpreter, I told the story of Prickett's Fort to thousands of visitors over the years. Why don't you have a seat on the virtual benches and allow me to relate the story of Prickett's Fort.

Prickett's Fort was named after Jacob Prickett, one of the first permanent European settlers in what would eventually become the Fairmont, West Virginia area. In February 1772, he along with his family settled on the land where Pricketts Creek joins the Monongahela River. Of course in 1772, there was no city of Fairmont, state of West Virginia, or even United States of America. The Prickett homestead was on the western frontier of the Virginia Colony.

When Prickett arrived in western Virginia, the land was dominated by trees. Tall straight trunks thrust skyward supporting a thick leafy canopy that blotted out much of the summer sunlight. European settlers and Native Americans alike considered this land to be a "hunter's paradise." White-tailed deer, black bears, gray wolves, mountain lions, elk, and even small numbers of bison lived within these forests. Local furbearing animals included beavers, river otters, fishers, mink, and muskrats. Although the bison, elk, and wolves are now gone, modern visitors to Prickett's Fort State Park might still see beavers and muskrats near the mouth of Pricketts Creek - if they are quiet and lucky!

Within two years of Jacob's arrival near Pricketts Creek, trouble developed between the Virginians and some of the Shawnee and Mingo Indians. The fundamental problem was that Prickett, along with countless hundreds of other settlers, were invading land that the Shawnees and Mingos claimed as tribal territory. Throughout the spring of 1774, the number of violent encounters between settlers and Indians gradually increased. On 30 April 1774, things came to a head when a group of frontiersmen under the leadership of Daniel Greathouse ambushed and killed several members of the Mingo Chief Logan's small village. Included among the dead were his mother, brother, and sister. In addition, the Greathouse party kidnapped Logan's infant neice. When the previously friendly Chief Logan returned home and saw what had happened, he swore vengeance on the settlers. With a party of about eight Shawnee warriors, Logan began attacking homesteads all along the western frontier.

(to be continued . . .)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Virtual Tour of Prickett's Fort (Part 2)

Warning: The following images and descriptions are of the reconstructed Memorial Fort, NOT the actual eighteenth-century fortification. The original Prickett's Fort disappeared from the written record around 1780. Unfortunately, nobody alive today knows what the historic fort looked like.

Prickett's Fort State Park is a day-use park that offers a number of amenities including picnic tables, fishing, and a boat ramp that provides access to the Monongahela River. Other recreational opportunities include birding, a "bayside" nature trail, and easy access to two rail trails: the MC Trail and the Mon River Trail, which both run adjacent to the park.

The reconstructed Memorial Fort is operated by the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation. Anyone wishing to tour the fort must first stop by the Visitor Center and purchase an admission ticket. The Visitor Center features a modest gift shop and an upstairs gallery where visitors can view an introductory video to the park and explore some museum displays. After watching the video and exploring the museum gallery, it is but a short walk to the Memorial Fort.

Prickett's Fort

The Memorial Fort measures about 110 feet square and features a two storey blockhouse on each of the four corners. Blockhouses not only provided defenders with an elevated "lookout" position, but they also enabled shooters to fire down along the lengths of the exterior walls. The wooden stockade, or palisade, averages about twelve feet high and features numerous "loopholes," or gun ports for firing on attackers. Some frontier forts in western Virginia, such as Arbuckle's Fort in the Greenbrier Valley, had bastions in the corners rather than blockhouses. A bastion is simply a protrusion of the stockade wall in a corner. Much like blockhouses, bastions enabled defenders to shoot at attackers that have gotten up against the exterior wall.

Blockhouse and Main Gate to the Fort

The side gate is open!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Virtual Tour of Prickett's Fort (Part 1)

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Pricketts Fort Memorial Foundation set out to build a facsimile of what they believed the original Prickett's Fort looked like. Unfortunately, part way through the project, it became apparent that they had based their "reconstruction" plan on a fraudulent document (the so-called Stephen Morgan account). At that point, rather than abandon the project or change the design, they decided to proceed as originally planned. When it was completed, the Foundation officially designated the structure the "Memorial Fort" because it was meant to stand as a memorial to those settlers who had lived, fought, loved, and in many cases died on the western Virginia frontier. Whether or not the present structure looks anything like the original Prickett's Fort is impossible to say with any degree of certainty. Regardless, the important point is that the fort not only serves as a memorial, but it also functions as a valuable educational tool. By visiting the "reconstructed" fort located near Fairmont, West Virginia, modern Americans can glimpse what it may have been like to live on the colonial Virginia frontier during the 1770s.

Over the next several days, I will take you on a virtual tour of the Memorial Fort.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chronology of Jacob Prickett, Sr.

Here is a quick chronology of the life of Jacob Prickett, Sr., who settled with his family near the mouth of Pricketts Creek in 1772.

1722 - Jacob Prickett born in West New Jersey
1745 - Prickett marries Dorothy Springer in Evesham, New Jersey (a.k.a. Eversham)
1748 - (circa) Prickett family moves to Frederick County, Virginia
1758 - Prickett serves as private in the Frederick County militia
1764 - Prickett serves as sergeant in the Frederick County militia
1766 - Prickett family moves to present Fayette County, Pennsylvania
1772 - Pricketts settle at the mouth of Prickett's Creek
1774 - Prickett's Fort built & Isaiah Prickett killed by Indians
1780 - Last year of written documentation on Prickett's Fort
1785 - Death of Dorothy (Springer) Prickett
1796 - Jacob Prickett residing in present Brown County, Ohio
1797 - Jacob Prickett dies