By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
If we were to turn back our clocks to compare today’s modern day society with living experiences in the 19th century, we would likely be awestruck by the challenges faced by those who lived during frontier times.
Perhaps we can learn what it was like somewhat if we watch reruns of Daniel Boone … or read about it in a book … but there is no learning experience quite like seeing for yourself! If you are interested in looking back at a time that was instrumental in forming our traditions, you’re in luck because nestled right here in Harrison County is a prime example. Visit Fort New Salem!
There you can see a living history of the lifestyles of this region before your very eyes. Thanks to the Fort New Salem Foundation that took an active interest in preserving this Appalachian history, visitors can step back in time more than a century to see what life was like … and it wasn’t easy.
Log cabins were built by hand – not by a contractor. Food was hunted and seeds were sown in gardens – not shopped for at a local grocery market. Meals were prepared over an open fire – not using a convection oven or a microwave. Settlers made their own tools – they didn’t visit a hardware store. Yarns were spun and clothing and quilts were hand-sewn – not purchased at a retail store. Herbal home remedies and salves were also developed – not purchased from a pharmacy. Life was a series of DIY projects … and these were the days long before you could google the instructions! Perhaps that is why it is so remarkable to see how skilled and self-sufficient our frontier settlers were. All of this you can witness at Fort New Salem where the structures, traditions and culture of a different era have been authentically preserved.
This 19th century rural log settlement, surrounded by tree-ladened hills, is bursting to life again this Spring. Although it is closed to visitor traffic in January, February and March, it opens its doors again this month as Fort New Salem hosts its 7th Annual Spring Arts Kickoff on Saturday, April 22nd. This is a one-day event that welcomes the public to come and “see for themselves” period arts and crafts, food demonstrations, etc. Stroll through the cabins and gather an appreciation of what life was like in West(ern) Virginia during that period of time. Hours are from noon to 5 p.m. next Saturday.
There will also be games, historic interpreters, gifts, food and music by The Powell Family Band.
Ownership of Fort New Salem has been in the hands of the Fort New Salem Foundation, Inc. since 2005. Members of the Foundation have been patient and quite devoted to bringing their “vision” for the Fort to fruition and have already completed many renovation projects – not making it modern, but a true representation of frontier life. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, the Fort was saved from being razed, and instead, the nearly eight acres of historical property has been given new life and serves as a living museum of the area’s past. Fundraising and generous donors have made this all possible. They also have a GOFUNDME account and appreciate contributions of any size that will aid in “building a future that preserves the past”.
Plan to visit Fort New Salem next weekend for the Spring Arts Kickoff; general admission is $5 with children under the age of ten (who are accompanied by an adult) admitted free. Then watch for other upcoming events each month. Mid-May will bring the annual Heritage Cookoff, and a Memorial Day Service is scheduled for the end of the month with free admission.