Over the weekend, Tim and I traveled some beautiful country roads to visit with family in the place I was born, in a location right down the street from my first home. Huntington, West Virginia will always have a special place in my heart.
I have a rather large extended family, and despite the size, we have always been a close-knit clan. As the years have gone on, our family gatherings have decreased, but our love and joy in each other has not. Our gathering this year was in honor of my grandmother’s 88th birthday, and was originally planned to take place in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, the place of her birth. We all looked forward to touring the area and seeing places that were featured in family stories long-told and heard. But Mother Nature had other plans. With the extreme flooding that took place just weeks before our planned gathering, plans for a leisurely trip to the past had to be put on hold, and in some ways canceled indefinitely. The house owned by my great-grandparents was literally washed away. The clean-up efforts meant that hotel rooms in the area were needed for those displaced and those volunteering in the efforts.
So, a traditional location became the site of celebration and remembrance instead. Heritage Farm Museum and Village has been the backdrop to countless family gatherings since we first started coming to this beautiful place almost twenty years ago. We watched fireworks on New Year’s Day 2000 from the lawn in front of what has become Pioneer Hall. Cousins shared late-night giggles in a lofted bedroom at Blackberry Inn. And we all prayed over my grandfather in one of the last months of his life in the log church. The Perry family, whose labor of love brought Heritage Farm into being, has been long family friends, and they have always welcomed us with wide-open arms.
Our visit this time was a chance for us to see all the changes that have taken place on the farm since our last visit. And there have been many! A doll museum, a maker’s space, and new lodgings have been added (including a restored caboose!), among other additions. Interpreters shared the history of Appalachia as they worked at the general store, blacksmith’s shop, and other spots around the village. We had lunch in the cafe before we took a covered wagon tour led by Audy Perry, the second generation of Perrys to share the love of history with the community.
There was plenty to do for the kids and adults, though sometimes it was hard to tell who was who: some of the adults had just as much fun as the kids. After the tour, a group went searching for minnows in the stream and attempts were made to get close to the herd of deer that were spotted just down from the stream. The rest of the group hung out on the porch of Pioneer Hall doing what we do best: gabbing.
After a catered dinner and birthday songs sung, a group played hide and seek in the twilight of a perfect day. Heritage Farm really has become a home away from home.
While we did not get to visit the sites that played so prominently in family history from long ago, Heritage Farm was the perfect alternative. We got to be reminded of the long history of Appalachia, a history that includes our family. We also got to be reminded of our own, more recent history. For me, it was especially poignant to think about how, just as the farm has changed, our family has also. We’ve lost a central figure of our family, just as the Perrys recently lost the central figure of theirs. But, as the farm has grown, our family has grown. It was a wonderful chance to remember who we were and celebrate who we are now.
Our plan is to travel to Greenbrier County next year in hopes that the settings for family stories which still remain can be visited, and our family history will continue to grow and be enriched.
Learn more about Heritage Farm Museum and Village by visiting their site. We recommend this location for day trips, family or business gatherings, and overnight stays.