In a world of iPads, Google and 3D printing, understanding the history of rural West Virginia Appalachians can prove challenging. The determined people who initially carved out a life in the craggy peaks and valleys of the Mountain State represent a culture far removed from many aspects of modern life.
Groups can immerse themselves in this rich culture not only through informative museum exhibits but also through their senses as they taste traditional whiskey, walk through the mountains, smell a coal mine or use their hands in woodworking projects.
In Logan County, visitors can admire the mountains famous for the location of the Hatfield and McCoy feud; the area has numerous trails and cultural attractions. For a sense of daily life in Appalachia, guests can tour the experiential Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and the Heritage Farm and Museum. West Virginia also celebrates its ties to moonshine and whiskey at distilleries such as Smooth Ambler Spirits.
Groups exploring these West Virginia heritage attractions will leave with a greater admiration for those who lived and died in the stunning mountain landscape.
Hatfield and McCoy Mountains
Though it is common for families to fall out with other families, the hatred between the Hatfield and the McCoy families intensified to such heights that even a century later, the feud stands among the most famous episodes in Appalachian history. The Hatfields of West Virginia lived in Logan County, which preserves this infamous connection in parks, museums and other attractions.
The local Hatfield and McCoy Convention and Visitors Bureau offers self-guided driving tours of the places related to the feud, including the gravesite of patriarch William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield. Not eight miles from the gravesite in Gilbert, Hatfield’s great-great-granddaughter co-owns and operates the Hatfield and McCoy Moonshine Distillery. Since family members were known bootleggers during the time of the feud, the distillery uses a recipe handed down from generations known as the Drink of the Devil moonshine.
Exhibits on the feud are inside the Matewan Depot Replica Museum in Matewan alongside artifacts from the area’s connection to trains, coal and the Matewan Massacre. Groups can also tour another museum with local information at Chief Logan State Park.
The 4,000-acre park spotlights the natural wonders of the area with a museum, a wildlife center, an amphitheater and hiking trails. After a hike, visitors can listen to some traditional mountain music every Friday and Saturday night at the park during Pickin’ in the Park. An old horse stable converted into a music venue houses the various country, gospel and bluegrass bands.
For groups seeking an adventurous outdoor experience, Scarlet Flame Side-X-Side Adventures takes small groups on UTV trail tours with fast and slow rides through dirt along the area’s many off-road trails.