An old Virginia plantation, a new owner and a family legacy unveiled

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By Joe Heim, The Washington Post

Sharswood in Gretna, Va., was built in the middle of the 19th century and at one point was the hub of a sprawling plantation. The Pittsylvania County property now consists of 10½ acres. Out of the frame behind the large tree at right is a cabin that may have been used by enslaved people as a kitchen and laundry for the main house as well as a residence. (Heather Rousseau for The Washington Post)

GRETNA, Va. — There was so much Fredrick Miller didn’t know about the handsome house here on Riceville Road.

He grew up just a half-mile away and rode past it on his school bus every day. It was hard to miss. The home’s Gothic revival gables, six chimneys, diamond-paned windows and sweeping lawn were as distinctive a sight as was to be seen in this rural southern Virginia community. But Miller, 56, an Air Force veteran who now lives in California, didn’t give it much thought. He didn’t know it had once been a plantation or that 58 people had once been enslaved there. He never considered that its past had anything to do with him.

Two years ago, when his sister called to say the estate was for sale, he jumped on it. He’d been looking, pulled home to the place he left at 18. His roots were deep in this part of Pittsylvania County, and he wanted a place where his vast extended family, many of whom still live nearby, could gather.

The handsome house set on a rise had a name, it turned out. Sharswood. And Sharswood had a history. And its history had everything to do with Miller.

Read the full article here.

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