Amherst County Beginnings
The Native Americans tribes that historians feel sure were in the area now known as Amherst County before the Europeans are the Monacans, the Cherokee, and the Pamunkey.
In 1607 the English explorers first heard mention of the Monacans when a guide of the Powatan Nation told them he did not want to take the English into their territory as they were enemies of his tribe. Possibly due to some less than productive experiences different tribes had with the Spanish the Monacans didn’t have much interest in befriending the English as they explored the upper James River area. Since these explorers didn’t learn the Monacans language or much about their way of life, a record of their history is spotty at best. In the mid 1700’s a map by Lewis Evans showed two peaceful settlements of Monacans in this part of Virginia. This tribe of Eastern Sioux currently numbers at about 1,700 and there is a museum in Amherst County dedicated to their history.
Also during the mid 1700’s a group of mixed race families and individuals from three racial groups - Indians, Blacks, and Whites travelled to the foothills of central Virginia from the Eastern Shore in order to preserve their culture. Most of these people had never been slaves and prospered well.
An article from the Richmond Times Dispatch dated Monday November 27, 1922 states that many of the Native Americans in Amherst claimed decent from the Pamunkey Tribe and said that their people were in Amherst before the settlers came to the area. The article is entitled Indian Mission Aided by Recent Campaign.
Admittedly, I’m unsure of an exact accuracy with some of this information as government and newspaper documents of the time didn’t always strive for accuracy when recording Native American information. Also some of the documents I found contradicted each other.
In 1761 Amherst County was first formed by separating it from Albemarle County. It was named for Sir Jeffery Amherst who fought in the French and Indian war. His dislike for the Native Americans went beyond his military duty as he wrote in a letter his approval to spread small pox among them. 45 years later Amherst’s size and shape was changed when Nelson County came to be.
Present day Clifford was settled in the 1840’s mostly by the Scotch Irish. They had moved primarily from West Scotland to Northern Ireland in the 1600s. In the 1700s about 250 thousand of them moved to the New World by promising to be indentured servants for different time periods – usually about 5 years. After their debt for passage was paid they were free to move out onto the unsettle lands of what was then the frontier. Most were Presbyterians and wanted to name the present day Clifford area New Glasgow but in 1785 the Virginia Assembly named it Cabellsburg. An independent people, the locals simply called it New Glasgow anyway. It had become a stagecoach stop before the Revolutionary War and is reported to have been the largest urban area in Amherst County at one time. In 1803 it officially became New Glasgow, but that was to change again 80 years later as the Post Office wanted to differentiate the town from a Post Office at the railroad about 3 miles away on the other side of present day 29. The new name for the village became Clifford and that name had no known meaning to the area and was chosen because it had been drawn out of a hat. Regardless of its name the area where Winton would be built is a beautiful and quiet area.
The land that Winton is on was once part of a huge land grant from King George of England to George Braxton Jr. I found more than one date for the construction of Winton so I’ll just say that it was built in the early 1770’s by Colonel Joseph Cabell. Having read about the early history of Lynchburg and Sweet Briar, the Cabell family was familiar to me. Winton has been described as a late-Georgian two over two home with a central hallway.
Colonel Cabell was a vestryman, which is a leader in the church but not a member of the clergy. It’s a position carried over from English tradition and as Virginia was still a colony at this time it makes sense that the locals would follow in the English example. In this role he might supervise any workhouses and/or record Baptisms, marriages, and so on. An important man, the Colonel was also a justice and a member of the House of Burgesses. He went on to be elected a member of the House of Delegates to represent Amherst County as well as being an amateur surgeon. During the Revolutionary War he commanded a regiment made up mostly of students from William and Mary. Colonel Cabell was also present in Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. After the war was over he served as a Senator.
In 1779 he decided to sell Winton to Colonel Samual Meredith, who had married Patrick Henry’s sister Jane Henry. He had been a childhood friend of Patrick Henry and knew his wife’s family well. Colonel Meredith impressed many with his service in the French and Indian War as well as his service in the Revolutionary War. He was evidently a man who thought of others before himself as he later resigned his position as Captain of the Independent Company so that Patrick Henry could take that position. He then served as Patrick Henry’s Lieutenant. Colonel Meredith also served in the First Battalion of Minute Men. In Amherst County he was a Justice of the Peace, a High Sheriff, as well as a Presiding Justice. During his ownership of Winton an impressive mantle was built for the parlor’s fireplace. Tradition holds that the work was done by Hessian prisoners. The British had hired about 30,000 Hessian mercenaries from Germany to fight alongside them in not only the American Revolution, but also to help put down an Irish uprising. Many of these German soldiers left the British army and joined the Colonists.
Sarah Winston Syme HenryI had read in one account that Sarah Henry came to Winton to visit her daughter, but in the record of the National Register of Historic Places I read where Sarah had moved to Winton with Colonel Meredith’s family in the same year that he has purchased it. It was during this time of her life that she had been described as a gracious and pious lady. Her family had come over from Wales to the New World. She became a widow from her first husband in1731. She later married a Scotsman named John Henry and they had 9 children together. Her daughter Jane had been described as being as eloquent as her famous brother Patrick. who was born in 1736. Later in in his adult life Patrick Henry would come to talk to Sarah when he felt stressed or in need of advice. Thomas Jefferson also made a habit of visiting with Sarah when he travelled from his two homes in Lynchburg and Charlottesville. Sarah was well respected by her family and when she died on Christmas day in 1784 her son in law Colonel Meredith asked that when his time came to pass he would like to be buried at Sarah’s feet so that when he arose again on Judgement Day her face would be the first that he saw. His request was granted and he now lays at her feet along with his wife Jane. After her death at home Sarah Henry’s body laid in state in the downstairs parlor directly beneath her bedroom. Sarah was an unusual mother for her time in the taught her children to respect other people’s religious beliefs and ways of life. Her daughter Jane had been described as being as eloquent as her famous brother Patrick. When she died in 1784 she was the first to be buried in the new family cemetery at Winton. Sarah Henry had chosen the spot for the cemetery. Her famous son Patrick was not able to attend
There are stories of people seeing Sarah Henry coming down the stairs at Winton and about her appearing in the parlor where her body lied in state. I was unable to find any direct witnesses to these appearances but I did find them in print. The following is a quote from L.B. Taylor’s interview of Frank Hodgkins concerning the ghost of Sarah Henry. Mr. Hodgkins has passed away but at the time of this interview he talked about his time at Winton when he was the manager and his encounter with her.
“Oh, she has been here for many years. For how long, I’m not sure, but she made herself known to many people before I came here. In fact, I’m told that one of the managers before me had a “confrontation” with her ghost, fled from the club, and vowed that he would never come back under any circumstances.”
"Personally, I heard her footsteps the first night I slept in the house. I was reading in the living room when I heard her in the room above, as if she were pacing about. I went up to look, but there was no one there. At least no one I could see."
Sarah Henry’s grave was originally covered with brickwork to help preserve her body from the elements and animals. Through the years this was lost somehow and the exact location of her grave in the family cemetery became unknown. Jane Henry Meredith Cabell was born at Winton in 1830 and would be the person to point out to our country where this important lady who was her great-great grandmother rested. Jane went to Sarah’s grave often with her grandmother, a Mrs. Garland. Mrs. Garland told Jane all about Sarah Henry. Jane eventually became Mrs. Zandt and moved out of the country. At an elderly age, (one source said 80 and another 90), Jane Van Zandt received word that a historical society was searching for the exact location of Sarah’s grave as there was no head stone to mark it. Mrs. Van Zandt came back to the United States to show them where Mrs. Henry remains lay. Once she was found, it was possible to know the location of other graves that were also unmarked in the family cemetery.
The Civil War
While many homes in Virginia were burned and looted by invading forces, Winton remained fairly unscathed. The is an oral tradition that while some Union soldiers approached Winton those in the home hid the silverware and some hams under the floorboards of the smokehouse from the pillagers. When I was a teenager my grandfather had shown me a cave outside of the town of Buchanan where the townspeople had hidden their valuables when the Union looters had passed through the Shenandoah Valley on their way to Bedford and then Lynchburg. At Winton a young innocent boy showed the soldiers where the valuables were hidden in the smokehouse and they became spoils of war as the possessions of so many families in Virginia had. I was a little surprised the home and farm hadn’t suffered more damaged so I asked a friend Danny Bryant that was a historian of the Civil War and has been a reenactor for many years his thoughts. He asked if I knew what year the event had taken place - I didn’t.
He went on to say that after Grant had dug in around Petersburg he released many of his Calvary to roam Virginia up to the Charlottesville area, looting and harassing any locals as they saw fit and to report of any possible troop movements. These men wouldn’t likely stay around for any serious looting or damage. It’s possible that these are the soldiers that came to Winton.
The 20th Century
In 1947 the family graveyard was once again neglected and overgrown when Mr. and Mrs. Kelsey moved to Winton. The headstone on Sarah Henry’s grave was broken into two pieces. Thankfully the Kelsey’s cleaned the graveyard and repaired the head stone.
Winton found itself in new hands once again in 1959 – Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Snead who recognized the importance of the home and it’s past residents.
Later in the 20th century Winton Country club was incorporated thanks to Mr. Keene Brown. He graciously turned the property over to Amherst County and asked that the County lease it as a Country Club. This Country Club has taken excellent care of Winton, preserving its historical identity while providing a modern golf course and a truly unique setting for weddings.
Bedford Paranormal members present for the Winton investigation were Scott Detamore, Kiley Revis, Ronnie Anderson, and myself. Ronnie and I had traveled to Winton previously to talk to its Wedding and Special Events Manager Julie B. Wilson to tour the property and hear of any possible paranormal experiences. We had read online anonymous accounts of Sarah Henry’s ghost coming down the stairs but we were unsure of the stories as we could never trace them back to anyone. Were they based on actual experiences or urban legend? Julie gave us tour of the entire property starting with the historic home. We learned about the people that had lived on the property and about those put to rest in the family graveyard.
We returned a few weeks later for the investigation on December 5th. Our group arrived around 4:45pm and stopped by the pro shop just to check and let them know that we were on the property.
We then walked to the family graveyard and placed a wreath on Sarah Henry’s grave as the sun was setting. We talked about the night ahead of us as we walked back to our vehicles. It was now time to drive to the house and setup the equipment. We had decided to set up the DVR and monitor in the passage that connects the home with the Country Club. This way we could ensure we wouldn’t contaminate the recordings. We would work in teams of two with two people watching the monitor while the other two investigate.
The Second Floor
We decided that we would start with the second floor. Kiley and I would investigate first. We started with Sarah Henry’s bedroom which is currently used during weddings as a dressing room for the grooms. Kiley sat at a window facing the pool area and I sat facing her on the couch. Since it was Mrs. Henry’s room at one time we directed some of the questions to her. Our group tries to ask questions that can evoke a response but in a more positive way. We are respectful to people that own or live at the properties we investigate so it makes sense to us to be respectful to the ones that have passed away. We alternated with periods of asking questions and times of quietly listening. There was a DVR camera in the room and we had a walkie-talkie in case Scott or Ronnie wanted to advise us on anything that they saw. We then went across the hallway to a former bedroom that is now used during weddings for the bride to ready herself for the ceremony and used much the same methods. This time I sat at a table with my back to the front yard while Kiley sat on the opposite side of the room facing me. We had a game trail camera set up in this room to hopefully catch any movement during the night. After we had finished the second floor we returned to the passage where Ronnie and Scott waited. They told us of hearing a woman’s voice coming from the Ballroom area. They described it as a conversation and Ronnie had walked into that area and placed a recorder there to hopefully capture any more talking.
The Bride's room and the Grooms room during the day
We took a short break and it was now Scott and Ronnie’s turn at the second floor. They investigated it in much the same way Kiley and I had but with a more obvious occurrence. In the second Bride’s room in the back of the house that contains a couch they saw an odd rectangular shaped light. They were unable to come up with a reason for it being there. After they returned to the passage we decided to take a break.
During this break Scott asked me to show him the basement that Ronnie and I had seen during our tour with Julie. We walked outside and down the steps into it closing the door behind us. As a maintenance and calibration person Scott was interested in the electrical and other workings of the basement as we walked through. We entered into the back room and decided to do an EVP session so we cut off our lights and began. From where I stood I could see the door to the outside stairwell and Scott stood on the opposite side of the room. Not long after our session started the light from the outside door would fade out and then come back. I wondered if something was in between the door and myself or if there was an issue with the lighting outside. We stood in the dark for about a half hour and then decided to rejoin the others.
We took a snack break and then decided to brave the cold and head out to the graveyard. It was a cool walk over to the graveyard but I had to agree with Ronnie’s comment on the way. He said that he hadn’t really been cold since he and I had been to Ohio State Reformatory early in the year. It had gotten close to zero that night and the old building was unheated in most places with broken windows. It was an active location and we had some impressive experiences there but it was so incredibly cold.
When we left the prison before sunrise I was nervous that my truck may not start due to the cold, but the excursion came through and cranked right up. Looking back on that adventure this wasn’t bad at all. We quietly entered through the iron gate and started an EVP session more or less in the center of it with us spread out some. Scott kept looking towards the golf cart storage area and then started walking to that end of the graveyard with a purpose. We asked him what he was doing and he responded that he had seen a shape moving about as if someone was peeping over the brick wall at us occasionally. Finding nothing obvious he came back to where we were and we finished the session. Before we left we all walked over underneath a large magnolia tree where Scott had seen something. There was a lone tombstone next to the wall of a ten year old boy. Someone asked if might have been him that had been watching us. We looked and listened for a while to geese off in the distance and then started to walk through the cold dark night to the barn.
The Dairy Barn
Photo of the Barn during the day
The barn and its attached silo are both painted white. The bottom level was being used for storage so we went up to the hayloft. The loft had a strong and stable floor for its age. We spread out with Ronnie at the far end, Scott and I near the stairs, and Kiley in between Scott and Ronnie. We could hear a distant dog barking off and on in the direction of 151 and noted it to avoid any false positives when we reviewed the recordings later.
The Lower Floor
After the barn we walked back to Winton and warmed up before taking on the first floor of the home. Scott and Ronnie went first this time and Kiley and I settled in to watch the monitor. At one point we both heard a loud thump coming from the house as we were next door in the Country Club passage. We called Scott on the radio and while they didn’t know what had caused the sound it did turn up on their recordings. Both teams went back to their duties and a little while later I heard a moaning sound as if someone were sick or hurting. It seemed to have come from the house. It wasn’t scary but loud enough that Kiley had heard it too. I looked out of the window behind us and thought someone would be very uncomfortable outside in the cold if they were trying to tease or trick us. We continued to listen but the sound never repeated itself. When Scott and Ronnie returned we told them about the moaning and they said that they hadn’t heard it.
Kiley and I switched out with Ronnie and Scott and we decided to start in the Parlor. We asked about the Hessian soldiers that were credited with making the one of a kind fireplace mantle. Then we turned to asking about Mrs. Henry as this was the room where her body laid in state so long ago. We then went to a dining room in the very back of the home but I couldn’t help but think this was all for naught as the heat pump outside a window was loud enough to drown out and EVP. We returned to the base station and discussed the night at Winton. It was a large area to cover but I thought we had done well. We gathered up all of our equipment making sure all was as we left it and headed home.
written by Alan May
Winton was home to some amazing people that played important roles in our American history. If anyone has an interest in golf, a wedding event, the paranormal, or just a place for your family to
spend time together Winton won’t disappoint.
A copy of all possible EVP recordings were given along with this report for client review.
“Hello” recorded in the family cemetery by Alan May
“You’re welcome to her will” recorded by Ronnie Anderson
“Total” recorded in Mrs. Henry’s Bedroom by Ronnie Anderson
“No” recorded in Mrs. Henry’s Bedroom by Ronnie Anderson
Voice recorded in Sarah Henry Bedroom by Kiley Revis Lee
Second Voice recorded in Sarah Henry Bedroom by Kiley Revis Lee
Whispers in the Parlor by Kiley Revis Lee
We also had many whispers and mumbles that we just couldn’t make out.