History in the backyards of the Norwood-Wingina historical district

WINGINA, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The Norwood-Wingina area of Nelson County was officially declared a historic district at the beginning of the summer.

Andrew Gantt and his wife Digna are the last direct descendants of the district’s original landowners to still live on the property. Their ancestry on the land dates as far back as 1738.

Their country home, called the Rock Cliff estate, means something deeper for Andrew than what may meet the eye.

"It's my soul place,” he said. “It's a place where I've always come and felt welcomed and glad to be here. It's a place where the ghosts of my family live."

Andrew grew up visiting his relatives in the home before Digna and he moved in full time in 1987. Over the years, the history of his property has revealed itself in mysterious ways, like when he saw the ghosts of three aunts in the living room.

"It was totally quiet and nobody was here except me,” he said. “And three female forms came through that wall over there. And came across to that fireplace, across to that rug, and entered me. It was totally peaceful, and it was the only time I've ever seen ghosts."

Andrew's ancestor, Dr. William Cabell, was the first European settler of the land, coming over from England in 1738. Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia is named after the Cabell family, who lived in the historic district.

“Joseph Carrington Cabell, who was a grandson of the original Dr. William Cabell,” said Digna. “He was also responsible for helping Mr. Jefferson start the University of Virginia."

The land the Gantts live on today has seen the history of Native Americans, enslaved African-Americans, and the Civil War.

Andrew's family got out of post-war poverty when his father, Dr. William Andrew Horsley Gantt, became an internationally successful and Nobel Prize-nominated psychologist in the 1900s.

Dr. Gantt had worked with Dr. Ivan Pavlov in Russia on the study of the “conditioned reflex.” He later established a Pavlovian laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

Andrew and Digna said they love being a part of the history the district has to offer.

"You have a whole panoply of U.S. human history right here,” said Andrew. “I think it's wonderful."

Digna got their Rock Cliff home declared historical in 2015, and was in support of the Wingina area as a whole becoming a historic district in June of 2019 as deemed by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.

Other notable historic homes in the district are Montezuma, Soldier’s Joy, and Arrowhead, right down Norwood Road from the Gantts.

“We just thought it was a good thing to have recognition for people to realize that it was a significant site,” said Digna. “Not just to recognize the people who came before us but also the people who come after us because this is something that won’t go away. It’ll be here forever.”

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