LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) – From her front porch, Hanie Megginson could have seen the land holdings of her son, Albert, sweep up and down both sides of today’s Pleasant Valley Road.
Years later, the descendants of Albert and Judie Megginson are trying to revive the old family homestead not only as a tribute to their ancestors’ legacy, but as a historical resource for the greater community.
“We’re not as prominent or wealthy as Monticello, but Virginia is well-represented with historical property and homes that have been restored and are opened to the general public for educational purposes and we would like to be added to that list,” said Joe Kennedy, a descendent of Albert Megginson. “We would like to be part of that rich legacy that already exists.”
The two-story home that now sits vacant off Pleasant Valley Road in Campbell County once was known to members of the Megginson clan as “Aunt Daisy’s house.” Daisy Megginson Elliot was the oldest daughter of Albert and Judie Megginson.
Kennedy has spent the last 16 years researching the Megginson family history. Albert Megginson was born a slave. His descendents originally believed that Albert Megginson was an only child but Albert’s mother, Hanie Megginson, had numerous children. Historical documents indicate both Hanie and her children were sold in slave sales, Kennedy said.
“She went through being a slave herself to being set free after the Civil War and she still lived long enough to see her son Albert become a major landowner and philanthropist. And we think that’s a very compelling story,” he said.
A prosperous farmer during his life, Albert Megginson began purchasing parcels of land in the years following the Civil War and through those efforts was able to donate land to Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, of which he was a member. A lane winding off Concord Turnpike as well as the cemetery on which it sits are both named for Megginson in addition to a two-room school that once educated Black children in the community.
Albert Megginson made sure that Black children in the Lynchburg area could read and write, although those were skills that he did not possess, Kennedy said.
“His legacy in education has long outlived him,” Kennedy said.
The old Megginson homeplace today is in a state of suspended decline. The roof leaks, exterior paint is peeling, and scaffolding lines one exterior wall.
Through a nonprofit organization, Riverbends Development Inc., the family aims to restore the home to its 1900 appearance, to serve as a house museum. The Megginson homestead is but one of several sites on what “we call the Pleasant Valley historic mile,” Kennedy said.
“We don’t see it as a single property for a single family,” Kennedy said. “We see it as a part of a historical African American community. We have a vision for the promotion of the Pleasant View community as a unique example of African American fortitude and success.”
Featured attractions within the historical mile would include the restored homestead, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, the Megginson cemetery, which is used by Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, and the former Megginson school. A welcome center, the restoration of another home tied to the Megginson family as well as the recreation of slave cabins would add to the historical interpretation.
“This is our beginning,” said descendent Lorenzo Megginson. “My generation and my grandfather’s generation, so this is our heritage and we try to do the best we can to keep it from slipping away from us.”
But the first order of business is to stabilize the roof so rainwater no longer is able to enter. The second priority, Kennedy said, is to hire a historical preservationist and/or an architect to help with the details of the restoration. Riverbends has created a GoFundMe account with the goal of collecting $25,000 toward the revitalization effort. So far, $5,000 has been raised.
Kennedy said when he began his family research, he aimed to do for the entire Megginson clan what Alex Haley did for a single branch of his family in the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Kennedy also hopes the restoration will encourage others to research their own family histories.
“If we don’t know where we come from, we would not be equipped to have appropriate visions for where we need to go,” Kennedy said. “And I believe that the elements of fortitude and faith that got our ancestors through slavery, through Reconstruction, through the civil rights era and day-to-day life today has immense educational value that needs to be shared.”