Clifford: Full Tour with Notes

Clifford is a rural community that no longer resembles its early self: a bustling stop along the stagecoach route between Charlottesville and Lynchburg.  The area was settled after the 1740s by primarily Scotch-Irish immigrants who named the settlement New Glasgow.  A linear village was laid out before the Revolutionary War and soon developed into the largest urban area in Amherst County.  In its heyday, the village was a center for commerce, entertainment and, for a brief period, the county government.

The naming and renaming of the village is a story unto itself.  When Clifford was first incorporated in 1785, the Virginia General Assembly rejected the name of New Glasgow in favor of Cabellsburg (to honor the Cabell family who had extensive  landholdings in the area).  However, it continued to be locally known as New Glasgow, and in 1803 the village was again incorporated as New Glasgow.  Later in the century, as rail transportation supplanted stagecoach traffic, the village post office was closed and service was moved to the New Glasgow Depot, a rail stop about two miles east of the village.  This arrangement did not sit well with local residents and in 1883 authorities restored postal service in the village. At this juncture, the name New Glasgow was reserved for mail directed to the depot and the village was renamed Clifford.  Oral tradition states the new name was drawn out of a hat. 1

1. Virginia Gazette, Purdie & Dixon, p. 3, col. 2 21 Mar 1771; and various loose papers in the Clifford/New Glasgow file of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

 The village today is a mixture of old and new buildings, each with its own history and significance to the community.  The main intersection of the early village remains.  Patrick Henry Highway through Clifford is the old stagecoach route.  Other parts of the original route can be seen along the roadside, in the fields.  The east and west roads still meet the stage road in the same, centuries-old configuration.   The main road from the east was known by many names, including the New Market Road, New Glasgow Depot Road, and Spencer’s Mountain Road; today, it honors Elijah Fletcher and is known as Fletcher’s Level Road.  The west road was often referred to as Mount Moriah Road and also by the name it still retains, Turkey Mountain Road.  Along these roads and throughout the surrounding countryside are reminders of the earliest settlement intermingled with other relatively recent structures—all of which are now part of the community’s rich history.

If one were to take a historical driving tour through the community today, a good starting point would be at the intersection of Route 29 and Patrick Henry Highway. 

1.  Glebe—The house on the east side of the road is the old Glebe and much of the land surrounding it once belonged to the estate.  The earliest part of the building was built about 1763. The main block dates to about 1825.  The Glebe was the home of an Anglican minister who either farmed the land himself or rented portions to supplement his income.  The property was purchased by the church and the house was built at the church’s expense.  This arrangement was mandated by the government until the Revolution, which ended state-sponsored religion in America.  The Glebe was supported by the Amherst parish along with a nearby church called Maple Run.  Noted residents of the Glebe include Rev. Ichabod Camp, the only Anglican minister to occupy the house.  The Glebe was sold in 1779 and the next prominent owner was Gabriel Penn, who bought the house in 1780.  Penn, a veteran of both the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars, was active in community government.  He helped to establish the linear village which he sold in 1782.  Gabriel Penn was the maternal great-grandfather of Indiana Fletcher Williams, the founder of Sweet Briar College.  The Glebe is one of the county’s latest additions to the National Register of Historic Places. 2

2. Nancy Kraus, “Glebe” (005-0010) available online at

2. Oakley—This house, located in the field on the east side of the road, was the manor for a farm known as Oakley.  It was built c. 1838 by Robert Sangster.  The old farm consisted of about 300 acres and was possibly the earliest site of the New Glasgow/Cabellsburg horseracing track.  The house was home to Vinton T. Settle, a Baptist minister at Mt. Moriah Church in the 1850s.   He was also likely preaching to a small congregation that met at the old New Glasgow Academy.  Coincidently, the Clifford Baptist Church is located on land that once belonged to Settle. 3

3. Amherst County Deed Book Y, p. 224; Martha von Briesen, The Letters of Elijah Fletcher, (Charlottesville: UVA Press, 1965), p. 44; and George Braxton Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers: 5th Series, 1902-1914, with Supplement,(Lynchburg, Va.: J. P. Bell Co., Inc. 1915),p 477-478.

3. St. Peter’s Baptist Church
—This church is the fourth one to be built on this site.  The first three meetinghouses were frame, and the present church was constructed in 1959.  The property was purchased in 1874 by the trustees of the “colored Baptist congregation” for use as a church and school.  A school existed on the site until the 1950s.   The African American congregation began to worship separately from whites at the end of the Civil War.  Before acquiring the land, the congregation met at the old Clifford School House. Many noted Clifford residents attended St. Peter’s, including Washington Edwards who owned a considerable amount of property within the center of the old village. The current building was designed by Rufus and Thomas Edwards, descendants of Washington Edwards. 4

4. Amherst County Deed Book JJ, p. 482; and information from the private files Oscar Thomas, member of St. Peter’s Church and resident of Clifford.

4. Winton—Winton was built before the Revolutionary War by Col. Joseph Cabell in 1771. In 1779 Col. Samuel Meredith moved into the house.  Meredith brought with him one of the most noted residents of the village, Sarah Winston Syme Henry.  Sarah was the mother of Meredith’s wife, Jane, and of the Virginia orator Patrick Henry.  There are local legends about Sarah’s outspoken attitude—the  likely source of her son’s most memorable trait.  Also, rumor has it that Patrick Henry visited here during the Revolution and was hidden in a pile of hay.   Today the house is used as a country club.  The cemetery, north of the main house, is well maintained. Resting within the brick walls are Sarah, Col. Meredith, and other notable citizens of the village such as David Shepherd Garland and Robert A. Coghill. 5

5. Virginia Landmarks Commission Staff, “Winton”  (005-0021) available online at

5. Village Core—Built in the late eighteenth century, the core of the linear village contains several noteworthy sites.  While many of the earlier buildings have been lost through fire or decay, the newer buildings have acquired an engaging history of their own related to the development of the modern community.

A. Bonus—This house at 634 Patrick Henry Highway was constructed in 1929.  It is an example of the Craftsman style of architecture that was popular in the early twentieth century.  The house was built for Sallie Ann Coleman Claiborne by her brother Robert Claiborne.  The money used for construction was bonus money Sallie received from teaching in Puerto Rico, thus the name Bonus.  In 1966 the house was left to Jane Claiborne Caulkins, Sallie’s younger sister. Jane was a friend to many Clifford residents.  The Claibornes were part of the family whose home place was Geddes. 6

6. Amherst County Will Book 48, p. 144; email correspondence with Lynn Hanson who lives at Mountain View, various dates.

B. St. Mark’s Church—St. Mark’s is home to a congregation that began in 1743 at the Maple Run Church, a log meetinghouse located about two miles north of the present village. The early congregation was started by Rev. Robert Rose, a man whose land patent covered approximately 23,000 acres in both Amherst and Nelson counties.  This Federal-style building was constructed c. 1816. It replaced a frame meetinghouse that was erected c. 1785 when the congregation moved here after the village was incorporated.  In the early history of the community, the church was used by several congregations, including the Presbyterians and Cambellites. The current building was transferred to the Episcopal Church in 1844; the transfer came from the estate of David Shepherd Garland.  The current building was known as the New Glasgow Church until it was consecrated in the nineteenth century as St. Mark’s.  The church’s memorial stained-glass windows are replacements of earlier windows. Surrounding the church is a cemetery containing the resting places of many noted members.7

7. Jackie Beidler, “St. Marks Preliminary Information Form” (005-0017); St. Marks file from the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; Amherst County Deed Book Z, p. 216; Amherst County Deed Book 620, p. 122; and Katharine L. Brown, Hills of the Lord, (Roanoke: Diocese of Southwest Virginia, 1979), pp. 28-32, 40.

C. Saddlery—The Saddlery is next to the road, northwest of the church.  This is the oldest surviving intact commercial structure in the village core.  It has been dated to c. 1800 and is believed to have served as a stagecoach stop, an apothecary, and saddle shop before becoming a private residence after 1874.  The building sits diagonally across from the location of a former tavern and may be the store mentioned in the 1771 Penn advertisement.  It is located on lands that once belonged to James Cash, the village boot maker.  This was the home of Hugh Wright who homesteaded the land in 1874.  Wright is listed as a mulatto in the 1880 census and a local historian suspects that he may have been a former slave or a member of the Buffalo Cherokee people known to have lived in the county.  The building is no longer inhabited but is still owned by the descendants of Hugh Wright.8

8. Typed interview with Mrs. Ella Hanson, 20 Oct 1978 and several undated papers in the Clifford/New Glasgow file at the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; Conversation with Dr. Horace Rice,  local historian, in February 2008; conversation with Mrs. Sally Hearn, granddaughter of Hugh Wright, in January 2008; conversation with Mr. Leroy Thomas, longtime Clifford resident, in January 2008; Quinn family files at the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; and Amherst County Deed Book JJ, p. 351.

D. Parson’s House or Nash House—North of the Saddlery is a two-story brick dwelling.  (Between the Saddlery and the dwelling is an empty lot. It contained another Wright family home that was part of the early village. The house was destroyed in the mid-twentieth century.)  The brick dwelling was constructed c. 1850.  It originally had a two-story porch.  In the 1880s St. Mark’s purchased the building to house its minister. However, some problem arose and the church soon sold the residence.  The house has been in the Nash family since 1946.  Both Della Nash and her daughter-in-law Pat Nash served as postmistresses in Clifford, Della from 1936-1973 and Pat from 1973-1998.9  

9. Information from the Clifford/New Glasgow files of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society;   various conversations with Mrs. Pat Nash, former postmistress and longtime resident of Clifford; and Amherst County Deed Book KK, p. 152; Amherst County Deed Book EE, p. 244.

E. Post Office and Nash’s Store—The adjacent building north of the Parson’s House was constructed in 1939 to house the Clifford Post Office and Nash’s store.  The store was closed in 1960s, but the post office continued operation until 1987 when the new post office was built.  The building is currently unoccupied but has been a private residence.  (Directly across from the Parson’s House is a modern home that was built to replace a nineteenth-century residence known as the Stinnett house.  The old house burned in the 1970s.)

6. The Intersection—A visit to the intersection of Fletcher’s Level Road, Patrick Henry Highway, and Turkey Mountain Road requires some imagination.  In this area are several noted structures, most of which no longer exist.  The northeast side of the intersection, across from the post office, was once the site of several stores.  The earliest was a long one-story building dating back to perhaps as early as the 1770s.  It burned in the 1950s, and W. O. Watts constructed a smaller store in its place.  His store was removed from the site around 1960. Recently the Virginia Dept. of Transportation conducted an archaeological study and found evidence of the original eighteenth-century structures. 10

10. William and Mary Center for Archaeological Research, “Archaeological Evaluation of Site 44AH0597, Proposed Route 151 Project, Amherst County, Virginia,”  30 January 2008; and information from Clifford/New Glasgow files of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

7. Blacksmith House—This house is on Turkey Mountain Road, across from the current post office.  It was built c. 1845 and was the home of Beverly Cash, the last known blacksmith in the village.  His blacksmith shop was across the road. 11

11. Amherst County Deed Book SS, pp.261, 187.

8. Blacksmith Shop—The brick shop was located on two acres at the junction, in the angle of the roads.  At one time it belonged to Sterling Claiborne who left the building to his son, William Claiborne.  In the twentieth century, this was the site of Hudson’s Store.  It was a gas station, bus stopover, and local grocery until the 1960s.12

12. Information from various files at the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

9. Race Field Farm—This farm was located northeast of the intersection. Originally owned by the McGinnis family, it was the premier site for horseracing during the nineteenth century.  Beginning around 1837, the farm hosted the main activities that took place during Race Days, a popular two-week-long community event.   By the 1850s, the farm amounted to about 300 acres and included the former parsonage of Pleasant Grove Methodist Church.  Off Patrick Henry Highway, to the east, is the shell of an old house which is possibly the old parsonage.  Part of Race Field Farm was purchased by Stewart Broady in 1927.  His family lived in the old house until he built a new one at 964 Patrick Henry Highway, as well as the store beside it.   Broady ran the store and a gas station into the mid-twentieth century.  The old store is no longer in use, but the property is still occupied by the family.  

10. Pleasant Grove Area—This area consists of the old Pleasant Grove Methodist Church and four farms associated with old New Glasgow.  The church is at the fork of Rose Mill Road and Summerhill Road.  It was organized before 1842 and was used by the congregation until it was sold c. 1990.  Today, it is the Baptist Training Center. 13

13. Ibid.

A. Athlone—This c. 1800 farm is on Athlone Road which runs into Rose Mill Road. It was owned by Thomas Aldridge, a relative of Jane Aldridge who owned the Glebe from 1836 to 1854.  The main house was built in several stages and was destroyed by fire around 1998.  It was rebuilt in a similar fashion to resemble the old house.  The farm likely was named for the Irish town of Athlone in the midlands area of Ireland.  It encompassed some of the land on Maple Run, and oral tradition places the original church founded by Rev. Robert Rose in this area.  The farm has been owned by the Howell family since the 1890s. 14

14. Anita Dodd, “Athlone” (005-0117) available online at   

B. Summerhill—This c. 1800 home is on the Piney River, at the end of Summerhill Road.  The builder of the house was William Moss who also owned two lots within the town of New Glasgow.  The land of Summerhill was once part of the large land patent held by Rev. Robert Rose.  The house remains a private residence. The current owner is an authority on the old stage roads in the area. 15

15. Amherst County Deed Book H, p. 205; and interview with owner Col. (Ret.) Charles Hamble, several conversations.

C. Naked Creek—There are two farms on Naked Creek Road.  The earliest, known as Naked Creek Farm, was built in the late nineteenth century.  It is an example of a vernacular farmhouse with Italianate decoration.  Naked Creek was home to the Jones family. The first owner, Thomas L. Jones, served as the overseer for the Claiborne family of Geddes.  He bought the farmland from the Claibornes and began farming tobacco for himself.   The well-preserved house, still owned by the Jones family, is now a bed and breakfast.  Thomas L. Jones divided the original farmland and gave a part to his son, George Linwood Jones.  His farm is at the end of Naked Creek Road and is now a private residence.  The farmhouse has a double front porch and the two-story house has been expanded over time.  The current owners preserved the old tenant cabin on the farm; it was moved and rebuilt with the original site retained.   The current barn is a replica of the original which was lost due to decay over time. 16

16. Various loose files in the Clifford/New Glasgow files of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; Department of Historic Resources Preliminary Information Form – “Naked Creek Farm” (005-5038); and conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Steven Martin, owners of George Linwood Jones farm, in February 2008.

11. Geddes—This is one of the oldest and most unusual houses in Amherst County.  It is located on Jefferson Trace off of Geddes Mountain Road. The house is a long one-and-a-half story building that was constructed in several stages.  The earliest section dates to around 1762.  Geddes was part of the Rose land patent and was left to Rose’s son Hugh.  Hugh built the house and named it Geddes after the ancestral highland hamlet in Scotland.  Hugh Rose was a friend of Thomas Jefferson who wrote about visiting in 1781 during Tarleton’s Raid.  In the early nineteenth century the niece of Hugh Rose married Sterling Claiborne.  They inherited the house and it became the Claiborne manor house. It remained in the family until the death of Jean Claiborne Caulkins who lived out her life at Bonus in the village.17

17. Virginia Landmarks Commission Staff, “Geddes” (005-0007) available online at   

12. Geddes Mountain Road—Most of the land along this road was part of the Rose patent. On the north side of Geddes Mountain Road, east of Jefferson Trace Road, is an abandoned c. 1930s farm house. Near the end, close to Route 29 on the north side, are the remnants of another old farm.  This farmhouse was in poor condition and was burned in the 1950s or 1960s; remains of the barn can still be seen.

13. Boxley Farm—On Route 29 south, on the west side of the road, there once stood a wooden two-story farmhouse with outbuildings.  No longer inhabited, it was destroyed sometime around 2000. The outbuildings can be seen on the hillside. According to information in the Amherst Museum files, this house was the site of a farewell dance for soldiers who were sent to fight during WWI.18

18. Boxley Farm file at the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

14. Mountain View Farm/Rebec Vineyard—Mountain View Farm has an interesting history.  The house was built on land owned by Hugh Rose of Geddes in 1777.  It was built for his daughter Nancy and her husband, Samuel Irvine.  The property was sold in 1798 to the Spencer family, and the area became known as Spencer’s Mountain.  In 1830 the house was moved to its current site.  In a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story, Mountain View and another Amherst house, Fairview, both became disputed properties in a court case involving the will of Samuel Miller of Lynchburg.  Miller obtained ownership of the properties before his death in 1869.  The case was finally closed with his six illegitimate-but-acknowledged sons receiving a portion of their father’s estate.  Samuel Davidson received the house and sold it in 1877 to the Jones family, relatives of the Jones family of Naked Creek.  The family still owns the house and created Rebec Vineyard on the property which began production in 1987.  The winery was created from an old tobacco barn.  The Garlic Festival, one of the region’s most anticipated events, is held annually on the grounds. The festival is reminiscent of the nineteenth-century Race Days celebration once held at Race Field Farm and hosted by the McGinnis family. In fact, the owners of Mountain View Farm/Rebec Vineyard are McGinnis family descendants.19

19. Fairview is an Italian Villa located in the village of Lowesville, Amherst County; and Paul Hardin Kapp, “Mountain View Farm” (005-0011) available online at  

15. Tusculum—The Crawford family house once occupied this land on Route 29, south of Mountain View.  Known as Tusculum, the residence was recently disassembled and moved to Sweet Briar College where it will soon be reassembled on the campus.   Members of the Crawford family were prominent citizens in the New Glasgow community. William S. Crawford married Gabriel Penn’s daughter Sophia. Their daughter Maria Antoinette married the headmaster of New Glasgow Academy, Elijah Fletcher. Upon his father-in-law’s death in 1815, Fletcher managed the Tusculum estate among numerous other holdings. Fletcher’s Level Road, the road to Clifford from Route 29, was named after him.  A portion of the old estate has now become part of a development called Tusculum Estates.

16. Swanson Jones’s House—Located on Fletcher’s Level Road, this early twentieth-century house and unusual barn were built next to the old ice pond of Mountain View. 

17. Fletcher’s Level Road—Along the road are the lands of the Stinnett family and the Crawford family.  This is the old route that was first known as New Market Road.  It led to the village of New Market, which is now known as Norwood in Nelson County.  The road was later called Spencer’s Road, a reference to the Spencer family of Mountain View. After the rail depot was created, the road was referred to as the New Glasgow Depot Road.

18. Clifford Baptist Church— The Clifford Baptist congregation was formed in 1908 and initially gathered in the old wooden Clifford School. The present church is the result of several building phases that began in 1909. Timbers for the original building came from Turkey Mountain.  Workers came from all over the neighborhood and from surrounding churches.  The founding minister died before the building was completed and the congregation donated a stained glass window in his memory.  The original sanctuary was dedicated in honor of Mrs. Minnie Stinnett who was an anchor during a troubled period of the church’s history.  The congregation, which includes families of the founding members, will be celebrating its centennial in 2009.20

20. Information came from the files of Clifford Baptist Church; and Amherst County Deed Book XX, p.155.

19. Camperdown—Northwest of the Clifford Baptist Church is the land where a house called Camperdown once stood.  The house was built by Dr. James Murray Brown, physician to William Cabell.  Brown called the house Camperdown after an area in Scotland that was named for Admiral Duncan’s successful 1797 battle against Holland.  The house was home to another doctor in the nineteenth century named Samuel Scott.   In the early 20th century it was owned by the Maxwell family who helped with construction on the Clifford Baptist church.  The Maxwells sold the house to the Christians, a prominent African American family in the community.  The land has been divided and some is still owned by the Christian family.  The manor house was razed in 2006.  Camperdown was the house where Elijah Fletcher stayed when he first began work at New Glasgow Academy.21

21. Information from the files of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; Amherst County Deed Book 62, p. 91; and Amherst County Deed Book 121, p. 134.

20. Clifford Ruritan Building/New Glasgow Academy—This former school was the third one to be built on this site.  The first was a brick building constructed by David Shepherd Garland and named New Glasgow Academy.  Elijah Fletcher was the first headmaster.  The school operated until 1858 and was sold to the Baptist congregation with a provision that a school would be allowed to use the basement.  The building was eventually torn down and, in the later part of the century, a wooden schoolhouse was constructed on the same property.  The wooden facility was used until it was replaced by the current brick structure in 1932.  The current school building operated until the 1960s. It was later sold to the Ruritans who use it as a community center. It is home to the annual Sorghum Festival, an event celebrating the old-fashioned method of making molasses.22

22. Information from the Clifford/New Glasgow files of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

21. Headmaster’s House—The building next to the Ruritan Building served as the headmaster’s house for the New Glasgow Academy.  In the mid-nineteenth century it became the home of Robert A. Coghill, a local attorney.  The next owner was Dr. A. F. Wills.  In the early twentieth century, it was purchased by Valerius McGinnis, a Civil War veteran who lived at Race Field Farm.23

23. Martha von Briesen, p.36; Amherst County Deed Book XX, p. 488; Amherst County Deed Book 77, p. 592; Amherst County Deed Book 79, p. 350; Amherst County Deed Book PP, p. 197; and Amherst County Deed Book 61, p. 383.

22. Brick House/King David’s Palace—This house is in the northeast corner of the intersection of Fletcher’s Level Road and Patrick Henry Highway.  It was built in 1803 by David Shepherd Garland, a lawyer, congressman, and considerable landholder who helped develop New Glasgow into a prosperous community during the early nineteenth century.  He was married to Jane, the daughter of Col. Samuel Meredith, and eventually came to own his father-in-law’s estate, Winton. 

Unfortunately at the time of his death Garland had many debts. The Brick House property was auctioned and later divided and sold.  Robert A. Coghill purchased the house and the store in the yard.  He sold the house to his nephew, Dr. James  S. Pendleton, who was also a relative of the Garland family.  The Brick House, also known as King David’s Palace, was one of the most prominent and imposing buildings in the village.24

24.Sandra Esposito, “Brick House” (005-0002) available online at    

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