When Fred Miller purchased a home in southern Virginia two years ago, he could not have imagined his family’s deep connection with the property.
Miller shared in 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, how he and his family discovered that the Pittsylvania County home he purchased in May 2020 had been a 1,300-acre plantation known as Sharswood in the 1800s.
“I was a little bit– a little shocked by that, I would say. Because I just wanted somewhere to have family gatherings, ” said the 56-year-old who paid more than $220,000 for the 10 1/2-acre property.
Miller, an Air Force veteran grew up down the road from the Virginia property, which he would walk past with family members as a child. Although he now lives in California, he thought purchasing the property would be ideal for many gatherings of his large extended family.
After he purchased the house, Miller’s sister Karen Dixon-Rexroth and two of their cousins started to do research. “Something drew me to knowing the history of this place,” Dixon-Rexroth told CBS‘ 60 Minutes. “I knew it was an old place from the 1800s, so I started from there, as far as looking at the previous owners, and also any records that were available online.”
According to the Washington Post, the family worked with Karice Luck-Brimmer, a local African-American genealogy researcher, and traced their family’s past.
Through their research, the family learned about the parents of their great-great-grandmother, Sarah Miller. Violet and David Miller, according to records, lived a short distance from Sharswood. A document they discovered later connected the couple’s young son, Samuel, to the plantation. The enslaver was identified as “N.C. Miller.”
The family also discovered that a cemetery for the plantation’s enslaved people is located just past the home’s property line, according to 60 Minutes. “It was heart-wrenching, I’ll tell you that,” Fred Miller said of seeing the cemetery.
He intends to restore the quarters where enslaved people once lived and to educate people about the history of slavery. He also hopes that his ancestors, including his great-great-grandmother Sarah, would be proud of the family today.
“I just hope that somehow she’s looking down from heaven and finally cracking a beautiful smile, ” he told the Post.