More information at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources here
Rock Cliff, 1891. Photo courtesy William Andrew Horsley Gantt.

Home Site – Nelson County, Virginia

Rock Cliff is in Nelson County, Virginia one mile west of Wingina on Route 647, and fronts on the James River. It is designated as part of the Norwood-Wingina Rural Historic District by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.


The original house on the property, built in 1825, is of peg and beam construction and now serves as an office. The main house was built in two stages by Dr. William Andrew Horsley. The first section, a two over two with center hall, was built in 1840 and an addition was added in 1880. Other buildings include a smokehouse, an outside kitchen, a cutting house and the first public schoolhouse in Nelson County. Square notching is found on the cutting house and saddle notching on several outbuildings.

Timeline of Rock Cliff Ownership

  • 1825 – 1887: Dr. William Andrew Horsley (1815-1887). Dr. Horsley was the son of John Horsley of Mountain Retreat, and his first wife Philadelphia Hamilton Dunscombe; and great grandson of Mary Cabell & William Horsley.
  • 1887: Dr. William Andrew Horsley left the estate of 637 acres equally to his five children. Subsequently, these parts were subdivided among their heirs, resulting in pieces as small as 1/84th of the total.
  • 1930-1960: Dr. William Horsley Gantt, grandson of Dr. William Andrew Horsley, doggedly reassembled all the pieces into one 637 acre whole, and prevented the house from falling down.
  • 1987- present: William Andrew Horsley Gantt, II (Dr. Horsley’s great grandson), and his wife Digna, have restored the house and purchased an additional 330 contiguous acres to create the present property.

Rock Cliff Cemetery

There is a family graveyard behind the house in which Dr. William Horsley Gantt is buried. Dr. Gantt worked with Nobel Prize winner Pavlov in Leningrad until 1929 and was himself, recommended for the Nobel Prize though not selected. 

Additional Photos

Rock Cliff, 2002. Photos courtesy Archer Minardi.