Exploring Pamplin VA

May 5, 2022 | Travel Stories

Two of my Womack cousins came to meet us in Virginia. My dad didn’t talk much about his childhood, but he did tell me about the Branfords. He loved going to NYC in the summers to visit cousins Walter (Sonny) Branford and his brother George (Smitty). That’s when my dad first fell in love with NYC, a city he regularly visited the rest of his life to attend Broadway plays, see friends and eat fabulous meals.

After the elder Branfords passed away, my dad would sometimes mention Sonny’s sons: Scott & Phillip. l discovered toward the ends of my dad’s life that Phil shared my love of genealogy, and could answer the questions we had about the Womack family. We started to occasionally talk on the phone.

That new connection led to Scott, Phil and their wives joining us in Lynchburg. One day we explored neighboring Appomattox County, including a stop at historic Appomattox Courthouse (where General Lee surrendered to General Grant) only a few days shy of the 157th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

But the highlight was visiting Pamplin, the rural town where the large Womack family, including my grandfather Samuel Womack, lived and died. My dad wasn’t raised by him, but he did visit some summers. I had heard about some of his many aunts and uncles –especially his aunts Wilsie and Geneva.

Pamplin is now a deserted town, population 73. But it’s where most of the Womacks are buried, and where many of the family homes are still intact. We stopped at key spots, including where Aunt Geneva’s home once stood, and also found Aunt Wilsie’s house. I have a photo of my dad in a car in front of her home, something I figured out only after being there myself.

As we explored, Scott and Phil regaled us with stories, many of which I recorded. They spent summers in Pamplin during their childhood, and knew so much more about the Womacks than I (or maybe even my dad) ever knew. We stood by their graves as Phil and Scott reminisced about each one, me with mic in hand.

That day old memories were revisited, and together we made new ones. It truly was a precious day.

Most photos by Will Austin.

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I’m Lisette Austin, travel podcaster. I am currently traveling to where my ancestors are from – across North America, over to Europe and finally to Africa.

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