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The Waltons – A Real Virginia Family And Tradition

The Waltons - A Real Virginia Family And Tradition

For many Americans who have never even visited the beautiful state of Virginia, Virginia still feels a bit like home thanks to the beloved story of a family called The Waltons.

Between 1972 and 1981, the nation followed the television depiction of the Walton family and their struggle to survive the trials of the Great Depression and the Second World War.

Thanks to the exceptional realism of the show, many people came to feel like the Walton family were friends and wanted to know what the real story was behind the TV program. Did you ever wonder if the Waltons were real people and where they really lived?


Find The Real Waltons, Just Miles From Emerson Creek Pottery!

In the foothills of the lovely old Blue Ridge Mountains…

Blue Ridge Mountains, where the Waltons lived


…Lies the small town of Schulyer, Virginia, home of the Hamner family – the real-life family on which the Waltons were based.


The mountain town of Schuyler is home to about 400 residents, and there the two-story Hamner family home still stands.

waltons real house, schulyer, va

Nearby, fans of The Waltons will be thrilled to visit The Walton Museum which not only has recreations of sets from The Waltons TV show, but also has a wonderful collection of Waltons’ memorabilia on display, plus a gift shop and regular events you can attend.

waltons museum schulyer, va

waltons mountain baptist churchSadly, the local store that was the inspiration for Ike Godsey’s General Merchandise burned down many years ago, but the pretty Baptist church still stands tall in the verdant landscape and visitors are apt to recall the major part this landmark played in the Waltons’ storyline.

Mama was a devout Baptist and never gave up trying to get Daddy baptized, but Daddy was his own man and determined to honor God in his own way.

While the family conflict over religion was especially hard on the Hamner/Walton children, their parents’ solution of loving one another despite their differences taught the boys and girls (and we TV viewers) a valuable lesson about tolerance and acceptance.

And, who can forget the incorrigible Yancy Tucker bursting into a revival meeting at the church with a string of fish to get out a rainstorm and winding up getting baptized in Drucilla’s Pond, despite his humorous and shady career as a moonshine runner and chicken thief?

Such attention to historical and local detail was put into the creation of The Waltons that devoted fans will readily recognize the names of other real places in the vicinity.

The village of Rockfish was the nearest town to where the Hamner/Walton family lived and they often went there for things they couldn’t get at Ike Godsey’s. Sadly, Rockfish is all but deserted now, and yet the Rockfish River still runs along beneath the railroad tracks.

rockfish river, va

The James River and Rivanna River are real rivers you can visit and just a few miles from Schuyler. Waynesboro and Richmond are frequently mentioned in the television show and are near at hand.

You will find another familiar Walton’s locale just a few miles from Schuyler – the town of Charlottesville.

Charlottesville was the closest thing to a city place when the Hamner family was growing up and a trip there in Daddy’s rattly old truck or John Boy’s hard-won roadster was a real occasion.

charlottesville, va

Charlottesville still features many charming, old buildings and offers a good home base for visitors exploring this appealing region of Virginia.

monticelloWhile touring Charlottesville, don’t miss a visit to Monticello. We are very proud to share that Emerson Creek Pottery’s ceramics have been featured at Monticello and the important history of this world-famous landmark is central not just to the story of The Waltons, but to the history of all Americans. Thomas Jefferson’s opinions on states’ rights in Colonial times were the forerunners to the deeply-held beliefs that fomented the Civil War in our nation.

Grandpa Walton wants his grandchildren to remember that Walton land is fought-for land and that Waltons fought in the Civil War. When the elderly Baldwin sisters discover that their father harbored Yankee soldiers during the Civil War, they are convinced that they must permanently withdraw from society until a WPA writer proves that Judge Baldwin would likely have been acquitted for his ‘crimes’ due to his heroism in caring for the wounded on both sides of the War Between The States.

In another memorable episode, the Walton’s neighbor Verdie Grant retraces her roots to the time of slavery and finds a pictorial record of her ancestor who was stolen from Africa and brought to labor at a local plantation. Air time was also given to the fact that Walton land had once belonged to the Cherokee people before they were forced to go on the Trail of Tears and John Walton must confront his own sense of entitlement and right to dwell on the mountain. War and prejudice, the struggle for justice and truth – these are recurring themes in the story of the Walton family and the story of America.

Timely Lessons From The Waltons

Waltons creator Earl Hamner Jr. moved us with his saga-like account of one family’s commitment to survival in hard times. John and Olivia Walton live to see their four sons – John Boy, Jason, Ben, and Jim Bob – go off to war. They live through Mary Ellen losing her husband at Pearl Harbor, Erin losing her fiance to post-traumatic stress syndrome and their youngest daughter, Elizabeth, pining for her brothers to return from the battlefield. While the treatment of WWII’s effect on the mountain family is very touching, it may be the earlier episodes that are set during the Great Depression of the 1930s that speak most clearly to Americans today.

Our economy is currently in a state that is being compared to those hard times the real Hamner family lived through. When we watch The Waltons today, we see the family’s prized vegetable garden and Mama and Grandma canning the produce of that garden to see the family through the winter. We see Daddy hunting to put meat on the table. We see the ongoing struggle to find work and keep the electricity bills paid and candles being lit when there is no money to pay those bills.

The character of John Boy portrays Earl Hamner Jr. and we are repeatedly reminded that while the hard work, the family efforts to pull through, may have seemed trying at the time when he looks back, all of it seems joyful to him. That’s a lesson we can take away for keeps from The Waltons.

Many American families are putting in vegetable gardens, maybe for the first time in their lives. Many are learning to simplify both their expectations and their lifestyles to keep in better tune with the tone of our times. How we approach these challenges and changes is what will dictate the pleasure we find in daily life.

  • Is having an organic veggie patch a chore or a blessing that connects us to land and home?
  • Is cooking from scratch a deprivation from restaurant meals and frozen foods, or a loving act we can perform every day for our family, secure in the knowledge that we are most likely serving up better health with every home-cooked supper?
  • Is doing without luxury items a woe or a chance to discover the basic necessities we really need to support life and love it?

emerson creek pottery, virginiaThis is a subject that has real meaning to the potters here at Emerson Creek Pottery in Bedford, Virginia, just a stone’s throw from where the Hamner family lived.

In our work, we have striven to create basic functional pieces that families really need for home cooking, baking, and family-style eating. We have committed to using safe, lead-free American clay and our pieces are all made by hand here in Virginia.

For the past few generations, Americans grew used to depending upon the cheapness of foreign labor to provide both essential and luxury items and now we are looking at that decision with a weather eye.

The tradeoff hasn’t turned out well and the mass importation of cheap-seeming non-essentials has done some things to our nation that aren’t in our best long-term interests. Did you know that there are no longer any textile mills in America with looms wide enough to weave basic household sheets and blankets? We’ve long thought of ourselves as a rich and lucky nation, but how wealthy are we, as a nation, when we haven’t even got the means to produce our own bedclothes?

The Walton family (and the historical Hamners) throve on self-sufficiency, and that, too, is an American story. Our forefathers were jacks-of-all-trade the likes of which one seldom sees these days. Imagine knowing how to build a house, grow crops, weave cloth, make soap, mold candles, sew clothing, forge metal, carve furniture. These were the common skills of our American ancestors and in modern times, we are thinking about the loss of these skills more and more in an age when many people have never cooked a single meal from fresh ingredients, let alone having re-shingled the roof of their home.

In our own small way, the potters here at Emerson Creek Pottery are working to bridge the gap between the days when nearly all products were made by hand domestically and the modern age in which nearly all of the things in American homes are imported. We are one of the last commercial pottery houses located in the United States and are determined to keep offering our neighbors a domestic choice for the essential ceramic wares you need to run your home well.

The power of this choice is where we’ve learned that the pleasure comes in for many of our long-time customers. It is good to serve supper on dishes you know were made in your own land, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is good to know you are supporting the economy in which your family lives and needs to thrive. This is the kind of good sense that saw the Walton/Hamner family through the Depression, and it seems that it’s making new sense to us today in these changing times.

waltons mountain and emerson creek pottery map, virginiaIf You’re Visiting Virginia

Our corner of Virginia is rich in history and natural beauty and Virginians are eager to share a taste of the good life here. Waltons fans are certain to have an unforgettable visit to Schuyler and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Come for the Dogwoods in spring or the majestic color of fall. You will find yourself recalling all of your favorite Waltons’ moments as you visit the very real places where the Hamner family lived.

And, while you are in the neighborhood, please consider dropping by our own historic location – our pottery shop located in the Silas Wade log cabin, built in 1825 on Emerson Creek.

You will be warmly welcomed if you visit and you will be able to hold in your own two hands the pottery sold here on our website. There is something about the slow and cordial pace of life in this part of Virginia that makes it so easy for visitors to step back in time, and we hope that you will come away with a valuable new sense of the can-do spirit that finds strength and joy in hard times and celebrates the simple happiness of good times. We’d love to see you here.


Flickr Photo Credits:

Bobindrums, Ephien, Random Things, Wstera2.

14 Responses

  1. I just want to say I am from Texas and 50 yrs old. I have all the DVDS and watch them every night as I drift off to sleep. It helps to have peaceful dreams of times past. I miss those days. Remember to be kind to one another no matter where you live or come from. Kindness goes a long way in todays world.

    1. I just watched a new remake of Waltons on TV. It brought back so many memories of being a child and watching it. I wanted to know when it finished if it were a true story. Lo and behold it is. When I saw what you had written it made me feel sad, we have lost so much of those days , when people really did care for each other. I like the idea of watching it before going to sleep at night . Sweet dreams. It’s nearly Christmas and that was a really important time in the Waltons story. Love being the most important thing they shared. Thank you for your thoughts. Merry Christmas from England.

  2. I’ve been watching Waltons Mountain my whole life I am now 56 years old and still watch it. I am now showing this series to my granddaughter. Absolutely love the show I think it’s a wonderful family series. We need more of them

  3. I grew up well north of Virginia, not far from several of the great eastern cities, in the 1970s and 80s. Like most households then, my family watched the television programs of the day, including The Waltons. It was not a particular family favorite, as I recall, seemingly too well removed from the daily 1970s suburban reality my siblings and I knew. I enjoyed it for an odd reason; little Elizabeth, in real life nearly the same age as me, also had, like me, red hair and the same name. Her real name, Kami Cotler, made her the only person I’d ever “known” named “Cami” too. I knew that The Waltons was only a story, though, and to a kid like me, a kind of boring one at that.
    Fast forward several decades and I ended up relocating to rural central Virginia in my late 40s. It was only after I had been here a bit that I rediscovered the Waltons, with their loving family and real values. I was shocked to learn that not only was the story set near my new home, but that the Hamner family were real people and their reality was the basis for the series! I have been watching old reruns and would now like to learn more about this family who lived, loved and died here, leaving their progeny and their memories behind. Thank you for your blog and your historical info. I plan to visit Schuyler and see your pottery shop sometime soon. Any other suggested sights for me to see in the area? I’m still pretty new here and I don’t have anyone to act as my Virginia tour guide.

  4. I wish they would show the pilot “a Homecoming” on regular TV a Christmas time (younger generationsneed to see it) I had to buy the DVD so my family can watch it every Christmas. I was 9 yrs old when the Pilot aired and back then families watched TV together, I remember my older brothers poking fun at Patricia Neal for scolding John boy for having his bedroom door locked, but it was all in fun and brings back fond memories of growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. What has become of what passes for decent TV programs nowadays is sickening. I am surprised the cancel culture hasn’t come after The wonderful TV show: The Waltons. Like others have stated we watched back in the 70’s and thought it was kind of corny back then (though we still enjoyed it) but rewatching now I am so very glad the Waltons was made when it was, I don’t think they’d ever be able to make a show with morals, values and integrity like the Waltons today. I am very thankful for the Hammer family and the fact Earl Hammer was able to share his gift for story telling with the world. I pray our country gets back to the basic morals, values and integrity displayed in the stories created by Earl Hamner.

    1. I just watched a re creation of the show “The Homecoming” on the Hallmark Channel and I viewed it on Thanksgiving weekend! So I am happy to say it’s a new show that was narrated by the original actor who played John Boy!!! It was excellent. I am 67 and watched all the original Waltons shows. I just did a search to see if the Eaktons was modeled after a real family in the 2930’s and found out it was!!! there are so many lessons to be learned here and is great viewing for the whole family. I can only imagine what life was like back then but my Dad was born in 1920 and always told me how rough things were back then. I think it’s so important I wish it was shown in schools so children could see the importance of family and helping each other and people lived much more simply back then and were living much more modestly without technology. I could say more but I’m so glad this post is here and I appreciated finding out that this was all based on a real family.

  5. I am 42 have watched the Waltons my entire life. My family and I still watch it daily. We live in Virginia between DC and Richmond. My husband and I long for days long gone. What we would give to go back to that sweet, quiet, peaceful, simple time in life. We wish technology didn’t exist. We really do long for those days.

  6. I am in my 60’s now, retired and still watch the Waltons. I like some episodes, and love others. Some are sad, some make me laugh, others make me smile. Grandma was really bossy. Wonder was the real grandma bossy. Loved their house. Daddy was so dedicated to his wife and family….see money’s not everything. But these days family don’t count much….too bad. Long live the Walton’s.

    1. I’m 77 and grew up watching the Waltons. Loved it and still do. Sorry to hear that you lr family doesn’t count for much. On a more optimistic note, mine counts, for everything. Family is everything and we live that by getting together every three years (we are strung across the country) for a wonderful reunion at our grandparents home. We are all close using all forms of communication available. I might also parenthetical add that we are close, though not necessarily of the same political persuasion. When in emotional or other types of need, look to family. They are always there for you.


    Anna Maine • 6 months ago
    I’m 41 and I’ve watched this show since I was a very little girl. I’ve always loved this show and always will. My mom is from a family of 7 kids. So it’s like visiting my own family but back in time when they were all growing up.

    Sandra Lafferty • 7 months ago
    Want to move there. In town. How does one get information ty

    Kaz Welker • 8 months ago
    Watching them right now..i would love to go back in time to b there. For mayb a week?..

    Deborah N’Dina • a year ago
    I still watch The Waltons. Watch them tonight Thanksgiving evening. I enjoy them just as much now as I did back then.

    Susan Cunningham -> Deborah N’Dina • a year ago
    Deborah when i was in fifth grade (1973) us kids at school laughed about the waltons – good night him bob etc. but I dont think i ever rrally watched until adulthood. What a wonderful show, much better than little house .

    Tammie Wilson -> Susan Cunningham • 4 months ago
    In school my brother and i were always picked on because our last name was Walton. We were always asked ” How’s John Boy or Mary Ellen?” We finally got where we’d go along with it and say “They’re fine, John Boy’s coming home this weekend .”or “Mary Ellen’s good.”
    Loved the show

    Darlene Bush Tucker -> Susan Cunningham • 8 months ago
    Brother and I were the same as teens … only watched it to make fun of it. Now in my 60s, I rediscovered the show a few months ago and fell hard, recording it all and watching it all this miserable hot summer, even got husband watching it, not really his thing but then the show’s so exceptional, he never misses watching it with me. The acting, the individual actors, the stories, the natural feel, especially the way they leave in things like someone tripping, stuttering or maybe getting a little branch slap in the face, the conversations and tomfoolery so spontaneous they feel organic as if a real family was filmed unknowingly. Characters so wondrously fleshed out. And oh, and the conservationist Will Geer whose real-life love and talent for botany (land, trees, etc.) is in every episode, his knowledge of wildlife, flowers, etc. And I love how they respect and even grieve their animals as if they were human. Love they have different ethnicities in nearly every show, as well as support for women back before #MeToo, so forward-thinking and respectful (Jim-Bob gets a scolding for his collection of ribbons stolen from girls, a good metaphor). I could go on singing the show’s praises. It’s intelligent, humane, profound and way ahead of the time it was filmed in. Yes, me too, no love for the unimaginative Little House show though I adore the books. Love watching the Waltons in their homemade and hand me downs, got to where I knew their clothes. Love they ate real meals unlike the fake eaters on shows today. I think about the level of decency and talent the Walton show’s team must have had to create this masterpiece, from directors to writers to actors and the set and wardrobe people, wish such folks existed today. Guess there are good ones but if so they sure are hiding them well.

    Krista Brewer • 2 years ago
    Can anyone post a picture of the real Walton Family? When were the actual Walton Family born and are any of them still alive? (including the real John Curtis)

    sammy666 -> sammy666 • a year ago
    My grandfather used to work for them.

    Penny Bundy -> Krista Brewer • a year ago
    I assume you mean the Hamner family. Check out this page.

    Irene Hall • 3 years ago
    I just love the Walton’s. To this day their house is my dream house. A simple home with that large table that everyone fit around. My husband says one day he will build me that house up on a mountain somewhere, so our 4 children and their families can come for holidays (kind of how Olivia and John always planned to build a new house up on the mountain someday). My husband’s in the military so we have not been close enough to come visit, but I hope to someday find our way up there and perhaps we might just find a place up on the mountain that’s ment for us to call home.
    In the meantime I will continue to watch my favorite family and wish life was that simple again. In today’s society we need good wholesome family values more then ever.

    Dennis • 9 years ago
    I spent a summer at my aunt Gertrudes (Sheppard nee Litton) farm in Abington, Va when I was 12 that was 1961. No television, no computers only a radio similiar to the one the Walton’s owned. Up early go to the porche and splash rain water in your face from a large barrel to wake you up then go in and eat a great breakfast then do chores on the farm. They used a bell to call you for lunch which was small then later came supper a great meal. Evenings we sat on the porch or go inside and listen to the radio. An outhouse out back……used during the day it was so dark at night I just held myself no way I was walking to the OH in the dark even with a flash light it scarred me. Weekends we went to Bristol for candy and maybe a movie. Saturday nights home made ice cream, and taffy while the men played banjo’s, guitars, and fiddles. Sunday to the little white church in the dell. The stories told by relatives can never be replaced history ran through our family from Jamestown to WWII during those story telling sessions. Family closeness has long been lost on todays youth…………….I ll take my own Walton memories to my grave and leave them in writing for my daughter and sons.

    admin -> Dennis • 9 years ago
    Welcome Dennis!
    Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us. They definitely sound priceless. What a wonderful time, and we agree with you that families would do well to make a special effort to recapture those times of quiet closeness and simple fun. Your daughter and sons are fortunate that you are writing your memories down for them. What a treasure! Please, come again.

    al • 9 years ago
    i am now 47yrs old and i remeber watching the waltons when i was just a kid. today i faithfully watch the reruns on everyday from monday too fri. its the kind of life i wish i had and could live. its a heart warming and touching show too watch. you almost become part of the show too feel and see things exactly how they do and can leave a tear in your eyes from time too time. if we all lived the life like the waltons, i think life would be a whole lot better.

    admin -> al • 9 years ago
    Welcome, Al,
    Yes, completely agree – the simple values expressed in the show are worth emulating today. I’m glad you enjoyed this article.

    Crystal B • 9 years ago
    I’m 41 and I live just a few hours away form Waltons’ Mountain. My mom visited many years ago. I have never been even though I go that direction to visit freinds about once a year now. I have started watching the reruns on dish and I just love it. I get so lost in it. It reminds me of what my family was like. Enjoying the smiple things of life. I agree with a lot of what the others have said on here. It is so good to see a family working together, mom and dad sticking together, to have faith and to be kind to people raising their kids to respect and they work throw problems. Unlike today just throw in the towel if things are bad. Mom’s in clubs and dads at bars and the kids being raised by grandparents. We can learn alot by watching the show to see how good it is to simply share a meal together and talk. Just to enjoy God’s beauty of the mountian and the outside. To see kids enjoy God’s big playground. Most kids can’t get outside of the house to know what it is to go for a walk or use your imagination. I have an 18 year old son who is wonderful, but I hate to see some of the shows he watches. All the sex, drugs, killings, cussing and so on. It amazes me to see how far we have gotten away from values. I miss how things use to be even back when I was growing up. So much has changed it so sad. I think God I have good memories of a family like the Walton’s even though I didn’t have the brothers or sister but I had a mom, dad, and grandma that showed me what it was like to fish and enjoy it for dinner with fresh veggies we raised and smell it cooking as I set on the swing. To enjoy a cool evening after a hot summers day and feeling the dirt between you fingures after working in the garden. What memeories! Getting ready now to fix dinner and set back to watch the Waltons. 🙂

    Tracy. c • 9 years ago
    I was born in april af 1972. I live in virgina only a couple hours from Schulyer va. I grew up watching the Waltons. I still today watch the reruns on cable. One day soon i hope to visit Schulyer va. I am only 39 but what the show and what the Hamners endured during that time still stand true today. Only sadly I think that young kids today and even some adults need to be reminded of the message and values the the show was trying to convae.It was a hard time during that time, but people stood by their word and helped each other. and was not out for themselfes. the had honor, pride, and values that i just don’t see in people any more.


    Cassandra hopkins • 9 years ago
    At 56 years old, I continue to enjoy The Waltons, and as an African-American woman, I thoroughly enjoyed the friendship between Oliva and Verdie. Thank you for including it. Some many times in the past, we weren’t presented with respect, sometimes we weren’t even presented, as though we didn’t exist. Thank you again and I love this show.

    Sue C • 9 years ago
    As I sit here and watch the reruns of the Waltons I am taken back to when I was living at home as a young girl. The music when it comes on takes me back to when my Mom was alive and we watched the Waltons, faithfully together. I have been to Virginia many times but yet to visit the home of the Hamner family. I am so thankful we have such programing to remind of simple but happy times. It brings joy to my heart every time I have the chance to watch the family that loves each other and shows it daily. I am so blessed to have a great family of my own that often times people have told me they eveny me for. My children are great. We have been often told how we are like the Walton family. That is a great compliment in my mind.

    Janet R. • 9 years ago
    I watched the Waltons as a kid and loved the show. I purchased the first and second season dvd’s, I am watching it as I type this. I still love the show and I am 57 years old. Sometimes it is nice to watch something so wholesome and refreshing. Thank you!!

    Terri Copeland • 9 years ago
    I enjoy watching the Waltons from the time i was a small girl i wanted to be a part of there family even though they didn,t have much they always had each other and that meant more than anything.Iam from harman west Virginia which is a small town to. I watch the reruns every day with my daughter and she enjoys them as much as i did.

    admin -> Terri Copeland • 9 years ago
    Thanks for commenting Terri. Your comments mean so much!

  8. Can anyone post a picture of the real Walton Family? When were the actual Walton Family born and are any of them still alive? (including the real John Curtis)

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