I had to admit
that the first time I saw that sign I felt I was lost. For sure, I was in a
valley beside the Rockfish River, not on a mountaintop. I could see an old rock
building that appeared to have once been a church. The sign overhead again
appeared out of place: "Walton's Mountain Country Store.” I thought I had
better go in and clear this mystery.
Once inside, I met
Joyce Wood, the proprietor, who offers her trade an interesting variety of
local craft collectibles and country fashions, plus her own creative
photography and folklore of Walton's Mountain, which is the real boyhood home
of Earl Henry Hamner Jr., fictionalized as John Boy. The real setting for
Walton's Mountain is a cluster of villages located about eight miles from this
valley at the intersection where East meets West, along U.S. 29 north.
You reach these
villages by turning right to Scottsville, and then right again on Va. 800,
after four or five miles along Va. 6 east. The villages have local place names
such as Stumptown, The Glades, New Town, Gold Hill. They are united by a post
office named for its founder, Schuyler Walker, and by the Schuyler Elementary
School. There is no more town of Schuyler as such, since the one major
industry, a soapstone mine and manufacturer, reduced its workforce and sold its
operations. During the time of John Boy Walton/Earl Hamner Jr., Schuyler was a
boom/bust community, a company town providing housing, utilities, medical care
and a store that carried everything the family needed. More than 1,500 employees
worked at the plant before the Great Depression.
Today, the New
Alberene Stone Company employs about 50 people and produces high quality
heat-retaining fireplaces and cooker-bake ovens that are shipped to a worldwide
homeplace is still in Schuyler, and the Baptist Church (featured in the TV
series) is just down the hill in the hollow. Doris Hamner (John Boy's mother;
Olivia) died recently at age 86. Son James (Jim Bob) works with the data system
at the University of Virginia Medical Center. The family still welcomes many
visitors and guests who come to Walton's Mountain at Schuyler.
store is up the hill from the Hamner homeplace, and serves the local needs of
the community as well as the travel trade. A ball field across the road and the
school activities down the road attract a good turnout from the families who
River is well-known among local fisherman for its annual run of smallmouth bass
from the James River to spawn in the clear and coolrunning waters of the
today still holds the truth of traditional family values in a setting that is
somewhat removed from the hurry and fast-paced life of the '90s; yet. in other
ways, life in Schuyler is the same as any small town in America. A few of us
work here, but many work in Charlottesville or Scottsville. Some own their
homes. Others rent. Some of our young folks hang out at Ike Godsey's store all
night, and mostly talk. All in all, it's still a good life here on Walton's
My people were
drawn to the mountains. They came when the country was young, and they settled
in the upland country of Virginia that is still misted with a haze of blue.
which gives those mountains their name . . .
Now they can head
straight to a new museum in Schuyler dedicated to the heart-warming TV series,
created by the village's favorite son, Earl Hamner, Jr.
The museum is
actually a series of rooms inside the Schuyler Community Center (formerly John-Boy's
elementary school). They are re-creations of sets from the TV program: the
Waltons' living room, kitchen, John-Boy's bedroom, and Ike Godsey's Store,
where local crafts are sold.
copies of actual scripts, photo displays that juxtapose Hamner's real family
with the television actors, and all manner of Waltons’ memorabilia.
Visitors can also
sit back and watch a video documentary which shows interviews with Hamner,
former cast members and episodes from one of the most successful and enduring
television series ever.
But please, leave
poor Jim-Bob alone! Earl's friendly brother, Jim Hamner, still lives in the old
homeplace, a white frame house only a stone's throw from the museum. After
years of eager visitors knocking at his front door, he's got a mind to build a
high fence. He's a people-lover-like his famous brother, Earl, but everybody
needs a little privacy, you know.
museum is located between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. From Rt. 29, take Rt.
6 East; go approximately 5 miles, then turn right on Rt. 800. Follow to the end
of the road. Turn right onto Rt. 617. Open: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, from the
first Saturday in March through the last Saturday in November. 804/831-2000.
Address: P.O. Box 124, Schuyler, Va. 22969.For more, take a look at this story from our July/August 2013 issue, complete with video from "The Waltons" 40th Anniversary Reunion After Party.