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March 25, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Earl Hamner, Jr.

Earl Hamner, Jr.

Earl Hamner, Jr.

Most of us know that Earl Hamner, Jr., novelist and creator of The Waltons, grew up at Schuyler in Nelson County. Fewer of us know that he regularly visited kinfolk across the James River in Buckingham County. Hamner remembers:

Summer would arrive and with it crickets and blue birds and cousins from Richmond and Petersburg, up for a visit. We would go barefooted and catch fireflies in the twilight. After darkness fell we would sit on the front porch and listen to ghost stories told by our grandparents. Some nights my father would take the whole gang down to Drusilla’s Pond to catch blue gill and bass. There were two sisters who had drowned there, but we would leave before their ghosts were said to come out with the darkness. Some nights my father would call up bob white quail and lure them to the edge of the porch. On Sundays we would drive over to Uncle Benny Tapscott’s farm in Buckingham County. He would let us go down to his spring house and bring back chilled watermelons and cantaloupe. We would eat them in the yard and spit the seeds on the ground.

Buckingham melons must have been delicious and spitting seeds an awful lot of fun!

In the Winter 2013 issue of Broadside (Library of Virginia), Hamner recalls his thrill when the first little library, “Friendship Corner,” was established in Schuyler. You can read about in “Why Membership Matters: From the Desk of Earl Hamner Jr.”:

Broadside (Winter 2013)

On April 2nd (6:30 pm) Hamner will appear at the Library of Virginia for a celebration of the gift of his private papers and manuscript collection.


Leave a Comment
  1. lancemfoster / May 19 2013 7:34 am

    I don’t know if you get email this way, but I just learned
    we are relatives, Mr. Hamner. As a little kid, I watched “The Twilight Zone”
    and our favorite episode was “The Hunt.” We also loved “Spencer’s Mountain”
    and later on, “The Waltons.” They are all part of the family “mythology”
    we believe in, you might say. And yet I never knew we were relatives. Later
    on as an adult, I watched “The Bewitchin Pool” (I am into folklore and old
    stories) and always thought the old woman reminded me of my great grandma
    Head. My mom’s grandma (my great grandma, I am almost 53 now) was Mary Elizabeth
    Hamner. I knew her as a little kid and we visited her at her house in Bellflower,
    California. She was a remarkable seamstress. We are relatives through my
    Grandma Head (Mom’s Grandma, the mother of Ava Lee, my mother’s mother) whose
    maiden name was Hamner. According to the family tree, you are her nephew,
    so you are a great uncle I never met. That is really amazing to me. To like
    your work so much, and then find out this. Purely amazing. We live in Montana,
    though my mom sadly passed away two years ago. I grew up writing and love
    the language. When I was younger, it was fiction, but as I got older, I turned
    to nonfiction. I have a few small published pieces here and there, but only
    one published book that I wrote and illustrated, called “The Indians of Iowa”
    (I am part Indian on my dad’s side). Anyways, just wanted to express my thanks
    and say hi while we are both on this earth 🙂 Lance Foster

    • Joanne Yeck / May 19 2013 8:08 am

      Hello Lance: Many thanks for your comment. You and I share Buckingham County roots and just might share some Iowa roots as well. When my Harris family left Buckingham, they settled in Decatur County, Iowa. Stories like yours are always heartwarming. Often, deep connections are revealed in the people, places, and things that resonate with us. I’m delighted that you found your way to Slate River Ramblings and realized your connection to Earl Hamner, Jr. He is truly a great voice for a way of life that many still remember and cherish. Who knows, one day, he might find his way to Slate Rive Ramblings and read your note. Stranger things have happened. You also might try writing to him at Joanne

  2. Bill Davidson / Mar 25 2013 2:59 pm

    One of Earl’s relatives had actually lived in Buckingham earlier. Ann Hamner Cobbs married Baker W. Davidson in Bedford Co., VA in 1827, and they then lived in Buckingham by the early-1830s. Ann was a daughter of John Lewis Cobbs,, Senior and Susannah Hamner. Ann’s brother, Nicholas Hamner Cobbs, was a chaplain at the University of Virginia, and he was later the Bishop of the first Episcopal diocese in Alabama.

    • Joanne Yeck / Mar 25 2013 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Bill. Following this post, I’m learning that lots of Earl’s kinfolk lived in Buckingham County. Watch for another post about the Hamners of Buckingham coming soon…

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