(GPS service is limited when in town)
Scan this QR box for directions.
|1964 Aerial Map of Schuyler, VA|
|Schuyler, VA 2017 (Photos Compliments of Wings Around America)|
|Click on descriptions or thumb nails below to see how the buildings look today..|
|C||Hamner Barn (Pictured below. Currently barn is not present)|
|D||"The Shed" Now The Waltons Mountain Country Store|
|E||Schuyler Baptist Church|
|F||The Alberene Stone Company|
|G||Schuyler School House (1931 ~ 1991) Walton's Mountian Museum (1992 ~ Present)|
|H||Former Schuyler School House (1902 ~ 1924)|
|I||"Ikes" Country Store|
|J||Schuyler Ball Field|
Below is an entry from Earl's blog from 2009 describing Schuyler and it's history.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
WELCOME TO SCHUYLER
We Virginians are not known for modesty in describing the virtues of our commonwealth. We are tempted to use such descriptive phrases as most beautiful, most legendary, most historic, most hospitable, mother of the most presidents but most of the time good manners finally overtake us and we simply say, “Why don’t y’all come to see us?”
Many of you have asked for information about how to get to my hometown and what to do when you get here. With summer upon us when you will probably be traveling I hope the following will be helpful:
Schuyler is located roughly in the very center of Virginia in Nelson County, an area rich in history and unspoiled beauty. Nelson is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the West and the James River to the east. A large portion of the western section of the county is the George Washington National Forest. To visit the area is to step back in time. A perfect destination for you to explore our way of life, our good food, our beautiful rivers and streams, and even our moonshine or “recipe” as we call it around here.
If you are traveling by air the closest airport is in Charlottesville. Wonderful things to see and do in Charlottesville, but we’re headed for Schuyler. You need to go south on Route 29. The road winds through scenic rural Virginia and rises almost imperceptibly because you are headed for mountain country. Neat farms, antique shops, gas stations, apple orchards, vegetable stands color the way. Frequently Virginia Historical Markers will point out the birthplace of our famous sons or daughters or the site of a long ago Civil War battle.
You have to look for it or you might miss it. Route 6. Turn left here. Slow down and take the time to decelerate, to leave the frantic pace of cities behind you and take the time to savor all the beauty and serenity that is ahead.
It would be easy to describe these places in terms of dates and statistics, but I want you to enjoy your visit to my home in a personal way. I want you to experience it as I have experienced it and have written about it in my books and on television.
This road holds family memories. My father came along here on a snowy Christmas Eve in 1933.
When the depression came the mill closed. Clay Spencer found work as a mechanist at the Du Pont Company in Waynesboro that was forty miles away. During the week he lived in a boarding house. He had no car so every Friday night he would take the Trailways bus that let him off at Hickory Creek. From here he would walk or hitchhike if a car happened past, the remaining six miles. From “The Homecoming.”
On this road Brother Jim once struck a deer on a sharp curve one foggy night and barely survived the encounter. Brother Cliff and I caught minnows under the Faber Bridge. We pass the old apple storage shed, then the Volunteer Fire Department building, past Faber, and the lovely Shiloh Baptist Church on the right hand side of the road. Soon we are in wild country of hardwood trees under-grown with dogwood and red bud – a sight in the spring that will lift your heart.
There may be a sign there indicating Schuyler or Irish Road. Keep going! You’re getting close to Route 800, and you will turn right and climb gently two miles up toward the village of Schuyler.
The first sign of human habitation you come upon is on the left -a row of neat frame houses with porches decorated with rocking chairs or even an old washing machine. Now the road bends sharply to the right and downhill. Suddenly you arrive at an open confusing area. A small white clapboard building to the left is the remains of the old Schuyler Post Office.
To get an overall picture of Schuyler of today you need to know that it is the relic of a company town, a mill town. It was built on soapstone. As it name implies soapstone is very soft. It’s most important ingredient is talc, the softest mineral. Because it is so easily quarried and shaped it was very useful as a building material. At a point it was discovered that the largest vein of soapstone in the world existed under what is now Schuyler and its surrounding area.
Commercial harvesting of soapstone had been underway at a nearby village called Alberene, but when it was determined that Schuyler sat on the motherlode of the stone the company moved its operation to Schuyler.
While its wages were low, overall the company was benign. It established a hospital with a resident doctor, a commissary where employees could “charge:” against their earnings, occasional dental service. Whole neighborhoods came into being, - rows of two story clapboard homes in areas called Goldmine, named after the site of an abandoned gold mine. Riverside Drive, named after the row of homes bordering a stretch of the Rockfish River and Stumptown, named after the number of stumps that had been left when the lumber for the buildings had been harvested.
The company and the village prospered until 1934 when the mill closed its doors throwing 450 employees out of work. One of them was my father.
This area was once the center of a thriving community. Next to the post office are the remains of what was once a company owned and operated restaurant and pool hall, facing you is a building that housed many of the company offices as well as a commissary, butcher shop and drug store. There is not a soul in sight. The village is deserted.
Not quite. Sometimes if you are fortunate you will find an employee of the present owner of the mill who will give you a tour. My Grandfather Colonel Anderson Gianinni worked in the carpenter shop. He built crates in which to ship the great slabs of soapstone. My father worked as a mechanist at a shop about an eighth of a mile to the left where he spent much of his time repairing the machines that cut and polished the stone.
Past the soapstone plant the road climbs upward and there at the top of the hill, pause for a moment, then cautiously (it’s on a blind curve) cross the road and park in front of the Walton Mountain B and B.
This is the ideal place to begin your exploration of Schuyler because it is the center of a triangle formed by the Hamner house, the Schuyler School and the Baptist Church. – The center of the three most influential forces on my life and my writing.
Stop and say hello to Scott Pound, one of the owners of the B and B. He is a genial host and will show you some of the rooms, which are handsomely and comfortably furnished with good Virginia antiques. With very little urging he will even take you by his show room – a store - where he has all sorts of Walton memorabilia, collectables, gifts, antique reproductions and primitive country décor as well as copies of my books, for sale – the only place in Schuyler where autographed copies of my books are available.
The B and B was known as Walker’s Store back in thee old days because it was operated by Willie Walker, the son of Schuyler Walker head of one of the earliest families to settle in the area who gave it the name of Schuyler. For many years the store was vacant and seeking escape from that multitude of brothers and sisters as a teenager I used to hideout there for the solitude I needed in which to write.
We do a lot of porch sitting in that part of the country. Have a seat on the deck of the B&B and look to your right: From here you have a good view of the Baptist Church. Back in those depression years, on any Sunday morning, you might have seen my brothers and sisters and me on our way to church.
With our hair combed and our faces scrubbed within an inch of our lives and all dressed up in our Sunday best, we would head for Sunday school. My sister Marion usually led the way. She was the feisty yon and often got in fights, usually when she was standing up for one of her younger brothers. From “A Joyful Noise”
Back in those primitive days I was frightened by blood and thunder, fire and brimstone preachers. But today I believe in the hands of our present minister, Pastor Tom Fowler, a more loving, more forgiving God may reside there. Pastor Tom is a friend and I know he would want to invite you to stop by and attend services. You should go inside just to see the restored Sanctuary, which is now as it was when I was a child. Large beams cross the worship space, tied together intricately, and ancient colored glass windows adorn the sanctuary, giving it a feeling of more expensive stained glass. It is simple, but eloquent, a plain country church, where my family went for worship every Sunday. The basement served as a temporary school for a period long ago, when the Schuyler Elementary School building burned to the ground. I was in the Second Grade that year and my homeroom was in the basement of the present building. My mother is remembered at the church by a simple soapstone plaque embedded in the outdoor pavilion.
On past the church there is an overgrown path that leads to where Drusilla’s Pond was located. After work my father used to take the whole gang fishing.
Each child had his own fishing pole, and you never heard such squealing and screaming as they started pulling in silver perch and sun perch and once in a while a bass or catfish. When the sun goes down something sinister comes over Druysilla’s Pond. Old skillpot turtles rise to the surface and like sentinels gaze out across the darkening water. Bullfrogs lurk along the shore and start their ghostly croaking. A while crane sweeps down and comes to rest on the trunk of a fallen tree. Long ago two of our cousins were drowned in the pond and if you dare to stay till darkness falls you might see poor Arlene and Eddie through the thick stand of pines that grow on the water’s edge. From “You Can’t Get There From Here.”.
Another landmark is just over the hill past the church. It is the site of Powerhouse Number One and the dam over the Rockfish is still a sight to see. Under the bridge used to be a dependable and productive fishing site. My father once caught a thirty-pound carp there. None of us ever actually saw the fish because he said he gave it away and we believed him. We had no reason to doubt him, but the story of the struggle to land the behemoth grew better, longer and more dramatic each time he told it.
Home. To me in spite of the passing time and the fact that no Hamner still lives it will always be all that the word implies. It is the place that I come from. It was where during a desperate time in our national history my mother and father raised eight children and gave us the love and security to face an uncertain future.
Take a moment and look up through the wisteria arch to the while clapboard house with the porch that extends across the font. This is what is now known as the Hamner House, and indeed we did live there for most of our lives. Today it is owned by a caring and civic-minded Virginian, Pamela Rutherford. The house was built in 1925 as a residence for employees of the Alberene Stone Company. When the company closed because of the depression my father bought the house for five hundred dollars. By 1970’s it had fallen into disrepair and my brother, Jim, the last family member to live there, had moved out. Even the underpinning of soapstone was collapsing. To her everlasting credit, Mrs. Rutherford bought the house and is doing an incredible job of restoring it and has even managed to have it listed as one of Virginia’s historic home. The restoration of the house is a work in progress with much interior painting and furnishing still to come. If you had looked through the kitchen window when I was still a boy you would have seen the family at breakfast.
They were seated at a table nine feet long. Clay had built it himself and it was flanked on either side by wooden benches. There were eight children in all. Each one had red hair, but on each head the shade of red was different. Each of them was small of bone and lean. Some of them were freckled and some were not and some had the brown eyes of their father and some had their mother’s green eyes, but on each of them there was some stamp of grace of build and movement, and it was this that Clay voiced when he said, as he often did, “Every one of my babies is a thoroughbred. You ever in y our life see any thing so pretty?”
Olivia looked up from the frying pan where she was frying eggs to each individual’s liking, and said, “If I had my way my children would never grow up. I’d just keep them little for the rest of their lives.” From “Spencer’s Mountain.”
When I was growing up there each of us had chores to do. It has been torn down now but back in those days there was a barn at the far end of the yard. As the eldest it became my duty to milk the family cow when my father went off to Waynesboro to work.
Clay-Boy sat on a three-legged stool, while he milked the Guernsey cow, Chance his head resting tightly in her flanks. It wasn’t a job he minded. The cow placidly chewed her mash, occasionally giving him a companionable flick of her tail. Once she turned and lowed briefly and examined him with her dark, serious, luminous eyes, thanking him, Clay-Boy supposed, for the extra bucket of mash he had given her since it was Christmas Eve. From “The Homecoming.”
Look up to the house from the front yard and picture a boy seated behind the window to the right. He is tall and thin and red headed. He is working at a desk he has constructed himself and he is writing with a pencil in a Big Five tablet. It is his deepest yearning to be a writer, and toward that end he is keeping a journal, a record of the weather, of observations about people, all those events that make up his day, his deepest feelings which he shares with no one and consequently he hides the tablet under the mattress of his bed.
What in the world would anybody hide a tablet for?
Mama, I’ve got a right to some kind of privacy around here.
Is it something you’re ashamed of?
Then why are you hiding it?
Know what’s in this tablet, Mama? All my secret thoughts, how I feel and what I think about. What its like late at night to hear a whippoorwill call and its mate call back, The rumble of the midnight train crossen the trestle at Rockfish, watchen water go by in the creek and knowen that someday it will reach the ocean and wondering if some day I will ever see an ocean and what a wonder that would be. Sometimes I hike over to the highway and watch the busses go by and all the people in them and wonder what they’re like and what they say to each other and where they’re bound for.
I do vow.
If things had been different, sometime I think I might have become a writer.
Can’t you still, son?
It takes a college education, Mama; I don’t see much chance of that.
From the film of “The Homecoming.”
Across the road, where the Post Office is now, there was a pasture where we kept our cow, Chance. It had once been an orchard and there were a few crab apple trees still alive. I remembember a special morning in spring and I described it in “Spencer’s Mountain.”
Suddenly a flock of goldfinches flew into the orchard, thousands of little golden bundles that might have been flung from the morning sun into the pale green fog-damp orchard. They would cling to the young branches, fill the air with their canary-like warbling long enough to announce the new day and then disperse to their separate chores of eating or singing or courting. Each spring they came to the orchard and some mornings they came in such number that the pale green leaves would be concealed and the trees would become a swaying mass of gold and singing.
I remember going to sleep in that house. You would expect way out there in the country the night would be quiet but not so.
Outside the night was filled with sound. The high mechanical screech of the cicada was a metallic din that gradually fell silent. A turtledove called. His mate answered, far off, and then her voice sounded again and his voice called out, closer now. In the distance, flowing over the pine trees from the swamp, past the pond, came the thousand-voice choir of frogs. Once only came the saddest sound in the world, the single unanswered voice of a whippoorwill, but there was no one to hear it. Everyone in the house was asleep.
In memory I say goodnight to that house. I hear the slap of a screen door closing for the night. Inside the children finish their homework and prepare for bed. After the last light is out they call good night to each other. Three thousand miles and seventy years away I still hear those sweet voices.
On the very last episode of The Waltons when the story has been told there is a shot of the house and as the lights fade to dark, John-Boy as a man reads the following:
I had returned to the mountains once again to find the inspiration I needed to write. Soon I was back in New York City, laboring over yet another book, and because of the renewed courage they brought me; I would never forget all the people I had known there. I hope you’ll remember this house as I do. The mystical blue ridges that stretch beyond it into infinity’ the sound of warm voices drifting out upon the night air, a family waiting, and a light in the window. Goodnight.
As we leave my old home and continue up the road we go past what was once my old school that now houses The Walton Museum. The center room facing the road was traditionally the senior’s room. In the graduating class of 1940 we were Lynette Bradshaw, Verdie Hamilton, Jean Kidd, Elaine Mawyer, Edith Drumheller Ragland, Jane Rainey, Louise Rainey, Christine Shumaker, Estelle Thomas, Elsie Tillman, Dorothy Witt and me, the only boy in the class! Remembering my graduation day I wrote this closing narration for ‘The Graduation” episode of The Waltons.”
JOHN BOY AS A MAN
We could not have known on that day the momentous events that were to follow. But that small school and those teachers had prepared us and that preparation helped sustain us through those turbulent years, through war through depression, the death of kings and presidents and through those lesser day to day experiences which added together make up the fabric of our lives.
To the left of the schoolhouse was the basketball court. In my senior year I had a desperate crush on the teacher, Miss Elsie Mayo, who coached the girl’s basketball team. It was my first love affair and I wrote about it in my book “Generous Women.”
Her blonde hair moved in a constantly changing pattern of beauty as she moved alongside the members of the team calling out encouragement. To my anguish I learned that she was dating the boy’s gym instructor, T. Dan Gusmerotti. He was dark and handsome and I hated him. At the senior dance I finally managed to dance with Miss Elsie. That voluptuous blonde hair touched my cheek. My feet behaved, and carried away with ecstasy, I began to croon!
‘Careless, now that you’ve got me loving you,
You’re careless, careless in everything you do…
She seemed unaware of the depth of my passion and kept looking over my shoulder to T. Dan Gusmerotti. I am sure she had no idea how heartbroken I was when at the end of the school year she married the man!
The long wooden building to the left of the basketball court was the earliest school in the community. Today it has been turned into residential units. A few hundred feet up the road to the left is a small convenience store and filling station that has become a landmark. Back in the early days it was owned by a family named Sneed. It was the inspiration for Ike Godsey’s Country store on “The Waltons.” Ike’s wife, Corabeth was the only person on the mountain who hated it. She used to call it “this cultural backwater!” Do stop by and say hello or buy some gas or an ice cream.
Continuing on past the store for only a hundred or so feet is a road that goes left. Just in sight down this road is the building where I was born. Back then it was a hospital operated by the Alberene Stone Corporation. Today it is a private residence. Treasured friends still live there.
Other houses along this stretch include the Baptist Parsonage, The Morris House where my Aunt Bessie lived with her husband, Sam Morris and their childen, The Hamner House that was once the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Hamner.
The last house along this road to the left is the Norvell house. My father’s sister, Lily, said to be the most beautiful of the Hamner girls married Ernest Norvel. All of the family has gone except for one daughter who still lives there. Nearby is the family graveyard where my grandparents, Cliff and Susan Henry Hamner, my mother and father, Earl and Doris Hamner and some others dear to me are at rest.
Stay on this road and you are now on your way to Rockfish and I have to make a confession. As I wrote my stories and books I needed a small town nearby to Walton’s Mountain and while I did not invent Rockfish I did enhance it a bit. In truth is one lonely little building – a former post office - with one chair sitting on the porch. But it is worth the trip because you are now on one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Virginia.
Much of the way you will be adjacent to the Rockfish River. Today the river is a placid stream that moves gently along its rocky bed, but 1969 it turned into a monster. Hurricane Camille dropped torrents of rain that causes catastrophic damage to all of Nelson County and especially along this stretch of the river. Homes, barns, livestock. trucks, trailer homes and people were caught in its mighty flood and swept away. In Nelson alone some one hundred and twenty eight people lost their lives.
Often visitors are so taken with the area they want to move there. Pick up a copy of Nelson County Life (it’s free and fun to read) for listings of some of the wonderful homes for sale in the area.
Pride compels me to urge you to ask for directions to The Earl Hamner Theater. At the visitor’s center they will know the schedule of what music or theater is available while you are in the area. Enjoy!
Before leaving Lovingston, be sure to stop by the Lovingston Cafe for lunch, dinner, or a snack. The food is down home and the waitress may address you as “Honey” but like the rest of us, she just wants you to feel at home, as welcome as the flowers in May, and that if you have the time we hope you will stay a while.
Where the River Road meets Route 29 you also have the option of turning right. You are now twenty-six miles from Charlottesville, two hours by car from Richmond and three hours from Washington, D.C. Ahead are picturesque small towns, museums, theaters, parks, hotels, restaurants, country inns, wineries, and shopping venues, are waiting for you.
And as we say to all departing visitors, “Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves as much as we enjoyed having you. Y’all come back soon, you hear?”