Episode 18 - The Family Tree

(9 February 1978)
Teleplay: Thomas Hood.
Story: Thomas Hood and Joyce Perry.
Director: Lawrence Dobkin.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"As the 1930s became the war years of the 1940s, an awakening came to our small community, an awareness of the world beyond our Blue Ridge mountains. There began a reaching out to touch people and places and knowledge we had never considered before".


Elizabeth is writing letters to Arnold Kevin stationed at Camp Lee after seeing a Rockfish newspaper article asking people to write soldiers. Secretively she is telling him that she is eighteen years old after reasoning he would be more interested rather than if she wrote as a twelve years old. Erin tells Elizabeth not to deceive the soldier. But Elizabeth continues to write Kevin telling Ike he is Erin’s boyfriend.


Jason gives Verdie Foster a ride to the church so she can transplant flowers to the grave of her father. She discusses how little she knows about her family. She admits to Jason she feels ‘adrift like a balloon let loose’. One of the few reminders she possesses is a wooden box of her father’s favorite things. Verdie desires to know more of her family’s past and asks Jason for help in playing detective.


After supper Jason asks Grandpa about Verdie’s parents. Wondering why Verdie asked him to help locate information, Grandpa tells Jason there are doors that are open to him that are not open to her. While they talk, Verdie opens her father’s wooden box and cries about the memories it brings back. She discovers a medallion and wonders what it is. Verdie announces to Harley that she will find all she can about her family. Harley knows he can not stop her but recommends she forget about the idea and warns his wife about the world outside Waltons Mountain. Verdie walks to the Waltons to tell Jason she has found a clue. He agrees to help her in the morning. While at the Jefferson County Court House they find that her mother (Ethel Harris) was born at 12 Elm Place in Brightwood. The detectives drive to the address and find Mrs. Nelson who remembers that Verdie and her family lived upstairs to them forty years ago. Her husband, Frank, remembers that after Verdie was born her father took a train to Scottsville to visit his parents’ grave.


John tells Jason that the records from Scottsville’s City Hall were destroyed in a flood in the year 1922. Jason instead decides to visit churches for their records. The next day at a cemetery in Scottsville Jason finds a grave marker showing Albert Harris was born on March 15, 1831. Verdie finds that the adjoining marker states ‘Etta Harris – Beloved wife of Albert’. Verdie has found her grandparents. Inside the church the sexton show them their records. When Verdie shows him the medallion he says he has seen it worn by slaves who were brought over from Africa. When reviewing the records Verdie finds that Etta died on August 23, 1887 and Albert died five days later at 18 Maxwell Road, Scottsville, Virginia. Jason suggests the address could possibly be the home of the family that previously owned them. They visit that estate where Miss Estelle Unwin ungraciously demands they leave her property. She is bitter about losing so much from the war and refuses to allow Verdie access to her records. Verdie turns her back upset at the woman’s words.


Elizabeth hangs out at Ike’s store waiting for the mail to arrive hoping for a letter from her soldier friend. But unexpectedly a soldier arrives looking for directions to the Waltons. Elizabeth runs out of the store knowing this soldier is Arnold Kevin. Ike tells the soldier to go past the pond in order to find the Waltons’ home. Elizabeth answers the front door when Arnold knocks and he realizes Elizabeth is twelve years old. But he stays for supper happy to be eating with a family similar to his own family back on a farm in Ohio.


Jason confesses to Grandpa the problem he and Verdie encountered with Miss Unwin. Grandpa feels he will be able to help because he is closer to her age and knows how important position and tradition are to Miss Unwin. The next day the trio visits Miss Unwin. Grandpa compliments her ability to preserve the heritage of her family. Verdie adds that it was her heritage, too, and states, ‘Your family owned mine!’ Miss Unwin finally allows them to enter her house to view historical records stored in the attic. After fruitlessly searching the records Verdie is about to give up when she locates a drawing book inside a desk. Mary Emma Unwin painted the drawings. One of the drawings depicts Seth Ado, who was renamed Randolph Harris, and his baby son called Albert. It was dated September 1832. Hanging from Randolph’s neck is the medallion. Verdie has found her grandfather and her great grandfather. Verdie vows to search further and will cross the ocean to find her deeper roots.


"All the dreams that were born in those early years on Waltons Mountain were not fulfilled. But whatever we people on the mountain may or may not have accomplished in life, we were held together, and still are, by the knowledge of ourselves as families. Our roots go deep, and we try our best to keep them nourished and healthy for the generations yet to come".


John: 'Bout time to turn in, Jason.
Jason: I was just thinkin' about today, Daddy. Verdie findin' all her relatives.
Olivia: She won't ever again have that all alone feelin'.
Erin: That's something nobody in this family has to worry about.
Mary Ellen: Including John Curtis we have four generations under one roof!
Elizabeth: Grandpa, do we have a family tree?
Grandpa: Have it? Elizabeth, we live in it! (chuckles) Goodnight everybody!



The grave marker of Verdie Foster’s father is ‘Edward Harris 1868-1940’. His nickname is ‘Ned’.

Verdie’s mother (Ethel) was buried alongside her husband (Edward). (No birth or death dates were provided about Ethel.)

Mr. and Mrs. Nelson live at 12 Elm Place in Brightwood, Virginia.

 Besides her husband (Harley), son (Jodie), and stepson (Josh), Verdie also has a sister and daughter; both who live far away. Verdie’s daughter, Esther, is introduced in The Illusion (season 7, episode 8).

Verdie was born at three-thirty on the morning of October 11, 1898 at 12 Elm Place in Brightwood, Virginia. Her father, Edward, was thirty years old at the time of her birth.

Verdie’s grandfather (Albert Harris) was born on March 15, 1831 and died on August 28, 1887 at 18 Maxwell Road, Scottsville, Virginia. The record showed he was born a slave and died a free man.

Verdie’s grandmother (Etta Harris) died on August 23, 1887 and was buried two days later. Her husband (Albert) died five days after she died. (No birth date was mentioned about Etta.)

Miss Estelle Unwin lives at 18 Maxwell Road, Scottsville, Virginia about five or six miles down the main road from the church where Verdie’s grandparents are buried.

Arnold Kevin mentions he has four sisters and a grandfather on a farm in Ohio.

The painting book at the Unwin estate showed drawings by Mary Emma Unwin. Some of the paintings were of her sister Alice Ann (dated June 10, 1829) and her father Thomas (dated January 2, 1829).

Verdie’s great-grandfather (Seth Ado) was renamed Randolph Harris by the Unwin family.


Also appearing:

Joe Conley (Ike Godsey)

Lynn Hamilton (Verdie Foster)

Hal Williams (Harley Foster)

Pauline Myers (Mrs. Nelson)

Davis Roberts (Frank Nelson)

Vernon Washington (The Sexton)

Donald Petrie (Arnold Kevin)

Amzie Strickland (The Clerk)

Ernestine Barrier (Miss Estelle Unwin)

William Washington (The Gardener)