Ep.18 - The Family Tree

  Original Airdate: February 9, 1978
Teleplay: Thomas Hood
Story: Thomas Hood and Joyce Perry
Director: Lawrence Dobkin


  Verdie Foster desires to learn more about her father's family and asks Jason for his help. Elizabeth writes to a soldier at Camp Lee and gets more than she bargained for.


  "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."


Written by Janet Lange

Verdie is collecting flowers when Jason drives up and offers to give her a lift down to the church where she plants flowers around her Daddy’s grave. She talk about her past while they plant the flowers and she tells Jason that she does’t really know who she is or where she comes from.

Erin, Elizabeth, Jason and Grandpa are in the kitchen. Jason tells Grandpa that Verdie wants him to help her find out more about her history.

Verdie looks through an old box of pictures and papers of her father’s which includes an old medallion. Harley comes in starving and looking for his meal that Verdie forgot to prepare. She tells Harley she has decided to try and find out all she can about her family. Harley tries to talk her out of it but she is determined to go about her search.

Jason plays his recorder on the porch as Verdie comes up and tells him about the clue she has found. Jason agrees to help her follow the lead in the morning.

On their way to Brightwood, Jason and Verdie talk and she shows him the medallion.

At the Jefferson County Records office the clerk tries to tell them there is no point in looking through the birth records because “those people” didn’t even know how to read or write and most likely didn’t keep records. Jason and Verdie are not going to be deterred or stop for anything. They find the details of Verdie’s birth record. She was born at 3:30 am on October 11th, 1898 at 12 Elm Place to Edward and Ethel Harris.

Jason and Verdie pull up to what was once her childhood home. She meets a husband and wife who remember her! They talk and share some hospitality but they can’t really help her with her daddy’s family. He just didn’t talk much about his family and past. When she shows Mr. Nelson the medallion he gets real quiet and is not sure what to say or think about it. Then he remembers that Verdie’s grandparents died in an epedemic and are buried in Scottsville.

Outside as they get back in the car Jason and Verdie talk about solving her mystery.

Jason talks to Daddy on the porch about going to Scottsville with Verdie in the morning. Grandpa comes out and sits down. Daddy reveals that there was a flood in 1915 and the records before then where destroyed. Jason says they will go through the cemeteries and try to find a head stone. Jason realizes after studying the dates that Verdie’s grandpa must have been a slave.

At Verdie’s house Harley tries again to talk Verdie out of her search. He says that the further back in time and the deeper she digs the uglier she’ll find things.

Verdie and Jason search a couple cemeteries with no luck and then suddenly find some old tombstones leaning against the fence. She finds her grandparents Albert and Etta Harris.

The church has old records which they look at to collect more information. The man there reveals that the medallion is one like slaves from Africa had on when they came to America.

They find the family name Unwin attached to her grandfather’s death record. They inquire about the name with the church pastor who directs them to the house where Albert her grandfather was born. Jason and Verdie talk about slavery and how it’s hard to talk about it. They are not welcome when the lady of the house sees them. She tells them to go away, she is bitter and hard because of the war and all that her family lost due to the outcome. Verdie becomes upset and doesn’t want to continue.

Jason brushes Chance in the barn. Grandpa comes in and asks about Verdie and what happened. Grandpa suggests that he try and talk to Miss Estelle.

Grandpa, Jason and Verdie show up at the Unwin place. Grandpa tries to reason with Estelle. They try to convince Estelle that her family OWNED Verdie’s. Somehow they crack through her tough exterior and Estelle agrees to let them look at the records in her attic.

Jason and Verdie look at some old records that unfortunately had suffered from rain damage and are ineligible. Verdie comes to terms with it being an end but then they look in a desk and find a book containing several drawn portraits of family and slaves. They find a picture of a man named Seth who was renamed Rudolph with his son Albert. Verdie has found a picture of her grandfather AND great grandfather. Jason leaves Verdie to see if Estelle will give the image to her.

Verdie and Jason talk be the river. Verdie desires to go across the ocean to learn more about her people someday or maybe her children or their children will go if she can’t.

Secondary Story:


Erin and Elizabeth are in their room. Elizabeth writes to a Pen Pal solider at Camp Lee named Arnold Kevin, she is pretending to be 18 and wants to put some of Erin’s perfume on the letter. Erin is not sure about Elizabeth pretending to be 18 but Elizabeth thinks it’s better than stating that she is 12.

Elizabeth goes to Ike’s to mail her letter. Ike smells the perfume on the letter and she tells Ike that its Erin’s letter and that she has a boyfriend who is a soldier.

On the porch, Jim Bob teases Elizabeth about writing to a soldier and says that she should send a picture of herself to Arnold Kevin. Elizabeth goes up to her room. She looks at herself in the mirror but when she doesn’t like what she sees she takes a picture of Erin off the mirror to send in her next letter which she then sits down to write.

Elizabeth mails another letter to Arnold Kevin down at Ike’s store.

At Ike’s Elizabeth is waiting around for the mail when Arnold Kevin comes in. Elizabeth runs off leaving Ike to tell Arnold how to find the house.

At the house Elizabeth tells Erin that Arnold is on his way and that she needs help. When he arrives at the door Elizabeth admits to Arnold that she is the one who write him the letters.

Arnold joins the family for dinner. Daddy teases Elizabeth but Arnold is glad for a family meal after being away from his home in Ohio for more than a year.


  "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."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • 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" (e7-ep8)
  • Verdie's birth record spells her name as "Verdi" without the "e"

Additional Cast:



Guest Star: Ernestine Carroll(Miss Estelle Unwin) with: Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Lynn Hamilton (Verdie Foster), Hal Williams (Harley Foster), Paulene Myers (Mrs. Nelson), Davis Roberts (Frank Nelson),Donald Petrie (Arnold Kevin), Vernon Washington (The Sexton), William Washington (Gardener)

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