Author: Carrie O'Brien

a writer in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a graduate of the University of Richmond

Julia Magruder (1854–1907)

Julia Magruder was the author of sixteen novels, many short stories, and a number of essays on social issues. In her writings throughout her life, she often defended the South against outside criticism. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, she lived most of her life in Washington, D.C., but traveled widely in Europe and had a vast circle of friends that included her cousin, Helen Magruder, who became Lady Abinger of Inverlochy Castle, Scotland; and the Virginia novelist Amélie Rives. Magruder’s novels, mostly written for young female readers seeking marriage and romance, usually follow a heroine who must overcome slight obstacles to marry her true love.


Earl Hamner Jr. (1923–2016)

Earl Hamner Jr. was a writer of novels, television shows, and movies, most notably the popular semiautobiographical television series The Waltons (1972–1981). Born in Nelson County, Hamner served in the Army during World War II (1939–1945) before attending Northwestern University and the University of Cincinnati. He then worked in radio and television, writing scripts for The Twilight Zone and novels based on his Virginia upbringing. Hamner’s hardscrabble experiences growing up in a large family in depression-era Schuyler informed his 1961 novel Spencer’s Mountain, and its film adaptation starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara. In 1972 it was adapted for television as The Waltons, each episode of which famously ended with family members wishing one another goodnight. Hamner also created the series Falcon Crest, which ran from 1981 to 1990. He died in Los Angeles in 2016.


Barter Theatre

The Barter Theatre, located in the Blue Ridge highlands of Abingdon, Virginia, was founded by Robert Porterfield in 1933 and designated the State Theater of Virginia in 1946. It is the longest-running professional Equity theater in the nation. (The Actors’ Equity Association is a live-theater labor union.) Opening its doors in the midst of the Great Depression, Barter earned its name by allowing patrons to pay the admission price with produce, dairy products, or livestock. The shows were sometimes forced to compete with the noise that accompanied bartered livestock. On occasion, the theater also paid playwrights, such as Tennessee Williams and Thornton Wilder, Virginia hams for their works rather than standard royalties. George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian, demanded to be paid in spinach. The theater expanded in 1961, opening a second stage across the street, and has earned a national reputation through touring companies and its association with many prominent and influential actors, including Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, and Kevin Spacey. The Barter Theatre won a Tony Award in 1948 for Best Regional Theater.