Hamner Family

Those of us of a certain age (!) remember The Waltons television show from the 1970s. The characters on the show were modeled on the Hamner family of Schuyler, Virginia. “The Homecoming,” the original story on which the show was based, was written by Earl Hamner, Jr., the eldest son of the family, who died on March 24, 2017. This essay is written in memory of Mr. Hamner. — JLC

Five individuals from the Hamner family attended the University of Virginia in its first fifty years.

In session 6 (1829-1830), Austin M. Hamner (28 Jul. 1806-23 Sept. 1849[1]) attended the University, studying Chemistry & Mathematics, Medicine, and Anatomy & Surgery.  Austin was the son of William Hamner (ca. 1770-1831) of Albemarle County, and his wife, Elizabeth Bradley (b.1789). Sometime about 1840, Dr. Austin M. Hamner and his brother Samuel settled in Maury County, Tennessee. (History of Tennessee, p. 757) Dr. Hamner married Ann Eliza (Anthony) Whittle (1821-1860), and they had at least one daughter. In 1849, Dr. Hamner died in Columbia, Tennessee, and is buried in Todd Cemetery, in Maury County, TN.

Thomas L. Hamner (10 Mar. 1806-3 Aug. 1854) was the son of Thomas L. Hamner of Charlotte County, Virginia. He attended the University of Virginia in session 6 (1829-1830), where he studied Ancient Languages and Natural Philosophy. At one point that year Thomas Hamner the younger was in danger of being sent home for not attending his Ancient Language classes. However, at a meeting of the Faculty, a misunderstanding was cleared up:

Upon reconsideration of the case of Mr. Thomas L. Hamner, it appearing from the statement of the Professor of Ancient Languages, that an important error had been committed in the report of the number of times Mr. Hamner was absent during the month; and his general character and department being favourably represented to the Faculty. Resolved, that the resolution of the Faculty adopted with respect to him at the last meeting be rescinded. (Minutes of the Faculty, p. 563-564)

After his year at U.Va. , Thomas attended Jackson Male Academy (now Union University), in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1830, though he did not graduate. (Raymond) He became a clergyman in the Presbyterian Church, and served as the church’s General Agent of the American Sunday School Union. His home and headquarters were in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 1850 U.S. Census shows him in the household with his wife, Harriet, and three children, Thomas L. Hamner, Jr., Mary Hamner, and William Hamner.

Rev. Thomas L. Hamner died suddenly at his home in 1854. (Daily national era. (Washington, D.C.), 04 Aug. 1854; Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), 7 Aug. 1854)

Wyatt Wingfield Hamner (16 Oct 1818-18 Aug. 1869) was a son of Charles Wingfield Hamner of Albemarle County, VA, and his wife, Sally Allen Chambers (b.1792). (History of Union County, KY) He attended the University of Virginia in sessions 16-17 (1840-1842), where he studied Chemistry, Medicine, and Anatomy & Surgery. Dr. Wyatt Hamner began the practice of medicine in Appomattox County, Virginia.

He married Jane Margaret Bramham (1818-1899) on 11 Nov. 1840, (Vogt & Keithley) and the couple had several children, including William Palmer, Nimrod Bramham, Edward C., Cornelius Wyatt, Marshall D., Charles R., Wyatt James, and Sally A. Hamner. During the Civil War, Dr. Wyatt W. Hamner served the Confederacy as a surgeon. In 1869, he died at Lynchburg, Virginia, and is buried there at Spring Hill Cemetery.

William Palmer Hamner (20 Dec. 1841-28 Jun. 1920) and Nimrod Bramham Hamner (14 Aug 1844-14 Sep. 1862) were two sons of Wyatt Wingfield Hamner (above), and his wife, Jane Margaret Bramham. William Palmer attended the University of Virginia in sessions 35-36 (1858-1860); Nimrod attended in sessions 35-38 (1858-1862).

When the Civil War began, William Palmer Hamner enlisted in May 1861, in Company B, 19th Virginia Infantry. After the battle of Seven Pines near Richmond in 1862, there were many advertisements in the Richmond newspapers, begging for information about their missing loved ones. The Daily Dispatch of 5 June 1862 included the following:

[Advertisement.] Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 5 June 1862, p. 3.

Luckily, William had only been taken prisoner at the battle of Seven Pines on June first. In his POW record, William P. Hamner is described as “age 20, 5 feet, 6 inches, brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion.” (service jacket) By the Battle of Gettysburg, in July 1863, William had been paroled or escaped, for he was listed as wounded in that battle. He was elected to 2nd Lieutenant and put on conscript duty starting in September 1863, continuing in that duty until at least September 1864. His highest rank in the army was 1st Lieutenant. William was captured at Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865, and sent to Johnson’s Island as a prisoner of war. He was released “on oath” 18 June, 1865.

In the 1870 census, William and his wife, Nancy (b. ca. 1858), were located in Kentucky, and he was employed as a schoolteacher. According to the censuses, William and Nancy had at least three children, Louis E. Hamner, Sallie L. Hamner, and Ben Hamner. In the 1910 census, William and Nancy were living with their son Ben, still in Kentucky, but in 1920, they were living in Blytheville, Arkansas, with Louis. William Palmer Hamner died in 1920, and was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, in Blytheville, Arkansas.

Nimrod B. Hamner, called ‘B’ by his family, joined the University Volunteers in the spring of 1861, and in July 1861, the company set out for the Kanawha Valley (now WV) with the Wise Legion. Later that month, he returned to the University and took his examination in Senior Mathematics. (Johnson)

While in the Volunteers, ‘B’ had met a distant cousin named Benjamin Hamner, and they had become fast friends. Benjamin had joined Company B, 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment, and was killed in the Battle of Williamsburg. On June 3, 1862, “B” enlisted in his brother’s unit and the unit of his friend Benjamin, Company B of the 19th Virginia, saying “Pa, I must go into the service. Ben has fallen and his place is vacant. I will take his place and avenge his fall.” (Johnson, p. 278)

Nimrod B. Hamner, age 17, served with his unit during battles from Richmond to Boonsboro, Maryland. After the battle at Boonsboro, he was not to be found. His brother William wrote home that he had been unable to hear anything definite about his brother.  Nothing further was heard until one of ‘B’s classmates sent his parents a message, that he “had met ‘B’ in the thickest of the fight at Boonsboro. He seemed very glad to see him [the classmate], but said he had no time to talk then. Just as they separated, [‘B’] was struck by a shell and killed instantly.” His body was not found, and he had no formal burial. (Johnson, p. 279)

[1] Austin M. Hamner’s tombstone has the death date of 21 Sep. 1849 (Findagrave.com). The date 23 Sep. 1849 is calculated from the obituary printed in the 12 Oct. 1849 issue of Western Weekly Review (Franklin, TN) (transcribed 2004 by Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith, http://www.tngenweb.org/records/williamson/obits/wwr/wwr2-01.htm.).


  • 1850-1920 U.S. Federal Census. FamilySearch.org
  • [Advertisement.] Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 5 June 1862, p. 3.
  • Barringer, Paul. University of Virginia; its history, influence, equipment, and characteristics. v.2. New York, 1904, p. 29.
  • [Death Notices.] Western Weekly Review (Franklin, TN), 12 Oct. 1849; transcribed 2004 by Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith, http://www.tngenweb.org/records/williamson/obits/wwr/wwr2-01.htm.
  • Daily national era. (Washington, D.C.), 04 Aug. 1854. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86053546/1854-08-04/ed-1/seq-2/
  • Goodman, Roger, Albemarle County, Virginia – Working Research [database online] (2017) http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=SRCH&db=albemarle-va&surname=A
  • Hamner tombstones, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Findagrave.com
  • History of Tennessee. Nashville, TN, 1886, p. 757.
  • [Letter to the Editor, and enclosures] Richmond Enquirer (VA), 8 May 1849, p.4.
  • “N. B. Hamner,” in Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865, in Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of VirginiaRecord Group 109, M324, Roll 621.
  • “Nimrod Branham Hamner,” in Johnson, John Lipscomb, University Memorial of Alumni of the University of Virginia who fell in the Confederate War. Baltimore, 1871, p. 275-279.
  • [Obituary, T. L. Hamner], Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), 7 Aug. 1854, p. 2.
  • Raymond, Andrew Van Vranken, Union University: its history, influence, characteristics and equipment. New York, 1907, v.3 p. 66.
  • University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • University of Virginia. Minutes of the Faculty of the University of Virginia, v. 1-2, 12 April 1825-16 July 1830, p. 561, 563-564.
  • “Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X56R-265 : 5 December 2014), Wyatt W Hamner in entry for Sally A Hamner, 09 Jul 1862; citing Albermarle, Virginia, United States, reference item 1 p 151; FHL microfilm 2,046,908.
  • “Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X5F9-9J2 : 5 December 2014), Wyatt W Hamner in entry for Marshall H Hamner, 20 May 1856; citing Appomattox, Virginia, United States, reference p 30; FHL microfilm 2,046,912.
  • Vogt, John & Keithley, T. William, Jr., Albemarle County, Virginia Marriages, 1780-1853. Athens, GA, 1991, v. 1, page 148.
  • “W. P. Hamner,” in Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1865, in Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of VirginiaRecord Group 109, M324, Roll 621.
  • “William Clopton Hamner,” in History of Union County, Kentucky. Evansville, IN, 1886, p. 539-540.
  • Woods, Edgar, Albemarle County in Virginia. Harrisonburg, VA, 1901, p. 214-215.
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