The real Jim-Bob Walton was the last Hamner to live in the family home
The house was in the family for more than a century. It sold for a shockingly low price in 2003.
The Waltons episode "The Burden" shows Jim-Bob doing what he's seemingly always doing: working on his car.
The youngest Walton boy dedicated nearly all his time to building a car from scratch and fans of the show know the mechanically gifted kid got that thing up and running by the show's end.
But before that, in "The Burden," Jim-Bob crawls under the car for the billionth time only to have it fall down on him, nearly killing him. He's so shaken by the accident, the near-death experience leads the young boy to consider a life as a minister.
Playing Jim-Bob Walton was David W. Harper, a kid whose actor father, Paul Harper, helped him get his first gig alongside Ernest Borgnine just a year before he joined The Waltons. Not many TV fans knew who Harper was, and out of all the Waltons kids, the actor is perhaps the quietest about his time on the show.
You see, Harper wasn't much like Jim-Bob, even though he played him so well. Sure, Harper could play drums and guitar, and he could carry a tune, like Jim-Bob. But he didn't like playing music as much as he liked horseback riding or target shooting. When Harper left the set, he usually was excited to get back to his real family, who enjoyed these more thrilling activities, too, and let him play his favorite band Led Zeppelin as loud as he wanted to.
But even if David W. Harper playing exactly himself as Jim-Bob, there was a "real Jim-Bob Walton."
The man who inspired the character was Jim Hamner, Earl Hamner Jr.'s youngest brother. For the tens of thousands of fans who flocked to Hamner's hometown of Schuyler, Virginia, Jim might've been the most familiar face of all the Hamner kids.
You see, Jim Hamner was not only the last Hamner to leave the nest as the youngest, but he also was the last Hamner ever living in the historic family home. It was a small 1,469-square-foot house that had been in their family for more than a century.
The story goes that when fans would come to Schuyler to visit the Walton's Mountain Museum located in town, they would often ask around for Jim, and when they visited the Hamner family home, Jim would be there to say hello.
Everyone considered him "local royalty."
Jim didn't see himself as a celebrity at all. He'd joined the Army as a young man, and then built a sensible career, spending 35 years as a systems analyst for the University of Virginia Hospital before he retired.
Most of that time he lived in the Hamner home, doing all the upkeep himself.
Then in 2003, Jim fell ill. He had some heart trouble and issues due to emphysema. He no longer felt up to keeping the old Hamner home, and for the first time in more than 100 years, he became the one Hamner who couldn't hold onto the house any longer, putting it up for sale.
At an auction in 2003, the house sold for $122,000, a shockingly small price for such a large legacy.
On The Waltons, Jim-Bob notably lost his twin brother in the womb and was possibly the closest with Elizabeth, the youngest Walton daughter. He and John-Boy, the character modeled after Earl Hamner Jr., didn't always get along.
In real life, Jim Hamner could be argumentative too, making headlines in 2002 when the board of the Walton's Mountain Museum tried to push Jim out as the chairman. This wasn't the family's first squabble with the museum, but this particular disagreement did ruffle more feathers than any prior fight.
Earl Jr. promptly stood up for his brother, writing, "I learned recently that while representing me, a member of my family was caused pain, humiliation and mental anguish at one of your meetings. Since my position on family relationship and obligation is well known, I am sure you will understand that I cannot continue to give you my support or allow you the use of my name."
The spat led Hamner to remove a small box of things from the museum and at least briefly cut ties with the hometown landmark, which, he reminded the museum, never would've been on the map, if Hamner wasn't so passionate about writing about his family in the first place.
That includes his brother Jim, better known to TV fans as Jim-Bob.
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My mother mentioned it once, like it was a mystery, but my sisters heard the same story.
I assume she did something extra during the Flu Pandemic of 1918, but that's based on timing, and that grandma was a nurse.
I know my great, great grandmother's brother's house still stands. It was built about 1855, him dying soon after it was finished. It's one of the oldest houses in Winnipeg. For a time it was used as an office by a construction company. But then it became an historical site. So it's the Ross House Museum. I've never been, only found out about it a few years ago.