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Home > Close-Ups > The Waltons Home Page > My Favorite Episodes > #51 & 52: The Conflict


The Waltons

"The Conflict"

Episodes #51 & #52

Original Airdate:  September 12, 1974


Of all of the Waltons episodes, this two-hour show, which kicked off the third season in 1974, was probably my favorite.  It's a story that explores the conflict between a family's heritage and the inevitable demands of modern society.  As I noted in my Waltons Trivia section, this episode was based on a true story.


In this episode, we meet Martha Corinne Walton, a Waltons matriarch who is threatened with eviction from her cabin on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains by a crew building the new Blue Ridge Parkway (for my photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway, see News: July 16, 2001).  Martha is the widow of Henry Walton, a Civil War veteran and Zeb (Grandpa) Walton's older brother.  Shortly after the Civil War, Henry and Martha built a cabin and lived there peacefully for many years.  Henry died in 1921, but Martha continued to live in her Blue Ridge cabin with her son Boone, grandson Wade, and Wade's new bride, Vera. 


As the construction crew nears the Walton cabin, the government tries to relocate Martha into new housing down on "the flatlands."  Each of the Waltons takes a different stand -- Zeb is indignant and ready to fight, John-Boy believes that a solution can be found by negotiation, while John and Olivia encourage Martha to at least look at the government housing.  Martha, stubborn yet pragmatic, inspects the house but ultimately refuses to move. 


Martha Corinne's clan, along with Zeb, decide to take up arms, while John tries a last-minute appeal to politicians in Richmond.  John-Boy is conflicted and first argues with his Grandpa, then takes up a rifle and prepares to fight.  At the last moment, though, he throws down his rifle and runs towards the approaching deputies, trying to stave off a battle.  The episode culminates in a gunfight between the Walton clan and the armed deputies.  During the fight, John-Boy is shot by a deputy but survives.  After John-Boy is wounded, Martha tells her family to lay down their arms and she agrees to move.


Martha Corinne, in an amazing performance by actress Beulah Bondi, was one of the most memorable characters ever portrayed in The Waltons (in case she looks familiar, Beulah had played Ma Bailey in Jimmy Stewart's 1946 Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life). In the poignant closing scene of "The Conflict," after the battle, Martha returns to her cabin and sweeps it out carefully, just before the construction crew arrives.  She and her husband Henry had built the cabin in 1865 and she wanted to leave it just as clean as it was when she moved in.


By the way, Martha Corinne appeared in two more Waltons episodes after The Conflict.  In her final appearance, The Pony Cart (from the fifth season, set in 1937), she stays with the Waltons for a while, but her suggestions about doing things "the old way" cause tension in the family.  Things get resolved towards the end of episode, though, when it's revealed that the 90-year old Martha has been having fainting spells.  Martha, whose maiden name was Tyler, writes down the Walton and Tyler family history for John-Boy so he'll know where he came from, and she paints Ben's new pony cart (or "shay," as she calls it) in "the old way."  When Ben finishes his pony cart, he takes Martha for a ride, then she gets out to pick some daisies while Ben goes on ahead.  While Martha is picking the daisies, she clutches her heart and passes away.  In the final scene, we see John-Boy standing by Martha's grave, which is next to that of her husband, Henry, high atop her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains.



A Reader's Thoughts


In June of 2005, about a year after I posted my story about "The Conflict,"

I received the following e-mail, which I thought my

website readers might enjoy.

Mr. Leu

As an interpretive/education ranger with the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I recently saw "The Conflict," an episode of the Waltons I had heard about for years, but had never seen.  Then I found your web site and was really pleased with the synopsis, photos, and audio bytes from the episode.

It is my opinion that the episode was a mixing of the stories of the creation of Shenandoah National Park  and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Even though John Boy, in the opening scene, clearly identifies the project as the Parkway when he says this "road will be 400 miles long and connect to Great Smoky Mountains," almost all of the relocation associated with the two parks came from the Shenandoah NP project.  In fact, the Parkway's aim was to "reveal the countryside" and culture of the mountains, so the agricultural scenes and the adjacent farmland outside of the narrow right of way was encouraged and usually kept in place.  In Shenandoah NP, however, with the emphasis on the "natural" environment of the Blue Ridge, there was quite a bit of relocation.  It was also in the Shenandoah project that relocation houses were built down around Luray as part of the compensation for land.

I was especially interested in the episode to see the "forward thinking" and "backward thinking" residents and family members, something that almost surely happened during the time.  The younger Waltons seemed to have a sense of the overall importance and excitement for the project, while the older family members clung to the traditions and heritage of the past generation.  John-boy was obviously wrestling with both views.  So often as we interpret the history of the region, we stereotype everyone into one mold and fail to reflect on the diversity.  This episode, and the Waltons show in general, I think does a good job of this with the older and younger generation often in conflict over life, dreams, and the future.

I thought you may be interested in this perspective.


Peter Givens




"The Conflict" begins with the Walton family driving home after a picnic.  John, Olivia, and Grandma are sitting in the cab, while everyone else is sitting in the back, singing.  The truck enters a construction zone for the new Blue Ridge Park and Highway.  A flagger stops the truck momentarily, and after they get underway again, Zeb suggests they stop by Martha Corinne's cabin.  John, eager to get home, suggests that he and Zeb visit it the next day.


Above left:  The Walton family heading home after a picnic. 

Above center:  Close-up of the pickup truck.  John, Olivia, and Grandma are sitting in front.

Above right:  The kids and Grandpa are in back, singing.


Listen to Earl Hamner's opening narration.

The scene is shown above (0:41).

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.




Above left:  They pass a sign announcing the construction of the new Blue Ridge park and highway.

Above center:  John tells Olivia and Grandma about the new Blue Ridge highway.

Above right:  Grandpa says that the new highway will be going through land owned by Walton kin.


Listen to the Waltons talk about the Blue Ridge park and highway.  The scene is shown above (1:15).

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.



When the Waltons return to their house later that afternoon, they find Martha's son, Boone, and Boone's son, Wade, waiting for them.  Boone and Wade describe the situation and ask the Waltons to come up to Martha's cabin the next morning, and to bring their rifles.


John, Olivia, and the rest of the Waltons arrive at Martha Corinne's cabin the next morning.  While the adults are talking, the girls go pick blackberries and the boys hunt for arrowheads.  The three girls get chased up a tree by some feisty pigs and start screaming for help.  When the boys hear the screams, they run to help the girls, then burst out in laughter when they see their sisters stranded in a tree.  Later that day, a state senator, Lucas Avery, arrives at Martha's cabin.  Lucas convinces Martha to look at the new house the government has built for Martha's family down on the flatlands.



Above left:  The next morning, the Waltons drive up to see Zeb's sister-in-law, Martha Corinne, and her family.  The construction crew is only a few miles away, and approaching fast.

Above center:  Martha is disappointed that the Waltons haven't brought any rifles.  L-to-R: Martha, her son Boone Walton, her daughter-in-law Vera, and her grandson Wade.

Above right:  The wise and wizened Martha Corinne Walton.



Above left:  While picking blackberries, the girls get treed by a few pigs and they scream for help.  The boys come to their rescue.

Above center:  Meanwhile, Senator Lucas Avery (left) tries to convince Martha to look at the new house on the flatlands.

Above right: Boone, Wade and Vera are stubborn and suspicious.  Martha considers her options, then decides to look at the new house.



In preparation for her trip to the flatlands, Martha visits the Walton house that afternoon and, after dinner, the family makes some blackberry ice cream.  Elizabeth and Martha -- the youngest and the oldest Waltons -- take the first licks, followed by John, then the family listens to Martha Corinne as she tells them about marrying Henry and building her cabin shortly after the Civil War.



Above left:  The family makes blackberry ice cream after dinner.

Above center:  John gets in his licks.

Above right:  Meanwhile, John-Boy stays with Boone, Wade, and Vera in the cabin, and to defend it, if necessary.  Vera shows John-Boy some of Wade's impressive woodcraft projects.



Above left:  Back at the Walton house, Martha Corinne's stories captivate her listeners.

Above center:  Martha tells of how she moved with Henry to the mountains in 1865, after the Civil War.  She also tells the girls that she'll show them how to use her spinning wheel some day.

Above right:  Erin and Ben enjoy their ice cream, and Martha's stories.


Listen to Martha Corinne discuss her early life.  The scene is shown above (2:42).

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.



The next morning, John, Olivia and Esther take Martha Corinne to see the new house on the flatlands.  They try to impress her with all of the modern conveniences, like running water and electric lights, and linoleum on the kitchen floor.  Martha Corinne is ambivalent but almost seems willing to move.



Above left:  Here's Esther showing Martha how to operate the sink and bathtub.

Above center:  Martha enjoys the electric lights.

Above right:  While pondering her difficult decision, Martha quotes her husband Henry: "You live with your land, and you die with your land."


Listen to Martha Corinne during the house tour.  The scene is shown above (0:31).

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.



As the second hour begins, Wade shows John-Boy where he plans to build his house, in a clearing overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, and their strengthening bond is evident.  While at the homestead, they hear blasting nearby and Wade hurries down to the Walton house, where he waits for Martha Corinne to return.  When Martha Corinne gets back to the Walton house, Wade tells her that the construction crew is blasting near her cabin.  When she returns to her cabin, Zeb, Boone and Wade are ready to fight, while John-Boy suggests that a peaceful solution can be worked out.  Meanwhile, John and senator Avery meet with a group of state senators in Richmond and John asks for more time, so that a solution can be found.



Above left:  Wade tells Martha Corinne about the blasting near her cabin.

Above center:  The next morning at the cabin, Martha fixes John-Boy some breakfast.  They discuss John-Boy's college education.

Above right:  Wade and Vera talk about the house they'll build some day on Wade's homestead. 



Above left:  More blasting is heard and the men gather at the cabin.  John-Boy tries to convince the others that a peaceful solution can be found, but Martha, Grandpa, Boone, and Wade are ready to fight.

Above center:  As the tension escalates, John-Boy and Grandpa get into a heated argument.  During the entire series, this is probably the angriest these two ever got at each other.

Above right:  Meanwhile, senator Avery and John Walton are down in Richmond talking to senators, trying to avert a confrontation.


Listen to John-Boy's argument.  The scene is shown above (1:42).

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.



As the blasting nears, Zeb, Boone and Wade prepare for a fight while Blake, the road crew boss, arrives with armed deputies and reads the eviction notice.  An armed battle seems inevitable and John-Boy finally decides to stand with his Grandpa.  However, after John-Boy raises his rifle, he realizes the foolishness of his actions, throws down his gun, and runs to the approaching vehicle to plead with Blake to negotiate.  He's thrown aside, then firing begins.  During the skirmish, a deputy shoots John-Boy.  Upon seeing this, both sides stop firing and Grandpa, stunned, runs towards the injured John-Boy. 


John and Senator Avery show up at this moment, and the distraught John and Zeb help John-Boy into the Walton's truck, then John speeds off to the hospital.  Senator Avery then tells Martha Corinne that his last-minute plea was turned down.  With this news, and having seen John-Boy injured, Martha Corinne tells Wade and Boone to put down their rifles.  She agrees to move.



Above left:  As the crew gets closer, a battle seems imminent.  Martha talks to her deceased husband, Henry about her fears.

Above center:  The small graveyard where her Civil War veteran husband, Henry, and her son, Henry Jr., are buried.

Above right:  Blake approaches the cabin with three armed deputies.  He reads the eviction notice.



Above left:  John-Boy and Boone Walton level their rifles at the crew, ready to fire.  As the crew drives forward, though, John-Boy throws down his rifle and runs towards the crew, pleading for negotiation.  The deputies throw him aside and continue driving forward.

Above center:  The deputies start firing at Boone, Zeb, and Wade Walton.  John-Boy gets up and, unarmed, runs towards the deputies.  One deputy turns around and shoots John-Boy in the side.

Above right:  Seeing John-Boy shot, the three Waltons run to his aid.  John-Boy is dazed but is alive.  John arrives from Richmond and, with Zeb's help, loads John-Boy into the truck and takes off.  Martha Corinne tells Wade and Boone to put down their rifles and, with sadness, agrees to move. 



In the final scene, John-Boy returns to Martha Corinne's cabin to watch Boone and Wade pack up.  Alone, Martha Corinne sweeps up the cabin floor silently, then John-Boy enters.  Almost tearful, Martha tells John-Boy about the first time she walked into the cabin, back in 1865, with her husband, Henry.  After she leaves her cabin for the final time, we hear Earl Hamner's closing narration.



Above left:  Recovering from his wound, John-Boy returns to the cabin.

Above center:  Martha Corinne sadly sweeps up her cabin, telling John-Boy that she wants to leave it as clean as when she moved in, shortly after the Civil War.  Her spinning wheel, which Martha's mother had given to her as a wedding present, sits in the foreground.

Above right:  Martha closes her eyes and reminisces about happier times.  She remembers the day back in 1865 that she and Henry moved into the cabin.  Then, sadly, she leaves the cabin for the last time.



Above left:  As Earl Hamner's narration begins (click below to hear), the Waltons pack up their belongings.  Boone and Zeb help Martha into the wagon.

Above center:  The Walton's leave the cabin, Wade driving a pickup truck and Boone steering the wagon.

Above right:  After the typical "Goodnight" exterior house scene, we see the Walton's dark living room.  As Olivia and John sing "There's an Old Spinning Wheel in the Parlor" upstairs in bed, the camera slowly moves around the empty living room until we see Martha's spinning wheel in the corner.  After Olivia and John finish singing, the scene fades to black.