Walls, Gladys Lillie Marie

Birth Name Walls, Gladys Lillie Marie
Call Name Lillie
Gender female
Age at Death 64 years


Event Date Place Description Sources
Birth 1910      
Death 1974      


Family of Davenport, Homer Seldon and Walls, Gladys Lillie Marie

Married Husband Davenport, Homer Seldon ( * 1912-06-22 + 2003-10-03 )

lived in Chatham Hill, VA

For isolated mountain family, 'There wasn't anything better' - They had little use for outside world; some long for simpler ways
Grand Rapids Press, The (MI) - Sunday, September 11, 2005
Author: Calvin Woodward / The Associated Press
SALTVILLE, Va. -- As a shepherd girl, Colleen Davenport would step outside her mountain cabin on a clear night and drink in the view.

"You can see all those valleys," she remembers more than 40 years later. "At night, you look down through there and you can see the lights a-shining like diamonds."

She might as well have been looking at the stars above. The town below was practically as foreign to her as the galaxy.

"It was a pretty sight to see. You just was glad you weren't down there with them. I never cared much for towns."

Three generations of Davenports lived on that mountain and came off it, at different times, for different reasons, and usually not willingly.

In doing so, they helped close a chapter that once defined Appalachia and other remote reaches of the country. It's about mountain men and their families who lived beyond the reach of an outside world that considered them dirt poor if it considered them at all.

The patriarch, Homer Davenport , a sinewy man with a shock of white hair and bushy beard, was a striking figure.

Father of five boys and Colleen, now 61, Homer pitched hay with a fork, milled wheat into flour, turned animal skin to leather in his tannery, boiled cane into molasses, raised fat turnips, shot a man dead who shot him, read to his children until he fell asleep in his stiff-backed chair, made a kind of bread from cattail roots. His health-care plan was found in his garden and in the wild, where plants became remedies.

And when he took a chunk out of his leg with a chain saw in his elder years and was talked into getting stitches, he blamed the sewing job, not the injury, for the bother he felt in his limb for the rest of his life.

When he died in October 2003 at 91, the spray on his casket was made from the bounty of his land -- ferns, wheat, hickory nuts.

An encroaching society

As much as he wanted to be left alone, the modern world came calling.

Once, it was in the form of Peter Jenkins, a sojourner who crossed the country on foot, encountered Davenport and wrote about him in his book "A Walk Across America." Although a sympathetic portrait, it brought unwanted attention. For years, people trooped up to see the family's rugged one-room cabin with attached kitchen shed.

"He brought in the outside world," said Ruth Davenport, Homer's daughter-in-law. "After him, it seemed they came in streams."

Today, his kin remember their years up on Red Rock Cove in an idyllic haze. Even the youngest, accustomed to cell phones, e-mail and normal jobs, say they wish sometimes they could go back to that life of solitude and simplicity.

"My father was always on the land -- he was raised on it and, when he grew up, that's what he wanted to do," Colleen said on the front porch of her old house a few miles from the Poor Valley farm where the Davenports lived when they weren't at Red Rock.

"He bought the valley farm, which was around 100 acres. He bought it back in the '30s during the Depression and started farming it."

Then, Homer purchased the upland acres, a steep 90-minute walk from the farm, and sent her there alone to tend sheep in her late teens. For months at a time, she lived in a tiny cabin that sat on the property years before the Red Rock home was built.

In their own world

The family needed to go to town for very little, not much more than clothes, baking soda, salt and condensed milk for baking. When Homer's wife, Marie, sold tobacco in the fall, she bought luxury items such as mixed nuts and tangerines.

Life wasn't always peaceful. Caught up in a "love triangle," Homer gunned down a man who shot him in the side or stomach, Colleen said, relating an event from "before my time." She said her father, who had occasional brushes with the law, spent 18 months behind bars for the shooting.

As for Colleen, "I didn't care anything about the rest of the world," she said. "I didn't want to get out into the rest of the world. It was not appealing. There was too much trouble.

"At times, I thought I'd want something better but, when I went back up there to herd the sheep, I knew there wasn't anything better.

Still, she left in her mid-20s to marry, raise a family and farm in the valley.

Name Birth Date Death Date
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, [Living]
Davenport, Hythaabout 1936
Davenport, Alex Lee19462021-04-20
Davenport, Kenzie V19501991-10-00