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Born in Frederick County in 1873, Willa Cather and her family moved to Nebraska when she was nine. Most of her writing features the prairie landscape of her second state, so it is a bit peculiar to claim her as a Virginia author, as the marker for this site attempts to do. Pointing out Sapphira and the Slave Girl as a novel featuring a setting much like this her childhood home in Virginia, the marker suggests indirectly that Cather used this landscape in much of her writing, which is just not the case.

Regardless, it is fascinating to visit the site and read the words from that her last novel, especially since the home still is surrounded in willow trees: "The slats of the green window shutters rattled, the limp cordage of the great willow trees in the yard whipped and tossed furiously by the wind. I had been put in my mother's bed so that I could watch the turnpike, then a macadam road with a blue limestone facing." It particularly emphasizes how landscape shapes a writer's language, which certainly is evident in Cather's later prairie books reflecting her third home in Nebraska.

Willow Shade is a private residence, and though one can view the home and the setting easily by pulling over in the road just to the home's right off of Route 50, it is not recommended that exploration occur on the private property.

Willow Shade

Historical Highway Marker

Virginia Landmarks Register
December 12, 1989

National Register of Historic Places
December 18, 1990

Route 50, .71 miles east of Gore
Frederick County


Willa Cather Birthplace Ripshin


This site was created by Emily Kane as part of the University of Virginia's American Studies program.
For more information about AS@UVA, click below.

American Studies at U.Va.