Robert Porterfield

Robert Porterfield

Robert Porterfield

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Robert Huffard Porterfield, born on December 21, 1905, on the outskirts of Austinville, in Wythe County, VA. He died October 28, 1971, in Abingdon, VA, and was best known for being the founder of "Virginia's World-Famous" Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia.

Family history

Robert Porterfield was the fifth generation of Porterfields born in the United States. His great-great-great-grandfather (John or Frank) arrived in the American colonies from Scotland in about 1760, probably through the port of Philadelphia. Like many immigrants of Scots, Irish, Scots-Irish, or German descent, he traveled from Pennsylvania down the Wilderness Road through the lush and fertile Shenandoah Valley only to find all of the best land already staked out and occupied, forcing him to keep pushing on until he arrived at some unclaimed real estate in Southwest Virginia, what is now called Glade Spring.


Robert was the third of six children, all boys, born to William Breckenridge Porterfield and Daisy Huffard Porterfield on December 21, 1905.

In 1909, Robert's father accepted a position as overseer of some of land and moved the family to Saltville, VA. The family's new home was a large farmhouse south of the town of Saltville but with a view of the town about a mile away. Robert and his brothers shared in all the work of the farm. The farm included a two-story barn in which the young Porterfield, at the age of seven, staged his first plays for cousins.

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