Colonial American movie or Miniseries

I’m looking for either a movie or miniseries I watched in the early 90’s. My grandmother had recorded it and it took up two tapes. It was about a family who left Pennsylvania and moved to Virginia. At least that’s what I remember. I think it was after their mother had passed it was a father and his daughters. When they settled and built their cabin they only had a few neighbors within miles of their home. The youngest daughter was taken by Indians. The father went to find her but t never did but he always stayed gone. The oldest daughter married the town drunk who was much older than her. It turned out he was very smart and as the town grew around them he became the teacher. He bought the first off the floor bed for him and his wife. He last pregnancy she had a difficult birth and he told her he could no longer sleep in the off the floor bed with her. When a new teacher came to town he began having an affair with her. That’s all I really remember about the film.

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I believe you are looking for The Awakening Land, an acclaimed three-part mini-series from 1978. It was based on a trilogy of novels by Conrad Richter, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize.

The story begins shortly after the American Revolutionary War. A Pennsylvania family moves west into the wilderness of the Ohio territory and builds a cabin there. The youngest child is kidnapped and raised by Indians. The mother dies, and the father abandons his family to move further west. The oldest of the girls, Sayward, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, raises her sister. Other settlers eventually arrive and begin to build cabins. The uneducated by innately intelligent Sayward eventually marries a highly educated New England lawyer, played by Hal Holbrook. She gives him nine children, but I believe I remember a scene where she has to turn him out of her bed because she knows she will die if she has any more children. Holbrook’s character, bitter at being denied by his wife, has an affair with the town schoolteacher, the only other educated character in the town. The teacher becomes pregnant. She has to marry someone quickly to account for her pregnancy, so she is forced to marry the filthy town drunk – the only man who will take her – condemning this refined woman to a life of hell. In the beginning of the story, Sayward lived in a pristine wilderness. By the close of the final night, she is an old woman living in a thriving town, with a school and church and brick buildings.

I haven’t seen this mini-series in many years, but I remember it as being my favorite of all the great American TV mini-series of the 1970’s. Even better than Centennial. Elizabeth Montgomery gave an incredible performance as Sayward, speaking in what was promoted to be authentic regional dialect.

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