Guy Bruce is interviewed by Tracy Lambert(rghs'98). Mr. Bruce died in the summer of 1997 at the age of 96.
Tracy: Today is April 21, 1997. My name is Tracy Lambert and I'm interviewing Mr. Guy Bruce of Bastian, Virginia.
Guy: This is Guy Bruce speaking from my home in Bastian, Virginia. My father laid out Bastian, Virginia. He drew the map himself on a piece of paper. He could do a draft with a pocket ruler. He could do architectural work with that without any trouble at all. He drew out Bastian. He owned the land where Bastian is now. He laid off the streets and he began to sell the land. I would say about 1907 or 1908. Al right, after he had laid it off, the railroad came through and in 1913, it was finished. It started and it came to Rocky Gap about four or five years before that. It was the New River-Holston Western. On its' way they said they were going to build it on through to Saltville, Virginia. Father thought that Bastian would be a pretty good place to start a little town. That's what he decided to do. When the railroad came, it finished to Bastian, it came to Bastian in 1913. The Bastian Union Church was right in the way on the right-of-way. It faced the old Raleigh and Grayson turnpike which was about 25 feet wide. They had to move the church. They decided that they'd have to move the church. They hired a man with an steam engine by the name of George Miller to jack the truck up and face it the way it is now. When they were blasting out the right-of-way, a Mr. Meeks was the right-of-way man. They were blasting out some big pine stumps behind where the church was. He was in the Raleigh-Grayson turnpike up toward where the forks of the road is now that goes up Hunting Camp. There was some bushes in there and the man that loaded the dynamite under the stump loaded it too heavy. It blew a great big chunk of that stump and it came through the bushes and Mr. Meek thought he was in the clear. But, it came through and hit him, and knocked him through an old rail fence that was there. I came by and saw him. It killed him. I saw him lying over across the fence and I thought oh, my goodness...death in the first railroad.
Father began to sell lots. He had it surveyed by Mr. Tom Dunn, who was the civil engineer. He surveyed it off according to the map that father had drawn on the old table on an old piece of paper. They named it, when they came to name it, they named it Parkersburg. That conflicted with Parkersburg, West Virginia. They had to change the name. When they changed it, Mr. Bastian, F. E. Bastian, was the superintendent of the railroad and owned it. He said to father "We're going to name it Bruce." Father said, "No, we're going to name it Bastian." So father had the map drawn and he put on the name of it Bastian, Virginia. Mr. Bastian said, "No we don't want to name it that, we're going to name it Bruce." Father insisted.
So then the Virginia Hardwood Company came in 1925 or 1926. They were looking for a place to settle. Father had a lot of land and he had one field there in front of our home, 13 acres. They wanted it for a lumber yard and he leased it to them for a lumber yard. They had a big spring, father had a big spring at the home place that ran lots of water. They wanted to use the water for their camp. So father made a deal with them and they had to bring the electricity there to run their pumps. Father said why not just run it on over there to the church for us so we can have lights in the church? So they did, they agreed to it. That was back about 1925 or 1926. The church had the first lights in Bland County I reckon, electrical lights. From then on, they kept lights to the church.
Bastian kept growing pretty good. Father sold a lot of land, a lot of lots, to a lot of people. From 1929 to 1930's, it was, the Big Depression came. When the Big Depression came, well, they organized, the President organized a CCC camp. They wanted a location here in the midst of Bland County which had a lot of woodland and a lot of works that the boys could do, roads they could do and fire trails. Father made a deal with them. One of the officials wanted to speak with him so he made a deal. Father had the water, the big spring there. So, they moved in. One day in 1933, the train came up and a bunch of, well a whole crew of soldiers, you'd of thought they were soldiers, they were dressed in soldiers uniforms. They had captains, sergeants, and so forth. They operated just like a soldier. That was big excitement for us, a big thing to see them. They stayed there until after the Depression, they stayed several years. They built a big camp up there on father's land...barracks for them to sleep in. The boys were just like soldiers. Now, if you're interested in what they earned, I think it was a dollar a day. I may be mistaking that, but it was a dollar a day...upkeep, housing, and doctor. Then that dollar had to be sent back to the families to keep the families going, because the boys were fed good and taken care of. So I don't know then. That was just about the history of Bastian, Virginia.
Father was pretty shrewd. He set up a business in Bastian. He bought bark and bought lumber. He bought a lot of lumber. People in the county would haul them there from all over the county and father would buy it. Some of it would be shipped timber, they called it. They'd ship it to down in Shreveport Louisiana. I believe that was the export place where they sent it. Virginia Hardwood Lumber Company was pretty liberal.
They had....maybe you'd be interested to know that there hadn't been a deer in Southwest Virginia for 50 years. In 1937 my wife and I bought the first deer from the State Game Farm in Providence Forge. We brought the first deer and put in fence in back of my fathers' home place and kept the deer in there. People came from all over the county because they had never seen a deer. That was a big site for them. They'd come on Sundays. Then finally, we decided maybe we'd like to put some deer back in the counties of Southwest Virginia. So my wife and I made arrangements with the State Game Department and with the Virginia Hardwood Lumber Company. We leased 5,000 acres out of Round Mountain not to be hunted in for five years. We made arrangements with them through the State Game Department and they furnished the deer, and we had to furnish so much...$200 dollars I believe. Of course we had to have the approval of the Board of Supervisors. They had to approve it. So we did and Mr. leased us the 5,000 acres not to be hunted in for five years. The game warden posted that and they kept people out for that long. We put the turkey in at the same time. We hadn't had any turkey here for a long time. We put the turkey in at the same time. So I don't know. That's some of the things my father did.
When they wanted to establish an orphanage in Grundy, father was acquainted with a man out there that had been an orphan. He had slept in a hollow log at night and he declared that if he was ever able, he was going to build a place for children who was homeless. Father was acquainted with him some way and he come up at home and spent the night a day or two, and talked to father. Father gave him some money to start it. I don't know how much it was because father wouldn't tell us. When he made a gift, he wouldn't tell it. So we don't know now how much he gave. Now they have between 4,000-5,000 children that can come there. They'll keep them free of charge. Back then you see, way back, I guess in the early 1920's, the miners had a lot of explosions. It would kill the father maybe and they would leave the mother with children. The orphanage would take the mother with the children and keep her. That's the way they've built up, it didn't make any difference what nationality you were, or what church you belonged to. They wouldn't question you. They'd give them a high school education and a Christian education. Of course, my wife and I, we still honor that place and donate a little. I don't know what else.
Well, my Grandfather Starks, James Starks, moved into Bland County, oh, I can't tell you exactly when, the early days of Bland County. He was form Botetourt County. Botetourt was formed from Fincastle of course. Fincastle County was Fincastle, Virginia. Fincastle then extended through all of the south, North and South Carolina, and on down into Florida, to the Mississippi River, and to Canada. That was all of Virginia. This might be a little history for you. That was all of Virginia at that time before it was split up into the different states.
My grandfather, when he moved his family from Botetourt to Clearfork, Virginia....and he lived there for a while, and he decided to come to Wolfe Creek, Virginia. Then they traveled by wagon and he had his family in the wagon. They came down Clearfork. Down Clearfork was a Doctor Bishop who owned a big estate and thousands of acres. He had slaves. As they came by, my older aunt....of course mother, I guess, was in the wagon but she didn't remember nothing about it to tell me. But, the older one said they were having a slave sale there and they stopped. They watched them sale...families being separated one from another. She thought that was terrible, she never would forget that. That's how I know about it. That was a slave sale.
Then they came on to Wolfe Creek. They settled with one of our relatives that was originated here in Bland County. They stayed there a while and then they moved. My grandfather bought, not my grandfather, my great-grandfather. He bought 100 acres on what they call, commonly known here, as Hogback. He bought 100 acres up there and he built a house and moved there. He had taken a job with the old Kimberling Hotel. They had a big hotel built down the hollow below him, what they called, Sulfur Springs. They brought people in there from all over the north, from New York and Boston, and the big cities west, came down there and stayed at the old Kimberling Hotel all summer. Father became acquainted with a lot of them. He was caretaker. Then he decided that he would move to Hunting Camp Creek because he had a relative that lived here. He moved to Hunting Camp and built a house, what they call the old Starks' Home in 1874. After he built the house, he built a mill up on Hunting Camp. He built a mill, mill and a saw mill altogether. He built what you call a turbine then. It was something new. He was kind of a genius for it. So, he built a turbine to run the mill with, not the ordinary water wheel. He was successful at that, and he had a saw mill there. Some fellows came in, one man especially, came in and stayed with him that knew him, down at the old hotel. He came in and stayed with them and when he left, in about two years, my Grandfather Starks received a flier. It described that turbine. He had already made arrangements for some other company to build it. Captain George Starks said well that's the same man that stayed here. He copied that thing. Now he's selling it. That's what they run the big power plants with now. His date that he found the flyer, that he sent the fliers, my Grandfather Starks, was after he had been here. Captain George Starks told me about that. He said, "He copied that thing." I guess he did. I saw the flier and I've got a copy of it. It was after the man was here. So that's just one little incident but you probably don't want to here that. That's a little bit of history.
I can tell you about my Grandfather Starks. His army, Korea, well,...he was in the Confederate Army, of course. He was in Brigade. Brigade was called the Foot Soldiers, the Foot Cavalry. They could move fast. They were quick to move different places where trouble was brewing and where they were needed. They were caught down at New Market, Virginia. New Market, Virginia is where the states' military school was. They had the Cadets there. The army had got trapped there. The south had been beat back a lot. They got trapped there at New Market. The army that trapped them, the Northern Army, said well, "We've got to wait here for reinforcements, we've got to be sure we can get them." They waited for reinforcements. That general, I forget his name, I did know his name, that southern general called out those Cadets, about 200, to reinforce him. He attacked the northern army and got them out of there before the reinforcements came. They wasn't expecting that. My Grandfather Starks was wounded there in that battle. They sent him home to recuperate and while he was at home, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
That's just about the history, part of the history. I don't remember too much of it now. I thank you a lot for your patience with me. I thank you a lot. God bless you.
Would you like to return to the top of the page?
copyright©bland county history archives all rights reserved 2000