Zareda Earnest

Zareda, a lifelong resident of Bastian, talks about the Bastian Hotel and much more. She is interviewed by Beverly Hall.

Zareda: Well, this was in 1915, George Starks was a bachelor and he liked to build things so he decided that he would build a hotel in Bastian. He started the hotel in 1915 and finished it in 1916, but one interesting article about George Starks was that Jesse James came through here with his group and stayed in the barn and Jesse James taught George Starks how to shoot a pistol, and he was quite a sharp shooter.

Beverly: I'd say so.

Zareda: When they built it, it was three stories. It was to be run as a hotel. Ralph may have told you that the top floor at one time was used for caskets, but that Harmans' brothers built and Bobby Newberry has two of those at his place in Bland now that was made by the Harmans. Of course they were wooden. It was quite interesting for us children when we grew up to know that there were caskets up there. We would tiptoe up there to look at the caskets. One Halloween, my cousin Bob Bruce and Edgar and ----they got Billy Bruce and they all got the tractor out and it had a bed on it and they put one of the coffins on it. My sister got in it and covered up with a sheet and she would raise up.

Beverly: Oh, dear!

Zareda: But, I do know that my uncle John and Aunt Belle Thompson Bruce ran the hotel.

Beverly: When did they run it?

Zareda: That was in the early years right after it was built and that several of the teachers would board there. They had plenty of boarders. That's where my uncle Guy Bruce and Aunt Cecile was---. They did their courting there. I do know too that Mrs. Walker that lived over here across the street taught school in one of the rooms there one year. I don't know how many years it was. I do know that she did teach over there, it may been when they were constructing schools elsewhere for the children here. The fascinating thing I thought was that people from New York would come down here, as far as New York, New Jersey, all the northern states, because of the sulfur water up in Griffin Holler.

Beverly: Why would they come for the sulfur water?

Zareda: That was supposed to be a very healing thing. That is why Kimberling Springs was built. They had sulfur water down there, too. That was what everyone used for medicine. They would come down and stay in the hotels and go up in the holler and fill their jugs with the sulfur water and take it back to their homes up north and different places and use it. It was a pretty flourishing thing. I just thought the old hotel was fascinating and the fact that people would come on the Grayson Turnpike to a little place like Bastian. I think I showed you the shovel of Griffin Page, the colored shovel that he beat out of, and fixed for the Starks family. He lived up on that holler and they still call it Griffin holler. That was where the sulfur water was.

Beverly: What effect did the railroad and the CCC Camp have on Bastian Hotel?

Zareda: Well, The railroad company is what really started Bastian into booming because my father ran a store at Suitor. I think my brother was born in Suitor. Dr. Walker delivered him. They had a boarding house up there, cooks. It was just people came in here from everywhere and the first shipment then that caused the railroad to come in and the first shipment of anything that went out was sent to Liverpool England to make box creates of.

Beverly: That's interesting.

Zareda: Mr. Ray Weston? gave me some new information on that. I wasn't aware of that myself but I do know that really built Bastian up and that's why we exploded and had to have a new school. We have a lot of those people that are still here, in fact I worked for, I didn't work for Virginia Hardwood Co., when it started out it was Kimberling Corp. and I worked for them in the office.

Beverly: What did you do?

Zareda: I did office work, typing, filing, and accounts.

Beverly: When did the name change and how did it change?

Zareda: Well, the main part of Virginia Hardwood Lumber Co. moved out and then Kimberling Corp. I don't know why they called it Kimberling, maybe after Kimberlin's Springs, I have no idea. I worked for Mr. Chase Atkins from Tazewell. He was the office manager at that time, and then they moved Kimberling Corp. to Bluefield, VA and operated it from there. It was doing the wood and lumber business and Frankie MacNeal worked in the office, too. Rach? taught at Bland High School, her sister. She and I stayed together on Washington Street with Mr. Davis who came in with the Virginia Hardwood Lumber Co. and moved to Bluefield to work in at Bluefield, VA. Gary Elswick is writing a story about the Virginia Hardwood Co. I've given him quite a bit of information that I had and he's collected from just different ones.

Beverly: Do you know what year the Virginia Hardwood Lumber Co. started?

Zareda: I don't know. On the New River and Holston Railroad, before it was called N & W. In 1903? the town of Narrows wanted some kind of industry and they had Less and McVidy? of Salem build a tannery to employ laborers. This industry was secondary to the lumber operation in Giles and Bland Counties. So, the tannery built three miles of railroad up Wolf Creek and they hauled bark to the tannery. There was a young man, or young boy in the Hicksville area close to the railroad and they, the people around here in the early years, they had stave mills, I don't know if you know what staves were used for, but they cut staves, they were small. They would make crates out of them and ship those. So that was one of the industries. But this time a piece of lumber was sticking out and hit this young boy and he was killed and he was buried in Hornbarger cemetery in Bastian, but I do not know his name.

Beverly: Is his grave marked or is it unmarked?

Zareda: It is not marked, there is no marker. I just have a record of different ones that are buried and we laid it off and I went across row one and marked some of the people that had relatives and I knew where some were row one, row two, row three, four, and I'm sure there were several that we missed. In 1912, the New River and Holston Railroad Co. had built the railroad to Rocky Gap. This was because of the Buckhorn timber by the New River Lumber Co. Mr. Menagi of Abbington owned all the big survey land in Bland Co. He decided to build up Suitor and for the lumber and park industry. Then F.E. Bastian was made manager of the New River and Holston Railroad, then Bastian was called Parkersburg, and like I was telling you about Mr. Bastian. He had snow white hair, but he was in the Johnstown Flood when he was a young man and he climbed on roof of a house and clung to it and when he came down, his hair turned snow white. I was told sometime ago by Joe Compton, it was before he died, someone down in Larinander? County had his trunk, Mr. Bastian's trunk. I'd like to have it. It was changed from Parkersburg to Bastian.

Beverly: You were referring to the Johnstown Flood?

Zareda: Yes.

Beverly: Up in Pennsylvania? We did a thing on that in my history class.

Zareda: Really, it's very interesting cause I have an article on it, too.

Beverly: You do?

Zareda: Yes, I do. In 1919 the Norfolk Railroad bought the railroad and named it Norfolk and Western. I t had stations. All these towns, like Hicksville and that's where everyone went from here was the Hicksville station, because there wasn't Bastian then. They had Bastian, but Hicksville was , before the railroad came and then there was Hicksville. Then we weren't Bastian until the railroad came. I'll tell you something funny, This story my grandmother Shufflebarger told me when she was down in Hicksville. The `Talies stayed over at the mountain and they built the railroad. One day, Granny had a knock on the door and she went to the door and here were these `Talies, they had the whole family. She says "What do you need?" and he says" We sick, we sick". She said what been eating and he said chickie fly high, chickie fly high, meat no good. They had been eating buzzards.

Beverly: Those poor people!

Zareda: So, they had that station up here. The first train was run to Suitor in August 1914 and was discontinued in 1946. Be nice if we had it now.

Beverly: Who stayed at the hotel? Were there any business people that stayed there that rode the train?

Zareda: Yes, there were business people that stayed there.

Beverly: Were there any famous people that stayed there?

Zareda: Really, I don't know of any.

Beverly: I hadn't heard of any either, but I'd thought I'd ask.

Zareda: I don't think that Liz Taylor went through here.

Beverly: No Greta Garbo, either?!

Zareda: Bing Crosby.

Beverly: Oh, we wish.

Zareda: People, they were real nice and not only were they stay at the hotel at Bastian, but also the one at Kimberling, the Kimberling Hotel. My grandmother Shufflebarger, her parents were in the hotel and my grandmother was married there and I have pictures. Well, it accommodated a lot of people, but it wasn't like the hotel here. We didn't have other little buildings they could stay in Kimberling did. They could accommodate several hundred people.

Beverly: What can you tell me about George Starks that built it? You told me why he built it, but do you know anything else?

Zareda: All I know is that, like I told you. I told you about George Starks. I didn't tell you where he came from. They lived up on Brushy Mountain in the part they call Hogback. We have a little cemetery up there. They decided that they were going to move off the mountain and come down into the Bastian area. So, the women would walk back up to the mountain to tend to their garden until the men had killed enough wild turkey to take across East River Mountain. There was a path you could walk on to go across the mountain. They got enough money to build a log house here in part of Bastian, near the lumber camp. That's where all the doctors stayed that came with the Virginia Hardwood Co. and the CCC camp. It belongs to my cousin, June Bruce Hane? She has restored it. It's really a historic place and they ran a mill dam, they had a mill dam, the Starks did.

Beverly: Do you know what kind of stuff they had in their gardens? Vegetables? Just average stuff?

Zareda: Well, they were poor hard working people. The people settled in this area back then, they worked hard. They had apple groves and berries.

Beverly: Could you tell me about the role that this house, yours and Daniel Earnest, played with Dr. Walker?

Zareda: Well, Dr. Walker came from Clearfork and the Walkers down at the Walker Spring, where we got our water from, we get it from Bruce Spring what supplies our water right now. Dr. Walker become the doctor and he married Bert Green and she was from Bland and he practiced his first year at the Bland Courthouse. He decided that he was coming to Bastian to build a home and Bert says that he can go if he wants to, but that she's not going and that she's going to live in Bland. He said if that's the way she felt about it, he was going to go ahead and build his house. So, he had the people build the house and he built one large room upstairs to be used as a ward for patients and his office and surgery were down here on the first floor. It wasn't long after, even before he was ready to move in, that Bert decided that she was going to come over here too. She was a very stately lady. They had no children and she taught school and she taught Sunday School. She was a very wonderful, she won prizes for her flowers at the fair, the Bland County Fair. Dr. Walker was the only doctor in Bastian until the Hardwood Lumber Company came. He died several years before she did. They had no children. My husband came to me, when he was working at Dunn Motors and asked me if there was anything I wanted him to bid on. I said how about a house?

Beverly: Good way to get one?

Zareda: He had never been in it, but I had oh so many times. Mrs. Walker, like on Halloween, she would put on her boots that buttoned up the front to her knees, then she would get all dolled up for Halloween, read us ghost stories and entertain us. I lived right on the end of the road and she lived here and we would all gather together with her and we all thought she was very fascinating. I had been in the house many many times. I used to come and preachers would come and we would all gather round and hold hands in prayer in the big living room. So my husband bought it.

Beverly: That's so sweet?

Zareda: I have the book shelf here where Dr. Walker kept all of his medical books and he was in the General Assembly.

Beverly: How long did he serve in the General Assembly?

Zareda: Just one term, four years. He was in it the same time as Betty Joyce Blessing's father-in-law, Mr. Finny was running in it. He was on the draft board. I have the papers where he was on the draft board. Also he has a certificate for getting medicines when they were under control, but I have all his medical books. I have his journals and they were all in this shelf thing and when the lawyer was taking bids on everything I think I bid seven dollars for it. I asked now what do I do with the books. He said you just bought them. So I have those and I have his medical journals, but he was a wonderful doctor. He had a horse. He would go, like if he had to treat someone in Kimberling and they had a real bad disease, he just lived with them until they got better. He charged five dollars for delivering a baby. Sometimes all he got was a dozen eggs or sometimes he never hot paid at all. I thing many people thought Mrs. Walker as a widow had a lot of money, but she didn't have a lot of money. They didn't have much money, doctors didn't make money back then. Not like now.

Beverly: Money-making now!

Zareda: It's excellent. He traveled and he had a horse to travel by. I was very amused at Mrs. Walker, she was really friendly with all the ministers and she liked for them to visit. She said that when they got cars they didn't visit. I'd see them once in a while.

Beverly: Do you know when cars came into Bastian?

Zareda: Let's see. Well, I have a tag of Dr. Walker's of 1918.

Beverly: Wow, do you know what kind of car it was?

Zareda: It was a Model T.

Beverly: Of course, what else would it be!

Zareda: We have a picture of the first car that was brought into the county, for Dr. Wagoner.

Beverly: Is he of any relation to Mr. Wagoner that teached at Bland? Do you know?

Zareda: I don't know Mr. Wagoner that teaches.

Beverly: Uncle John and Aunt Belle Bruce running it. Their oldest son John Jr. Bruce was born there, so they must have run it for some time. Then the Whimmers came in. Ralph may have told you that.

Beverly: Mrs. Whimmer cooked, I believe.

Zareda: Yes, they lived downstairs and they rented rooms. There were also the caskets on third floor. I don't know when it started but I'd say it was pretty close when it was built because Arista Harmon was the first post master in Bastian. He was in with his brothers that made the caskets.

Beverly: Do you know when they took the third floor off and why they took it off?

Zareda: Well, that's when Roy and Helen Leftwich were living there. It needed a new roof. They decided it leaked and it was too much to keep up. Like I said, the wood on this came from the second, the third story, the roof on this picture, that you took the picture of. That's when they lowered it. There really was not that much need for it because they weren't using it. Of course they voted over there, you knew that.

Beverly: No, I didn't.

Zareda: They used the first room up until just recent years. With elections, they voted in the first room on the left as you go in the front. I would kid Ralph at his last birthday party that my daddy was a strong democrat and Ralph was a republican. Ralph was in the store business up here on the corner and my daddy had his store down here right in view of him. So, they would always bet on the election. So, I remember one time Ralph had to put my daddy in a wheel barrel and take him down the street and back. Whoever lost had to take the other one down the road in a wheel barrel. I can very plainly remember one time that Ralph Kidd sat on ballot box and would not let them open it. I don't remember what the outcome of that was, but eventually I think they got him off of it. He was a very, very hothead. He and Daddy, even though their politics were or did not coincide, they remained real good friends. I mean they were considered true friends? They wouldn't get really mad at each other and it was considered funny. We couldn't wait for the elections to come to see what was going to happen next.

Beverly: Do you know anything else the hotel was used for like that, I mean anything like that?

Zareda: I really can't think of anything. The voting and then they did rent out some rooms upstairs.

Beverly: Did they have anything like socials there?

Zareda: Not that I really know of. I just don't know anything like special there. I know when the Whimmers ran it, they had a daughter, Mary and she was real pretty girl.

Beverly: I guess she had a lot of courters and stuff.

Zareda: Yes, she did. She crawled out the window to meet them.

Beverly: Which floor? The first floor?

Zareda: Yes. They lived in the back part of the hotel where they had the dining part of the hotel. She used to sneak out.

Beverly: Do you know if there was a lobby in the hotel?

Zareda: Not that I know of. It was a big hallway as you first came in. The rooms were off to the side.

Beverly: What has the hotel been called? Just the Bastian Boardinghouse or the Bastian Hotel?

Zareda: I've always called it the Bastian Hotel. I've never known it to be called anything else. It might have been called the Stark's Hotel, because George built it and owning it. As far as I know of as the Hotel when I used to shoot marbles with Pat Muncy. In front of it when I was a little girl. We used to have a gather around. Mac Muncy, it was when he was young, he was real tall and I was real short and I remember one time when we were shooting marbles and he kept fudging on me and it was cold weather and buddy, I took a plank and I hit that boy. Always told him I stunted his growth but he grew up to be six feet tall.

Beverly: Well, he shouldn't have been fudging you. What other kinds of games did you guys play when you were kids?

Zareda: We played hopscotch, and then down here in the bottom down from the hotel from behind now what is Bastian Post Office, they had tent shows that came. The gypsies came in and they also had circuses down there. One elephant got loose and turned over a man's barn and they had to shoot it. They couldn't calm it down. I remember that we got free tickets because daddy owned the property. They were going to have the play Ten Nights in a Bar Room. They wanted me to play the part of a little girl who came and begged my father to come home from the bar, my mother was sick. So, my sister is six years younger than me and I wasn't very old. I had her with me, she was about three or four, and they threw a bottle in the bar when I was begging my daddy to come home, mother needed him and the family did, they threw the bottle and it hit me and they poured ketchup all over me like all the blood and I would die. My sister thought I really had died.

Beverly: Of dear!

Zareda: We really had a good time. We had box suppers. The Bruce boys across the creek, they always had a raft for when the water was deep and wide. We stayed on a raft, we caught waterdogs. I haven't seen a waterdog.

Beverly: What's a waterdog?

Zareda: Those are waterdogs(hellbender salamanders) that live in the water, but you don't see them anymore. I guess it's the pollution in the water at this time is what really. We jumped the lumber stacks. They were so high. We didn't think about it being dangerous, but it was, if we would have fallen down between those stacks we'd have died. When the CCC camp was here, the ice froze over next to where Bruce spring is and we all skated, we built bonfires.

Beverly: You said something about box suppers? What were they?

Zareda: Like if we wanted to raise some money for the church, well, all of us ladies would fix a box of food and then they would bid our boxes, who has the highest bid, you got to eat with them and they got to eat with you.

Beverly: That's sounds interesting. We had marry go rounds. We used to have our Christian Endeavor meetings down in the field.

Zareda: Yeah, we stayed busy all the time, we had more stuff like that now.

Beverly: What's that? Christian Endeavor?

Zareda: Sorta like youth meetings, group meetings that Paul has at the church now. We stayed very active. Fact it, we had a merry go round and we got real cute. That's where you put a big pole in the ground with a spike and you have a board that one gets on one side and one gets on the other and turns, someone would push it, you ride. Have you ever done that? You would like it, it was fun. We got cute, so we got a hankerchief and we were trying to dip over and pick it up off the ground and so the board broke and I cracked my wrist. It was the first time I was ever in a hospital.

Beverly: Where were you in the hospital at?

Zareda: At St. Luke's. My sister came to see me and as she smelled the ether she passed out in the hall. My cousin shopped down the merry go round. That was the end of merry go round. We didn't use it anymore.

Beverly: How old were you?

Zareda: I was carrying and that was my first job with the Roanoke Times papers, and I was about eleven years old, that's when my daddy had to go and help me do the the Sunday papers. Then, I had to cross the trestle, see we had a railroad trestle up here, you know where the water goes under now.

Beverly: Do you remember who, when the hotel closed, who were the last people running the it when it closed?

Zareda: I have to just think that when Mr. Whimmer died and they discontinued using it, that it was never really run as hotel. It was more or less just rented rooms out. You know people that lived here all the time, not as a hotel as they would be coming and going, transit people.

Beverly: Do you remember when it closed? When he died, or what year that was? Have an idea or anything?

Zareda: Mr. Whimmer died? I don't know, some of his relatives were here about a year ago looking for his burial thing. Really, I can't remember the year he passed away. It's been quite some time because then George Starks owned it and he lived at the old Starks home, the log place and then Uncle Auss built the white house right from it, it was all the same property and then Uncle George and Aunt Lizzie neither one of them married in the Starks family, they lived with Uncle Auss, Arthur is really his name, the hotel. Helen Bruce that married Roy Leftwitch, she was the daughter. That was the reason they owned it. Now Valerie owns it since they are deceased.

Beverly: I thank you for your time and appreciate it.

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