Bastian Union Church

This report is based on an interview with Mr. Guy Bruce by Kathy Starks.

The original Bastian Union Church was a log church located in Parkersburg (now called Bastian). It was originally named Hornbargers Chapel Christian Church, It was a log building situated across the road from the present building. The church was named after Parker Hornbarger because he had donated the land for the church. On July 3, 1896 Parker Hornbarger deeded a half acre of land to build a new church just yards away from the log building. In 1875 the trustees of Hornbarger's Chapel Christian Church were Paul James, James Starks, and Thomas Coburn. In 1911 the church would have to be torn down or moved so that the railroad could come through Bastian. At that time, George Miller owned a steam engine tractor, which he had nicknamed "Buck." Mr. Miller moved the church several yards and turned it. The church had faced the creek, but was turned to face the direction it does today. It has been told that Mr. Miller was quite a character and didn't even part with his tobacco when he went to church. Mr. Miller would sit in the front of the church where a knothole was located in the flooring, This hole served as his spittoon.

Before moving the church, a stump had to be blasted. Dynamite was used to remove the stump. The stump flew into the air and came down on Mr. Meek, the foreman. The blow from the stump threw him into a fence, killing him.

Once the church was moved, it was renamed as the Bastian Union Church. Each week in the month, a different pastor came to Bastian Union Church. Many denominations worshiped there. The pastors that rotated were of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Christian Disciples of Christ denominations. From the very begining, Bastian Union Church was integrated. Black folks worshiped right along with the white folks. In 1979 the Bastian Union Church was declared nondenominational. This meant that the church was not to be affiliated with any one denomination, or belong to any type of church conference.

The original building was a wood structure, All of the Sunday School classes were held in the sanctuary. Sunday School rooms were added on in 1959. The first pews in the Bastian Union Church were made of pine and chestnut. Mr. Miller built the pine pews, and the chestnut pews were built by Mr. Floyd Baker. The floors and ceiling were made of pine and were furnished by Mr. William Johnson Bruce.

Later the church was sealed with Ponderosa Pine. The building was weather boarded, painted white, and then bricked in 1964. A front porch was added at the same time the building was bricked. The sanctuary was fully furnished in 1966 with new pews, carpet, and new pulpit furniture. A fellowship hall and kitchen were built in 1977. The front porch was enclosed in 1989.

Before a school was built in Bastian, school was taught in the Bastian Union Church. When the Virginia Hardwood Lumber Company came to Bastian, many families moved to the area. The children had no place to go to school. School was taught in the church for a few years before an elementary school was built in Bastian.

The Bastian Union Church prides itself in having the first of many things in Bland County. Bastian Union Church was the first church in the county to own a musical instrument, which was the pump organ.

The Union Church also owned the first electric organ. In 1927 the church had the first electric lights. In the past, the church was lit by oil lamps that sat on shelves on the walls of the church. Electricity was supplied by a generator belonging to Virginia Hardwood Lumber Company. Bastian Union Church also had the first indoor plumbing and the first central heat. Originally, the church was heated by a wood stove. The wood stove was later replaced by a coal furnace.

In the early 1940's the Bastian Union Church Missions began a Sunday School program at the Correctional Farm in Bland County. The church furnished the materials for the program. On the fifth Sunday of every month all of those members interested in going, would drive to the Correctional Farm and hold a service there. This resulted in the state of Virginia hiring chaplains for the prisons and setting up their own Christian programs.

Many people have worshiped at the Bastian Union Church over the years, but many animals have also. Once when Timothy Havens, Associate Pastor, was saying a prayer, he asked those that needed God's saving grace to come forward to the altar to pray. When Mr. Havens opened his eyes and lifted his head, he discovered an old hound dog waiting at the altar. Mr. Guy Bruce recalled that a pack of goats that wandered through Bastian had entered the church one Sunday morning during a prayer. Another member sitting next to Mr. Bruce admitted to assuming the devil had come into the church. Mr. Bruce also recalled that woodpeckers were quite disturbing as they searched the wooden boards of the church for food.

In 1983 the Bastian Union Church bought a parsonage from John and Belle Bruce. Also in 1983, the Bastian Union Church Youth Group began singing in nearby churches as part of their witness program. The name of the group was the "Whosoevers." In 1984 the Ladies Group in the church began making and selling candy eggs during Easter to raise money The profit made off of this project would furnish a bus for the youth group, The youth group no longer travels to sing, but the ladies still sell eggs to raise money for the church. The Bastian Union Church raised corn on the property of Les Cochrane. This began in 1984 and the members still raise corn . In 1986 land was bought from the Bland County School Board for the purpose of building a church shelter. This shelter was to include a basketball court, swings, a tennis court, and a picnic shelter. The shelter was built in 1988.

The Blizzard of'93 brought many people to the Bastian Union Church. The majority of the people stranded in the church were from Canada. Most were on their way to Florida or Myrtle Beach when the storm hit. The members of the church provided the visitors with plenty of food and blankets. At breakfast one morning some of the visitors admitted to never seeing sausage gravy before. That Sunday, March 14, 1993, the Bastian Union Church had its largest Sunday crowd ever. The attendance was approximately 300.

For over a century Bastian Union Church has continued to be a caring and loving church.

Karen Starks RGHS 1994

Interview with Mr. Guy Bruce
Pastors of Bastian Union Church

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