Drawing of the Bland County Jail Bland
County
Historical
Society
Picture of the jail

The Bland County Historical Society is located in the "old jail building" on the courthouse square. Volunteers are at the jail each Friday for research and shopping, and on other days by appointment. Phone (276) 688-0088


Bland County: The year in review - 2016

January

• The Bland County Board of Supervisors reorganized for the upcoming year. Karen Hodock was re-elected as chairman of the board; Nick Asbury was re-elected as vice chairman.

• Jenna Dunn was named the new emergency services/E911 coordinator for Bland County. The Bland County native will also serve as part-time dispatcher for the Bland County Sheriff’s Office.

• Bland County High School eighth-grader Hannah Minnix won the Virginia Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Her essay was submitted as part of the national contest held in the summer.

• The Bland County School board re-elected Jerri Harman as chairman and elected Gerry Schepers as vice-chairman. The board welcomed new board members Duane Bailey and Bill Crabtree.

• A fire destroyed the home of Rocky Gap firefighter and former Grapefield Fire Chief Kerry Wright.

February

• A new program to preserve and pass on the importance of local mountain music heritage began in Bland County. The Junior Appalachian Musicians project is a 12-week after school session for qualifying students in grades 4-8.

• A month into office as Bland County’s new sheriff, Tom Roseberry reorganized his department. Among the changes he has made was doing away with rankings of officers. “It simplifies things,” Roseberry said. “The only difference it made was stripes on the sleeves of the uniforms.”

• Tazewell County native and Princeton resident Barbara Herald Sadler started teaching basket weaving classes at the Bland County Library. The first class, taught in January, was so popular that more classes were scheduled for the rest of the year.

• A decrease in the demand for medium voltage products resulted in the layoff of around 30 employees at the ABB Inc. plant in Bland.

• Bland County survivalist Mike Reed changed his company name after receiving a letter from Survivorman Les Stroud Productions Inc., informing Reed that Stroud owns the Survivorman trademark and asking Reed to change his name. For nine years, Reed operated as the Bland County Survivorman. His new name is Mike Reed Outdoors.

March

• Bland County School Board member Gerry Schepers appeared before county supervisors to address the state of the school system and to express the school board’s desire to work with supervisors to determine the school system’s next step. That step, Schepers said, might be the construction of a new K12 school. Schepers said the decision to build a new school needs to be made by the people of Bland County, not by consultants. He said that while school board members agree that continued progress is needed, the exact definition of what that is must be defined.

• New Bland County Historical Society President Molly P. Thompson said she wants the organization to have greater community presence again. “Genealogy will always be a big part of our organization,” Thompson said. “We have some wonderful members who will continue to do research. But I would like for us to get back more into the community and get our membership built back up.”

• Local graphic designer Jessica Looney created the logo for the official 2016 Wolf K5 T-shirts. Her design also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Wolf Creek Indian Village.

• Police looked but were unable to find the driver of a gray Dodge Charger who led a Bland County deputy on a high-speed chase into Wythe County. Deputy S.D. Mullins said he was working radar on southbound Interstate 77 at the 54 mile marker at about noon when he clocked the car at 102 miles per hour.

• Super speller Addie Nolley made Bland County proud again. The 14-year-old eighth-grader tied for second place in the 43rd Regional Spelling Bee. Nolley made it all the way to the second-to-last round, during which she misspelled “acquisitive.” The appearance was Nolley’s third and final time at the regional spelling bee, and each year she has improved. In 2015, she placed seventh, misspelling the word “notarize,” and the year before she was ninth, missing “perennial.”

• Bland County implemented the CodeRED high-speed emergency notification system and the CodeRED Weather Warning System. The CodeRED system serves as the backbone for county's emergency planning and communications outreach to deliver messages to a targeted area or the entire county by way of a personalized message via voice, email, and text messages.

• Pamela P. Gibson started her job as the victim/witness coordinator for Bland County’s three courts.

• The Bland County Economic Development Authority hosted a Bland County Trails business connection meeting to discuss ways to benefit from trail hikers and other tourists. A Laundromat, a restaurant, a re-charging station for electronic devices, a secure place for hikers to temporarily store their backpacks and a sporting equipment supplier were among the suggestions for improving Bland County’s marketing of the Appalachian Trail.

• Arguing that a new Love’s travel stop would harm business at the gas station it runs across the street, a Texas company has filed a lawsuit against the property owner who’s selling the land to Love’s. Circle K filed the suit against Seldon Stowers Jr.

• The Bland County Historical Society established a new scholarship in memory of two longtime society members. The Nancy Clark Tate and Zareda Shufflebarger Earnest Memorial Scholarship benefits a graduating Bland County High School senior pursuing a degree in history.

• The Bland County’s School Board hired its third superintendent in six years, naming former Giles County assistant superintendent for curriculum D. Scott Meade the schools chief.

April

• Former Bland County deputy Jason Ramsey rejoined the Bland County Sheriff’s Office, replacing Lorin Hanshew who resigned in March after 27 years with the department.

• Bland County High School juniors Jordan Faulkner and Alexa Riggs placed first in the state in the Serious Duo category at the Virginia High School League’s forensics tournament.

• Former Wythe County Sheriff G. Wayne Pike was honored by the Virginia House of Delegates for his 39 years in law enforcement.

• Former Bland County resident Kevin McGuire ran the Boston Marathon in just over three hours: 3 hours, 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

• Joe McAfee and the late Myra Moler were honored with handmade quilts. McAfee, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, was honored with an official Quilt of Valor. Moler, who died in October 2015, was remembered with a quilt top made by members of Just for Fun Quilters, a group she founded.

• Support from parents and the general community allowed restoration of the Wagner Auditorium at Bland County Elementary School to progress. Through various fundraisers by the school, new stage curtains were bought and hung. They are in the school’s colors of blue with an orange B embroidered on the valance. The auditorium was painted and wall mats were installed.

•The Bland County Service Authority received $2.4 million for water system improvements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office in Virginia.

•Paintings by well-known award-winning local artist Eleanor Dillow opened the first ever quarterly art show at the Bland County Public Library.

May

• Shannon Bailey, Kelly Cook and Lauri Bowling earned a variety of awards in the Princeton Camera Club competition. Their winning works were on display at Mercer Mall in Bluefield, West Virginia.

• Donna Moses and Carey Watters organized a redeye bus trip to New York City. Proceeds benefited the Bland County Relay for Life and the All for Amy Scholarship, which honors Amy Sweatnam, who passed away last year.

• Less than two weeks after voting to buy a new school bus, the Bland County School Board found out that the extra funds it planned to use to buy the bus were not in the budget after. Instead, the school system owed penalties on late tax payments. The board paid the penalties and honored its commitment to purchase the bus.

• Longtime Bland County School Board member Roger L. Morehead, 79, passed away May 16. A native of Bland, he served on the board for 15 years.

June

• Bland County Public Schools officials said that using a car to block off the front entrance of the school board office over the Memorial Day weekend had nothing to do with recent personnel changes, including the elimination of Assistant Superintendent Annie Whittaker’s job and the removal of Temple Musser as the principal of Bland County High School. Superintendent Scott Meade and School Board Chairman Jerri Harman said that concerns about break-ins at the nearby football concession stand prompted officials to move the car in front of the door for the weekend. Meade also said that the front door lock was faulty and the maintenance supervisor was unavailable to fix it. Musser eventually accepted a job as assistant principal at Grayson County High School. Whittaker accepted a job as supervisor of personnel services with the Montgomery County School System.

• Bland County native Ben Johnson starred in a commercial for Montano’s Restaurant. Johnson, who works for a production company in Roanoke, is the son of Chuck and Becky Johnson. In the commercial, Johnson played a customer who is delighted to dig in into some food because it’s Saturday. Only it’s really Tuesday. Thus, the slogan, “Montano’s: Everyday feels like a Saturday.”

• Bland County High School principal Temple Musser resigned. The school board hired Jessica Barrett as the school system’s new finance and budget supervisor.

• Bland County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars received new, bold vehicle decals. The black and gold design runs across the side of the patrol cars and says “Sheriff Bland County.” The cars also feature the department’s new badge. The badge is in the shape of a star with the words “Sheriff’s Office Bland County, Va.” and “In God We Trust” wrapped in and around the star, along with the American flag.

• Local veterinarian Tracy Readnour and her husband, Mark, announced that they plan to open a veterinary clinic in Bland. The clinic logo was designed by Bland County High School student India Cimino.

•Judge Colin Gibb rejected a claim by Circle K. Stores Inc. that an existing lease effectively barred Seldon Stowers Jr. from selling property he owns in Bastian to Love’s Travel Stops, paving the way for the property sale and construction.

• Flash flooding in the Bastian area washed out part of the road and damaged a Bland County water line on Bears Trail near the school board office.

July

• More than 100 Bland County students gathered for some hands-on lessons on sustainability and the environment, the theme for this year’s STEM-UP Summer Program held June 20-24 at Bland County Elementary School. Local students in grades two through eight participated in the camp, unlocking their potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

• Bland County residents contributed to West Virginia flood relief efforts in various ways, including donations of money, cleaning supplies and clothing.

• The Bland County School Board hired a new principal for Bland County High School. The board tapped Jill Hopkins, the school’s former guidance counselor, for the position. Before coming to BCHS, Hopkins was the principal at Narrows High School.

• Bland County High School student Lane Burton competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Wyoming.

• Bastian Union Church sponsored a vigil to support local law enforcement and government leaders. The gathering came shortly after the July 7 slaying of five Dallas, Texas, law enforcement officers and nationwide outrage over the police-involved shooting deaths of two black men.

• The Bland County Public Library added on to its name to honor longtime library advocates Harry and Lois Shupe. County supervisors voted July 21 to rename the library branch the Bland County Public Library: Harry and Lois Shupe Branch. Harry Shupe, who served as a Virginia State Police trooper for more than three decades, died in May at the age of 85.

August

• Bland native and country music singer Darnell Miller had a song at the No. 4 spot on the Top 40 International Singles Chart.

• Miranda Burnette, 11, donated 22 inches of her hair to Wigs for Kids.

• The Bland County Fair celebrated its 90th year this summer with several new events and more rides than in past years. Thie parade grand marshal was Martha “Chi Chi” Pauley.

• Bland County wrapped up its annual Relay for Life event with fireworks, bagpipes and a closing ceremony after having raised more than $37,000 to be donated to the American Cancer Society. Nine teams took turns walking or running the Bland County Fairgrounds track for an eight-hour period.

• The Eupepsia Family Center held an open house for the community at the center, 13066 West Blue Grass Trail. Co-founder Hussein (Sushil) Murad said the center will introduce guests to the breathtaking natural surroundings of the area and will focus on nature, healthy eating and living, with a wide variety of planned indoor and outdoor sports activities, including hiking and horseback riding. The center will offer 26 double bedrooms, a restaurant serving healthy meals, a kids area, a multi-purpose gym as well as other recreation areas and facilities.

• Bland County High School science teacher Laura Radford was named Teacher of the Year by the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce.

• Bland County High School started the new school year with renovated bathrooms outfitted in Bland Bear blue and orange. The school system’s maintenance and custodial staff worked throughout the summer to overhaul the restrooms, which had come under fire in recent years because they were old and worn out.

• Bleachers at the Bland County football stadium went from drab to fab. Once plain and dull, they now sparkle in Bland County blue and orange. A group of community volunteers, along with trusties from the New River Valley Jail, worked to paint the bleachers and strengthen the structural supports.

• Preschoolers and Head Start students in Bland County received new shoes for the school year thanks to Bland Ministry Center, which received a grant from the Wythe-Bland Foundation to pay for 160 pairs of shoes.

September

• Visiting the school nurse will take on a whole new dimension for Bland County students starting in 2017 when they will be able to chat via video conference with medical personnel at the Bland County Medical Clinic. When possible, students will be diagnosed and given a prescription on the spot, saving their parents a trip to the doctor. The clinic is partnering with the Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth at University of Virginia Health System to harness the power of technology to help children live healthier lives. The center is creating telehealth centers at Bland County’s two schools, along with two schools in Martinsville. Supported by a four-year $1.1 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the project aims to provide children with conditions from autism to asthma better access to specialists and coordinated care in regions with a shortage of healthcare providers.

• The Bland County School Board approved a new logo to go on digital signs to be erected at Bland County Elementary and Bland County High schools. Superintendent Scott Meade also announced that Bland County Public Schools will use the month of October to help raise awareness of childhood bullying in the two Bland County schools.

• Visitors at the Rocky Gap Welcome Center are now greeted with love, thanks to a large metal sign out front that spells out the word. The sign is part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s LOVEworks program and goes hand-in-hand with the state’s iconic Virginia is for Lovers message. The statewide branding initiative is designed to promote family-friendly vacation experiences in Virginia and share the message that love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.

October

• The Bland County Historical Society sponsored the county’s first cruise-in to help celebrate Bland County’s Festival of Leaves.

• Johnny Goins, Randy Kiser and Jim Starks became Bland County’s 60th, 61st and 62nd Citizens of the Year.

• Students at Bland County Elementary School were excited to see a new playground on the premises. The addition of the new playground gave students three more slides, two new ladders, an extra set of monkey bars and a fireman pole to play on.

• After six years of planning and working to secure funding, the Rocky Gap Greenway Project is officially under way. County officials gathered to kick off Phase I of the project, the construction of a sidewalk that stretches from Bland County High School to Highway 52. The sidewalk will feature street lights designed like Victorian-era lamp posts. Construction is projected to take a little more than six months.

November

• The owner of the former Rocky Gap Bank site asked the county to re-zone the property so he can operate a trucking operation on the land. Lee Hagan purchased the property several months ago from New People’s Bank. He said he plans to store trucks and equipment there for his business, Hagan Trucking, which carries corrugated pipe for Lane Enterprises in Wytheville, along with Pepsi and Gatorade. Eventually, he wants to build a garage on the site so he can store and work on his equipment.

• Local recipients of Wythe-Bland Foundation grants included the Bland County Ministry Center and Dental Clinic, which received $133,000, and the school system, which received $100,000 for its STEM-UP program, which teaches science, technology, engineering and math to students.

• The Bland County Lady Bears Varsity Basketball team sold T-shirts to raise money for longtime Bland County sports reporter Jerry Scott, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

• At Big Walker Lookout, Virginia Wildlife Center officials released a golden eagle rescued from the side of a Saltville road in August. The young and ailing eagle was taken to the center in Waynesboro for rehabilitation until he was strong enough to fly.

December

• December has been a month of contrasts for multi-million-dollar Powerball winner Jack Whittaker. Nearly 16 years ago on Christmas Day, the then West Virginia resident and businessman claimed one of the largest Powerball jackpots at the time – nearly $315 million. Two years later in December, Whittaker’s 17-year-old granddaughter was found dead. And on Dec. 2 of this year, the contractor in the cowboy hat whose life after the lottery jackpot has generated headlines in the U.S. and abroad, watched as flames consumed his Rocky Gap home.

• Accused of gun and property crimes going back to 2013, a Bland County Sheriff’s Office deputy was indicted on five felony charges. Kevin Dean Cox, 46, was indicted on charges of obtaining money or property by false pretenses (two counts), possessing an illegal gun (two counts) and perjury. He is no longer employed by the department.

• It took nearly a decade, but officials finally broke ground for a Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store in Bastian. Construction is slated to begin in the spring. The travel center, which will include an Arby’s, will employ between 40 and 50 people.

• Bland County’s Bible Club has proven to be a successful after-school activity. Every Wednesday, students at the elementary school gather after the final bell to learn the stories of the Good Book. When the club started in September, organizers were not sure what to expect. Three months later, attendance averages 85 students a week.

• Bland County deputies and school resource officers Randy Dillow and Jason Ramsey completed the D.A.R.E. America training program and are ready to help Bland County students. In addition to hearing about abstaining from drug and alcohol use, students will also study self awareness, responsible decision making and communication skills, and how to handle responsibilities and challenges. The program also fosters a strong anti-bullying component.