There is a large, old building on the southeast corner of Cumberland and Moore in downtown Bristol, Va., that apparently is destined to become a noted local landmark.
It already has a significant claim of local historical fame in that it played a vital role in the early years of truck sales in this city. It is fitting and timely to here give a well-documented history of that building. To do that, we must go back a few years.
The automobile industry began in 1903 when James King James opened the first sales agency here. He had previously become owner of the first automobile in Bristol. However, more than a dozen years would pass before an agency opened for the sale of trucks.
According to the late Charles J. Harkrader, who always kept a sharp eye on local happenings, the first truck sales began in Bristol in 1916. He did not give the location of the first agency nor was he sure of the first brand offered but thought it was International. At first, trucks were properly called "speed wagons" or "motor wagons."
It is known that the Virginia/Tennessee Motor Company was operating here in 1918. It was located at 25 7th St. with G. S. Barger as proprietor. The next year, a name came into this company that would evolve into a trucking business that has endured for 91 years. That name is Goodpasture.
Frank Goodpasture Sr. came to Bristol from the Nashville, Tenn., area and was here by 1914. He had a brother, John Albert Goodpasture, who already lived here. This brother had a home at 814 Fairmount in Bristol, Va. According to the city directories of the period, Frank lived with him for the first few years of his residency in Bristol.
Both these brothers were traveling paper salesmen. Family members have told me they were descendents of Abraham Goodpasture who was a pioneer settler of Washington County Va. Their branch of the family had moved from this county to settle in middle Tennessee.
These brothers reversed the generational "pioneer flow" of usually moving westward. Instead, they moved back eastward (this writer did the same thing).
Soon after Frank Goodpasture came into truck sales, the name of the company was changed to the Virginia Motor Truck Corporation, and it began selling Defiance trucks and Rio cars. Mr. S.T. Copenhaver was president of the new company. Frank Goodpasture Sr. was vice president, J. C. Copenhaver was treasurer and J. Gray Gilmer was secretary.
Now the increase in business soon created a pressing need for larger and better quarters. The Episcopal church had long stood on a choice lot at the southeast corner of Cumberland and Moore. This church had sold the property in 1916 but had used it on a rental basis until June 1, 1919. After this church abandoned the building, it was soon demolished.
By the fall of that year, construction was underway for the Virginia Motor Truck Corporation. By 1924, Frank Goodpasture had become president of the corporation. By that time, the company name was Virginia-Tennessee Motor Corporation, distributing Chrysler automobiles as well as Cadillac and REO brands.
During the Great Depression, the business was moved, first to 507-509 Cumberland St., then to 110 Lee St., offering the Federal Truck brand. By 1940, the company had moved back to the big building at Cumberland and Moore as a GMC Truck dealer. By then, the firm had become the Goodpasture Motor Company.
In time, there would be changes in the franchises of this company. In 1946, Frank Goodpasture Sr. took his son, Frank Goodpasture Jr., and also his son-in-law, Archie Hubbard Jr., into the business. In 1975, Frank Goodpasture III came in and then, in July 2009, his son, Frank Goodpasture IV, became part of the business here. He represents the fourth generation of the family in this 91-year-old Bristol firm. Archie Hubbard III is also still with the company.
At one time, this firm moved to a large facility on Gate City Highway but then later moved to its present location near Exit 7 in Bristol, Va. Ironically, they handle the first truck brand introduced to the Bristol area, International Trucks.
The old Goodpasture building on the corner of Moore and Cumberland downtown served for several years as a taxi stand and other enterprises. There were times when the upper floor was used for musical shows and various types of entertainment. Boxing matches were also held there.
A few old-timers will remember when the well-known bandleader, Fats Waller, conducted dances in the upper story of this building. The building is now to become a part of the country music scene in Bristol.
BUD PHILLIPS is a local historian and author. He can be reached at (276) 466-6435. For more about Bristol’s history, visit www.bristolhistoricalassociation.com.