Sifting through history

For the past week, Jesse Yancy, Jr. has been staring at me in my office thanks to a large portrait of him from his time in the Mississippi Senate given to the Bruce Museum by his nephew Bob Cooper.

It was one of several items Bob donated for a future display in the museum on his uncle. At one time Jesse Yancy Jr. had a law office upstairs in the Bruce Company building. Bob also gave us the hand-painted sign that hung over his door. As far as that goes, Bob has offered us the door, too. It simply says “Attorney” across the glass.

This is the highlight of my involvement in the museum project – sifting through all of the history.

Rickie Vaughn is in the midst of one of the more exciting projects at the museum. He’s working to reassemble the original steam engine from the Bruce Company mill.

The town was allowed to save it when the old mill was scrapped a few years ago. Rickie has been working with PEPA engineer Ben Hogan to determine the proper amount of footing to support the 9-ton piece of equipment around which the town of Bruce was literally built.

While the engine isn’t likely to run, Rickie is also leading our effort to get the old mill whistle to blow. Many years have passed since Bruce has heard the unmistakable whistle, which in its day served as the town’s clock.

It’s a tremendous challenge when you don’t have an engine capable of producing the amount of steam that originally powered it.

It requires so much compressed air to produce the same amount of sound that it’s a true engineering challenge. But I’ve learned in working with Rickie, he loves a challenge.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on E.L. Bruce, the man for whom the town is named, and learned he founded Terminix – the pest control service.
In 1927, Mr. Bruce was searching for a way to protect the hardwood floors his company manufactured from termites, so he established the Bruce Terminix Research Laboratory.

Senior chemist Frank Lyons is credited for creating the first termiticide in 1932.  The company began to franchise under the name Bruce Terminix and by 1957 was providing residential and commercial pest control services.

I’ve enjoyed reading several times a letter forwarded to me from Tommy Hallum originally mailed in 1928 to R.A. “Bob” Tyson from Bruce Company Vice President C.A. Bruce.

The letter was informing Mr. Tyson that the company had voted to definitely build the mill in Bruce.

“I do not know just where to place our estimate as to the number of men we will be employing after we get started at Bruce, but I will say around two hundred considering the men that we have in the woods logging, on our railroad, etc. These latter, of course, will be in addition to those that we have in the actual operation of our mill. This means, I am quite certain, that Bruce will be a village of around 1,000 inhabitants before long. Having started with no population at all a few months ago this makes a pretty good start,” Bruce wrote.

You may email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @joelmcneece