Timber, tenacity and talent built Blanding: The Scott Hurst Legacy

by Janet Wilcox
Contributing writer
Interest in constructon and lumber runs deep in the Hurst families of Blanding.
In the late 1930’s, Joe and Stan Hurst’s Grandfather Phil Hurst and their Uncle George Hurst purchased Dave Black’s Sawmill. They operated this mill on Johnson Creek for years then moved it to a site four miles north of Blanding and ran it until 1950 when it burned down. 
This provided lumber for many homes in San Juan County. 
Phil’s son Scott began his construction journey in 1953 in the Marine Corps, where he learned to build bridges. He next attended a building trades school in California, then he and Erma Lee moved back to Blanding.
He first worked for Rex Harvey’s Building and Supply, building cabinets. Shortly afterwards Scott took out a $300 loan and started his own business.
As his business expanded, he hired Ron MacDonald, Arvid Black and his former employer, Rex Harvey. 
His daughter Jane remembers one winter when they had poured concrete. “They spent the night on the job site, keeping fires lit to prevent the concrete from freezing. Rex’s wife got up in the night to check on them and both men had an open half gallon of ice cream in one hand, with their trowels in the other hand to eat the ice cream.”  
The next big step for Scott was building homes. The first one built was for Elmer Hurst in 1960. Next came the Dee Gibbons and Bill Black homes.
“Our home is probably one of the best one built in Blanding at that time,” said Elmer.
“John Hurst was the spackler and his craftmanship was far superior to the wallboard used now days. Linney Goldberg did all the interior hardwood carpentry.”  
A new man who came to work for him from another company told Scott, “If you tell me to go pour a set of stairs, you’ll tell me every step of how to do it and if I don’t do it good enough, you’ll take it out and re-do it.” His other boss never did that. 
Scott’s daughter Jane also remembers watching Scott build caskets for people who couldn’t afford to purchase one.
“He refused to be paid for them. He would make beautiful caskets which he padded and lined with satin, even the hardware was elegant,” she said.
Many of those experiences were very tender ones both for the builder and the recipients.
Scott Hurst next hired Pete Black in 1973 as his bookkeeper and by the 1980’s, Hurst Builders was off and running.
Projects included new wings added to Blanding Nursing Home in 1983, Shiprock LDS Church in 1984 and the Albert R. Lyman School Gym in 1986.
Another building milestone was when Scott and Erma were called to serve a mission to Armenia in 1991.
The LDS Church needed service missionaries to help rebuild the country after devastating earthquakes and the negative impact of the Soviet Union.  They specifically needed construction experience.
Stan recalled his father reading about it in the Church News and saying, “Now, wouldn’t that be a fun experience!”
Not long afterwards, Stake President Francis Lyman called them to serve in Armenia and the “fun experience” began. Six couples served with them. 
Soon after arriving, they wrote home saying they had entered the “old Persian Empire, in full view of Noah’s traditional landing and where the 10 Tribes got lost!”
Scott noted that Armenia had been in bondage to the USSR for 70 years.  The devastation of earthquakes was in all parts of Armenia.
Scott wrote: “The government has allowed 10 [cement] factories to reopen …ours being one of them and it receives power for six hours a day. Socialized government is still very much in control of when and how long plants can be run.”
Cement buildings were needed because they were sturdier. The Huntsman’s had run a concrete plant there for three years.  The new missionaries served for 1 1/2 years. They were not allowed to proselyte, however many local people befriended them.
Both Scott and Erma were dedicated letter writers and those letters were published in a mission book and are very interesting.
Scott wrote: “Most people have their mail delivered by the postal service as missionaries, but the Armenian missionaries had their mail delivered by General Authorities (who came often to evaluate the building progress being made.)   
Scott taught many Armenians construction skills and kept good notes comparing tools, cement and progress made, including a precast concrete plant here for over 30 years which includes several buildings.
His interest in concrete work piqued the interest of his grandsons, one of whom did research focused on cement for the State History Fair.  Several of his grandsons became engineers and were capable builders as well.
After returning, Scott and crew were the ones who rebuilt our (Wilcox) two-story home after a house fire in 1993.
Thanks to a very efficient Blanding fire crew, it was put out quickly, but everything inside was either lost, melted, or water logged.  In our small-minded thinking, we just hoped to rebuild it, but Scott came over within a day or so to survey the damage and came up with some amazing and well thought out suggestions to improve its functionality and aesthetics. 
The kitchen and the family room were joined into one large area, which required installing a large support beam. They poured and leveled cement in the kitchen area, so water wouldn’t run in three directions!
The Hursts added cement and pillars in the front, for an aesthetically pleasing entrance and a large pantry and more work space in the kitchen. 
They created an awesome walk-in closet for the master bedroom, and dozens of other changes that made it perfect for our large family.
(Editor’s note: Stay tuned for part two in a future issue.)

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