"Wash Out Tank for Filter Plant at Bays Mountain - 1923"
Seated: Ruby (Barlow) Nelms holding Jimmy Caton(?). Standing L/R: Gus Caton, Rufus Nelms - 1923
1923: (L/R) Gus Caton, Rufus Nelms holding Jimmy Caton, Ruby Nelms, and Nita Caton
1923: (L/R) Gus Caton, Rufus Nelms holding Jimmy Caton, Ruby Nelms, and Nita Caton

Filter Plant Operators

The Reservoir on Bays Mountain had a Filter Plant to clean the water before it flowed down to the city of Kingsport. Filter Plant Operators lived on the mountain with their families, enjoying the surrounding beauty while they kept the plant running properly.

In the early 1920s, those operators were Rufus Nelms and G.A. Barlow. They were joined by Rufus’ wife Ruby, who was also G.A.’s daughter. They lived in the filter plant operator’s house, located on the west end of the Dam.

100 years later in 2022, we sat down with Jim and Sarah (the children of Rufus and Ruby) to hear family stories of their parents living on the mountain. One story described how one time, Ruby’s visit to the outhouse was interrupted by the structure falling off the hill while she was using it. Ruby tumbled along with the outhouse until eventually everything settled in a “pokeberry bush”. Ruby climbed back up the hill, aggravated and stained all over with blood and/or the berries. They’ll never forget hearing about the day “mama fell off the mountain”.

In these photos donated to Bays Mountain Park by Ruby around 1990, you can see them entertaining family and friends on their own mountain-top “resort”. These photos are dated 1922-1924.

Rufus, Ruby, and G.A enjoyed sharing the mountain beauty with relatives.

  • The two young girls seen in several photos are Ruby’s nieces, Virginia and Mary Moore. That makes them G.A.’s granddaughters as well
  • The lady in the hat is probably the girls’ mother, Alfa Mary Moore – Ruby’s sister and G.A.’s daughter
  • Howard Barlow (Ruby’s brother and G.A.’s son) appears in one photo

In fact, the July 27, 1923 Kingsport Times-News social column contained this item:

“Mr. Barlow and daughter, Mrs. Nelms are entertaining quite a number with a house party at their home at the reservoir this week.” in