Virginia Ghost Town Abandoned by the Railroad

Union Level Ghost Town | Mecklenburg County, VA

Hilda Thompson, Luther, and Pete Lett in Union Level c. 1940

In the years leading up to the American Revolution, the European settlement in this area was expanding quickly. By 1765, the county of Lurenburg had become so populated that a new county (Mecklenburg) was established in 1765 by the Virginia General Assembly. Tobacco farms sprang up as planters lined their coffers on the backs of an enslaved labor force.

In the early days here, farming families were spread out in the countryside and would only come ‘into town’ on Saturdays to get their supplies for the upcoming week. But this would shift in the early 1800s when a horse and carriage line came to town. Travelers needed accommodations and supplies so stores began to pop up. By 1836, there were enough regular residents in Union Level that James Bridgeforth applied to be its first postmaster and Union Level was officially on the books.

John E. Smith, John A. Thompson, and C.P. Jones in front of C.P.'s store

As you might imagine, the upcoming years would bring a lot of changes to this young nation and Union Level was certainly not immune from those changes. Having been a tobacco-farming region that relied on enslaved labor forces, the Emancipation of their workers would’ve obviously changed the landscape as we know it for both planter and freedman.

But things would also change for the larger industry that relied on the expansive tobacco plantations in Virginia and North Carolina. After the Civil War, investors offered Union Level farmers to buy their land for tobacco warehouses, forcing tobacco sellers to move elsewhere; namely the nearby town of South Hill.

But all wasn’t lost for Union Level yet.

In the early 1900s, the Southern Railroad came through town and the town experienced a resurgence in commerce. By 1920, there were more than 20 businesses; 4 general stores, 2 barbers, 1 pharmacy, 1 boarding house, a rail road depot, and a motorcycle dealer.

It also had a bank, The Bank of Union Level which was established by A.F. Drumwright, Ashby Thompson, and Cornelius C.P. Jones in 1915. C.P. Jones was quite the business man in Union Level, having also been a seed dealer, and the co-owner of a general store with his brother, John.

But another big change was going to significantly impact this sweet little town. And this one they wouldn’t recover from.

The Depression would take C.P.’s bank and general store as victims. The barbers and boarding house and other stores would have to close too. Except for a handful of businesses that survived until the 1970s, this town would never look the same. By the mid-1908s, the train had stopped running here and in 1990, the post office was closed with mail being rerouted to South Hill.

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