Photographer Keith Dotson walks around “Virginia’s most photographed ghost town” and shares a little bit of history
The ghost town at Union Level is a row of 8 abandoned old storefronts on one side of the street and a still-occupied store and a home on the opposite side of the road. I’ll give you what history I could find, and I hope I get it right because some of the details seem to vary based on sources.
Join fine art photographer Keith Dotson on an exploration of the ghost town at Union Level, Virginia
In the video, I’ll walk you building-by-building and tell you what I’ve learned about its history. If you live in Union Level and know something more or something different, please leave a comment and I’ll correct this story.
History of Union Level
Union Level got its first postmaster James Bridgeforth in 1836. It was a tobacco-growing region that declined after the Civil War. It was revived in the early 1900s when the Southern Railroad came through town.
By the 1920s there were several general stores, a barber, pharmacy, a boarding house, and a motorcycle dealership. But the Great Depression decimated the businesses in town, and sources say Union Level never really recovered.
Trains stopped coming in the 1980s and in the 1990s the post office closed. While it’s called a ghost town, people still live in and around Union Level.
About C.P. Jones
I’ll tell you about one of the town’s successful merchants, C.P. Jones, who owned that first little brick building on the end of the block. The name C.P. Jones stands out to visitors because it’s visible over the door of one of the buildings.
It was a drug store and C.P. Jones was the pharmacist. Cornelius Paschal Jones earned his pharmacy license through a correspondence course. In its day, the building had a nice fabric awning and the store windows displayed signs for Rexall Drug Store and Puretest products.
C.P. Jones was born in 1874 in Union Level. According to one newspaper article he went by the nickname Neely. He married a woman named Elfleda Saunders in 1898. In the 1910 census, C.P. Jones was 35 years of age and Elfleda was three years older. He was listed with the occupation of merchant. He owned his own home and had two children, a son named Darrell who was 8, and a daughter named Ruth who was age 6. Another daughter was born later in 1913.
C.P. Jones died at age 92 in 1966. His name lives on 56 years after his death on the front of the abandoned building where he made his life’s work. The building, like all the structures on this abandoned row in Union Level, is quite endangered. Its floor has collapsed into the basement, taking the furniture and other contents down along with it.
Black and white photographs of Union Level and the surrounding vicinity
Thanks for reading.
Sources and links:
Energy.gov. “Vehicle Technologies Office. Fact #741: August 20, 2012 Historical Gasoline Prices, 1929-2011.”
Facebook Page: Union Level Virginia Memories.
FamilySearch.org. “The Life Summary of Cornelius Paschal Jones.”
The Old House Life. “Before Union Level was a ghost town!! 1940.” May 31, 2018.
South Hill Enterprise. “Controversy heats up over Buckhorn.” Nov 30, 2010.
Williamstown Yorktown Daily. “Landmark Lost: The Ghost Town of Union Level, Va.” Nancy Sheppard. July 9, 2021.