Established to serve as Monroe County's seat of justice, Union was initially governed, as was typical in early Virginia towns, by a board of trustees authorized “to make such rules and orders for the regular building of houses therein, as to them shall seem best.” Union's trustees seem to have been more enthusiastic about prospects of growth than their counterparts in other towns. In 1799 they directed purchasers of lots to build “one square, log house, of the same size of 16 × 18 feet from out to out; twostories high of a common height, roof of shingles, and chinking of brick or stone; to be floored and finished in the inside in a workmanlike manner.” As far as is known, this is the only instance in which trustees of early Virginia towns required purchasers of property to build two-story houses.
From its inception, Union and its setting have received accolades from almost all who have recorded their impressions. An 1808 description referred to the town as “the capital” of the county, and noted that it had “a jail, court house, and about a dozen dwellings.” Writing in 1833, Samuel Kercheval called it “a sprightly village,” and almost a decade later, J. S. Buckingham stated that “nothing could exceed the beauty of its situation as a country village, with a rich soil, well-tilled fields, and noble mountains around it.” Buckingham also recorded that Union had, in addition to the courthouse, “from fifty to sixty dwelling-houses, several new stores, two churches, one Methodist, and one Presbyterian, a large school, and about five hundred inhabitants.” His 1842 description still seems to apply at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, even to the current population, which the 2000 census recorded as 548. A published walking tour of Union is available at the Monroe County Historical Society and Visitors Center in the Hugh Caperton Law Office ( MO10).
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