Unionville is a small hamlet or ghost town in Perishing County; located south of Interstate 80 and just west of Nevada State Route 400 on Unionville Road. The most recent population estimate is approximately 20 people.
The town’s best years were during the 1870s, when it was an active mining and prospecting town serving the surrounding hilly region. For a brief time, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) lived there and prospected, but left without having had much success. Currently, Unionville consists of a single business, a tourist-inn and a few small houses clustered along or near the gravel roadway which permits vehicular ingress and egress. The nearest paved road, an extension of this gravel road, is about 7 miles to the east. The nearest services of any sort, other than those available at the inn, are approximately a drive of one hour away.
Now in Pershing County, Unionville was the original county seat of Humboldt County, serving in that capacity from its founding in July 1861 until the county seat was relocated to Winnemucca in 1873. The big mining boom at Unionville occurred between 1863 and 1870. During that time, the population was reported to be as high as 1,500 persons.
Clemens arrived in Unionville with the intention of prospecting for silver in 1862, describing the town as consisting of “11 cabins and a liberty pole.” As is common in most Nevada mining communities, after the boom, the town experienced a decline soon afterward. By 1870, it was discovered there was little rich ore left in the district. The decline was speeded by the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad through the Humboldt Valley, and the establishment of Winnemucca as a major trading and shipping center.
There is no formal government in the hamlet of Unionville, which is unincorporated. Some abandoned buildings such as Twain’s cabin and a one-room schoolhouse remain standing in various stages of disrepair, but there is no ongoing activity to preserve any of these. Unionville is frequently referred to as a ghost town.
Just north of the town limits is a cemetery, which still may be used on occasion for burials. A few yards farther into the county, there is a fork in the main road, where aerial photographs reveal a large concrete foundation upon which stand two large structures, along with two or three smaller structures of relatively recent vintage. These structures are Unionville’s local garbage dumping grounds.
Family members of mine recently visited Unionville and provided much of the information for this article. The town of Unionville likely got its name from the fact that the town was established around the time of the civil war and Nevada was a strong supporter of the Union cause during the war.
There is a Union Hotel in Dayton, alongside a wall of the Dayton Pony Express Station.
On June 5, 1861, someone raised the flag of the Confederate States of America over Johnny Newman’s Saloon in Virginia City. The citizens of the Comstock were enraged to discover the “Stars and Bars” flying over the town. There was a strong secessionist element in the fledgling Nevada Territory, but the reaction was overwhelmingly on the Union side. The people of Virginia City responded swiftly, and a mob of townspeople tore down the rebel flag without any further violence.
Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com.