• A visit to Union 2013. If you grew up in Union, West Virginia and you have not been able to return to Monroe County recently, chances are you will enjoy a little tour of Union and the area.

    View a Picture Tour of Union & Monroe County.


The Monroe Department Store and Tom Bone

The Monroe Department Store - 1905


Most buildings and houses have many stories within their walls and this building is no exception.  This three story brick store  building with cast iron cornice  was built in Union on Main Street during the year of 1905.  For many years the store operated as Shanklin’s Cash Store.  However, our story starts with the next owner of the building.

Floating about in the Pacific aboard CVE 75, the USS Hoggatt Bay, a “Baby Flattop” more correctly referred to as an Escort Carrier, the probability of owning a store in Union, West Virginia, never occurred to Lt. William Thomas Bone.  It was a circumvolution of events that had begun in the remoteness of the Marsh Fork District of Raleigh County where Tom was born that brought about the birth of The Monroe Department Store.

After Navy duty it was back to college at Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  Armed with a degree in Business Administration he went to Clay County as troubleshooter for Guthrie, Morris, and Campbell, a wholesale firm in Charleston.  It was while he was traveling the winding roads of Clay County that he heard about a store for sale in Athens.  He bought it on April 1, 1949 in partnership with George Guthrie, whose share he eventually bought.  Business was good in the college town of Athens.  It also gave Tom Bone the opportunity to meet Janis, whom he would marry on August 1, 1950.

Though Tom had not intended to expand so soon, when Cecil Smith, a salesman for N&W Industries, a dry goods firm in Lynchburg, Va., told him of a store in Union, West Virginia that was for sale.  Tom decided to buy it.  On January 1, 1950, Tom Bone signed the papers that made him owner of the store known for years as Shanklin’s Cash Store.  On January 12, 1950 this announcement appeared in The Monroe Watchman:

“Having purchased the business and stock of Shanklin’s Cash Store in Union, we are continuing the business under a new name but in the same location.  We hope to keep alive the old traditions and friendships, and we will serve you with the same warm courtesy.  Your patronage will be appreciated.  The Monroe Department Store, Tom Bone, Manager. “


C.J. Casdorph Grocery occupied the store next door on the right.  Years later when the Irons building was completed across the street, C.J. Casdorph moved the grocery store into the new building and Tom Bone took over the store next door operating as The Union 5 & 10 Store. Later on, a doorway was placed between the two stores and it became the variety and notions department of The Monroe Department Store.

Over the years a lot of people passed through The Monroe Department Store, back to school clothes, Christmas gifts, dress and work clothes, sewing and quilting supplies….. the store supplied it all.  And at the first sign of  bad weather of winter, “five buckle and four buckle artics” became the hot selling items.

Tom recalls that Hazel Craft, wife of David Craft, more commonly referred to as Preacher Craft (being a Baptist Minister), came to him shortly after he opened the 5 & 10  and asked for the job.  She remained an employee for 32 years.

Saturdays was always a big day in town.  The streets were crowded and the stores were packed.  There was almost always a need for extra help and the day stretched until 9:00 pm when the movie theater let out and the young people reassembled with their parents for the trip home.  On Sunday the streets of Union were deserted except for the people walking to and from Church, and in the afternoon, waiting for the 2:00 pm movie matinee.

The one time that was sacred in the operation of the store was Wednesday afternoon.  The store was closed beginning on the first Wednesday of May through the last Wednesday in September.  That was trout fishing day!  Preferably brook trout, and with dry flies, especially with a “hair-wing coachman.”

During the Christmas shopping season regular hours applied until the last week and then it was 9:00 pm each night, except on Christmas Eve.  The clerks at Monroe Department Store left on a staggered schedule, starting about 4:00 pm and by 6:00 the store was closed.

Progress is a strange word.  Is it always good??  It depends on the individual perspective.  In the case of Union, West Virginia and The Monroe Department Store, it spelled DOOM.   When the theater closed, part of the magic of Saturday shopping disappeared.  Banks began to hold late Friday hours and were closed on Saturday.  Stores had no reason to remain open after 5:00 pm when the streets were empty.   The attraction was increased in other locations with the development of Malls, late hours and Sunday shopping.  The bustling store of four or five clerks diminished to one clerk and the proprietor, and finally only the proprietor.  The activity within the store became mostly a forum in which political philosophy, foreign affairs, local affairs, regional and local history, stories of hunting and fishing (some of which bordered on the edge of truth) and just plain conversation  was held around the stove in winter and on the porch in front of the store in the summer. Some of the participants were regulars and at any given time, if you were looking for one of them, most likely he was there.  Others were infrequent but their addition to the discussion was always special.  The world was a better place for that.

Tom Bone

And for all that, Tom Bone….We Thank You!

Monroe Department Store….you have done your part….May you rest in Peace!

A celebration was held at the Bandstand in Union on September 15, 1996 to honor Tom Bone for his forty-six years as owner and proprietor of The Monroe Department Store and for his dedication to the people of Monroe County. The public was invited.


Submitted from The Monroe Watchman and written by Jay Banks