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Located eight miles east of Charlotte
Court House is Keysville, a town rich in history yet making strides to the
A part of rustic Charlotte County,
Keysville probably got its name from its first postmaster, John Key. Over
the years, the town has also been known as Key’s Tavern and Key’s.
main thoroughfares in the town of Keysville are Railroad Avenue
and King Street. The majority of the 70 business operateing within
town limits are located along these streets.
What is known today as King Street in
the center of the town began as nothing more than a wooded area when, in
1755, George Foster purchased 134 acres for the price of five shillings.
There was a marked path through Foster’s woods known as the “Kings
Highway.” In 1805, the Fosters sold their property to John Key, who
later started Key’s Tavern.
The town is located between two main
routes, Highway 40 and Route 360, also known today as “Kings Highway.”
The Keysville Railroad Station,
located on Railroad Avenue, is one of the last surviving single-story,
wooden railroad depots of its type, according to P.K. Pettus, member of
the Friends of the Fort Mitchell and Keysville Depot.
The Keysville Railroad Station faces
Railroad Avenue with a 19th-century streetscape, still mostly intact, that
included the former Charlotte Hotel, Rutledge’s Distillery, and
“Between the Charlotte Hotel and the
depot is an open area were railroad passengers would take their meals and
wait while the train refueled,” says Pettus.
The town of Keysville and the railroad
depot gained notoriety in 1975 when the depot was selected as a location
for the filming of Eleanor and Franklin, a television film about the
Roosevelts that later earned 11 Emmy awards.
Keysville is full of history, and over
the years it has become Charlotte County’s most heavily populated town
— in both citizens and businesses — and it continues to grow with each
passing year, while at the same time working to keep its history alive.
In 2006, Norfolk Southern Railroad
conveyed the Keysville Railroad Station to the Friends of the Fort
Mitchell and Keysville Depots, Inc. The organization plans to renovate the
Keysville Depot as a community center for meetings, performances, and
other events. The Keysville depot will also become a stop on the Tobacco
Heritage Trial, which is currently in development.
Back in 1874, buildings in the town
included a leather tannery, a blacksmith, a wheelwright shop, a hotel, the
depot and a few homes.
Today there are 70 businesses located
within the town limits. “There has definitely been growth here over the
years,” notes Rhonda Brankley, owner of the Hair Depot.
“But not so much so that you still
don’t have that small-town feel … It’s nice because we all look out
for each other.”
Brankley remembers an incident back in
the late 1980s, when her sister’s business was destroyed by fire.
“People were calling me to tell me the place was on fire,” she says.
“Some people call that being nosey, but it’s just concern — that’s
something you may not see in a large town.”
The town’s clerk of 19 years, Sharon
Layne, adds, “I think you see that a lot in small towns.” Community
pride is something else found in Keysville. According to Layne, when the
town decided to build a playground, help came from everywhere. “From
helping with fundraising events to installing the playground equipment,
citizens volunteered. Somebody’s always ready to help.”
James D. Ramsey, Jr., on his tractor in front of the Keysville
Town Office. Mayor Ramsey spends a lot of his time riding around
the town on his tractor and lawnmower checking on things in the
town. "He's a real hands-on mayor," says one twon
Helping each other and the small-town
feel is something Mayor James D. Ramsey, Jr. takes pride in, too. On just
about any given day, you can find Mayor Ramsey riding around the town on
his tractor, “checking on things.”
Though Ramsey has only been mayor the
past two years, he is a lifelong citizen of Keysville. Over the past 50
years, he has seen many changes take place in the town. Businesses have
come and gone, and although its citizens like the small-town feel, he
notes, there is always room for growth. “We’re always looking to grow
and upgrade things in the town, but we want to keep that small-town,
friendly atmosphere,” he adds.
Keysville is home to the county’s
industrial park, where UPS, Alderman Railcar Service and Ontario Hardwood
have facilities, with Southside Virginia Community College situated
In an era where we as Americans are
seeing manufacturing companies close and jobs go overseas, business owner
Garret Bosinger has not let that happen. In 1995, Bosinger opened
Appomattox River Manufacturing. The factory, which manufactures wooden
drawer parts for furniture, today employs 60 workers.
Those visiting the town should not
expect to see large retail businesses, a fast-paced lifestyle, or traffic
signals in the town or the county itself. The town, with a population of
just over 800 according to the latest census, does have several quaint
stores for those who feel the urge to shop.
Perfect Package offers visitors the chance to pick up a truly
The Perfect Package offers visitors
the chance to pick up a truly unique gift. “We like to refer to
ourselves as a whimsical store, says co-owner Becky Watson. “We have
items here that you just don’t see in other towns nearby.”
Watson and her business partner, Tammy
Bavely, opened the store in 2006 and offer gift items for the home,
garden, pets, babies and children, and much more.
could say businesses in Keysville come in twos — or it just may seem
that way. Can’t find what you’re looking for in one sporting goods
store? Then just go a few doors down to the second one. Just recently
opened is Rebel Sporting Goods, providing everything the hunter or angler
could need. Stewart’s Hunting and Fishing also offers something for
those interested in guns, archery, fishing and hunting supplies. Need to
send your favorite someone flowers? You can pick from two flower shops in
the town, both located on King Street right across from each other. Love
thrift shops? Keysville has that, too. Tail Waggers is full of items, with
sales proceeds going to the nearby Meherrin SPCA to help animals in need
Array of Eateries
When it comes to dining out, Keysville
has the largest selection of eateries in Charlotte County. There is home
cooking at Kim’s Kitchen and Sheldon’s Restaurant, Italian at Pinos,
Chinese at KAI XIA, and fast food at Burger King, to name a few.
Old Fashioned Lunch Wagon, located on Highway 40 just outside the
town limits and across from Southside Virginia Community College,
serves "big-city food in a small town."
However, if you’re looking for
something unique, located on the outskirts of town is Ethel’s, an
old-fashioned lunch wagon. Ethel’s owners Larry and Sandy Yoli purchased
a 1973 concession trailer a few years back. Wanting to work from home, the
Yolis restored the trailer and opened the lunch wagon right in their back
yard. “Big-city food in a small town” is what Larry says Ethel’s
Originally from New York, Larry says
offering cheesesteak, Reuben and pastrami sandwiches and more gives the
townspeople a taste of something different. When it comes to living in a
small town, the Yolis say, “We love the area and love the people. Some
nights we can’t even serve people because we’re so full, other days
we’re slow, but that’s just part of being in a small town.”
Korean-Vietnam War Memorial Park on King Street.
For the history buff, Keysville has a
one-of-a-kind war memorial park. It is home to several markers honoring
soldiers who fought in World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam, as
well as remembering the POWs and MIAs.
The park is also the site of a Blue
Star Highway Marker, sponsored by the Virginia
Federation of Garden Clubs in conjunction with the Keysville Garden Club.
In a book titled Keysville, Virginia
— A Pictorial History published by the Keysville Garden Club in 1987,
the town of Keysville is summed up well. “People smile in Keysville, and
locals don’t avert their eyes when meeting on the street. Here citizens
care about each other; a caring which crosses racial, social, and economic
lines. This blessedly communal spirit, which pervades the little town, is
sometimes taken for granted by her long-time citizens, yet is greatly
appreciated by her newcomers. Keysville … a small wonder.”