In his History of Middle Tennessee the noted historian A.W. Putman wrote (p. 86) that “Fort Union” was “at the bend of the river, above the bluffs, about six miles distant (from Nashville); here was once the town of Haysborough.” Putnam
had a particular interest in Fort Union. In 1846 he had discovered, in an old trunk, the document that would become known as the Cumberland Compact. The Compact was written in 1780, and it referred to seven settlements that were in existence on the Cumberland the month after the Donelson Party arrived by river. Along with “Nashborough,” “Gasper’s” (Mansker’s Station), “Bledsoe’s,” “Asher’s,” “Freeland’s” and “Eaton’s,” the Compact also mentioned “Fort Union.” Apparently Putnam did what research he could, and reported the location of Fort Union. But the fort was not upstream and “about six miles distant.” It was many miles downstream in what became Montgomery County, and was a considerable distance up the Red River.
The Red River location for Fort Union is established by land records (Tennessee State Library and Archives, microfilm group 1177, Tennessee County, file #232) relating to a grant that was issued to James Renfroe. The records describe a tract “of six hundred and forty acres of land lying on both sides of Red River, beginning…on the south side of said river, about a half a mile below Fort Union, commonly called Red River Station…” Fort Union had a short but dramatic history, and its circumstances should be accurately understood. It was settled by a group that had branched off from the Donelson Party at the mouth of the Red River. That group, largely composed of members of the Renfroe, Turpin, Jones, Miller, and Johns families, had traveled some nine miles up the Red River, and settled across from the mouth of what ultimately became known as Passenger Creek. But after less than two months, the settlement would be abandoned. Following the killing of two men, help had been solicited and several families had been evacuated, and the remaining settlers were escorted toward the small cluster of stations that had been built where Nashville would eventually stand.
In mid-June, 1780, southeast of the present location of Coopertown, the fleeing party was attacked by a force of Chickasaw Indians, and some 15 individuals were killed in an assault that was associated with the Revolutionary War. Although no British soldiers were known to have been directly involved, the British are almost certain to have at least encouraged the attack. The Chickasaws were long-time allies of the British, and were retaliating against the Americans as a result of General George Rogers Clark having built Fort Jefferson near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, on Chickasaw land.