In the shadow of the Cherokee Mountains lie the hills and green pastures of the Union community. The community is bounded on the east by Speedwell, on the west by Garber’s, on the north by Little Cherokee Creek and on the south by the Cherokee Mountains and Dry Creek.
Union, originally called Union Grove, became a community in itself with the formation of the Union Church of Christ in 1836. Among the earliest members of this church were: Isaac Hartsell and family, Thomas Scott and family, Absolem Scott, William Denton and family, Eliza Perkins, Hannah Perkins, John and Daisy Boring, Billy Walters, and Samuel Feathers. Most of these early members came from Cherokee Baptist Church.
The Hartsell Mill was the site of the earliest meetings of the Union Church of Christ. The records show that Joseph Hunter and Jefferson Perkins sold land to Absolem Scott, Jacob Hyder and Isaac Hartsell, trustees for the church, on August 6, 1856. The deed was not recorded until May 1, 1876.
The first log meeting house was built in 1856 and stood east of the old brick church building. Jefferson Perkins gave poplar logs for the construction of the meeting house, which was also used as a school house. The old brick church was started in 1876 with brick hand-made by Jacob Hartsell, John Denton, Isaac Hartsell, Joe Green, Jack Scott, Dock Green and other early members.
During the Civil War, soldiers would hide out in the caves located on the side of the mountain above Union Church. The men would hide in these caves to elude enemy troops that would be passing through the area. During the night, they would come down to the spring house belonging to the Young family, located on the banks of Little Cherokee Creek, to get food left there by their families. The men would then go back to the caves, there being safe from the enemy conscriptors. Another story tells that these caves connect with the famous Rock House Cave on Dry Creek, about two miles away. At the turn of this century it is said that some boys went into the Rock House Cave and came out at the Union Caves, taking a day to do so.
Some of the Civil War Veterans buried at the Union Church of Christ were: John Boring; Adam Green (1835-1911) – 12th Tennessee Cavalry USA; Joseph Laws; Nathaniel Buck (1845-1914) – 13th Tennessee Cavalry USA; Bird Huffine; Ben Hampton; and possibly others.
Bob and Alf Taylor, the two Governors of Tennessee known for the famous “War of the Roses” campaign, would stop in the Union community on the way from their farm on the Nolichucky River to fox hunt with their cousins, the Bucks and Greens. Lura Belle Green Patrick remembered when her cousins Bob and Alf Taylor would come and set up a big tent to stay in while they fox hunted. She also remembered their cook talking to her and fixing her a big steak to eat.
A post office, called February, was established here in 1884. The postmasters were: John Boreing, April 28, 1884; James H. Jones, November 17, 1884; Abner Jervis, September 25, 1888, Jacob Hartsell, December 5, 1888; John Scott, July 12, 1889; J. J. Jones, September 28, 1893; and Jacob Hartsell, March 20, 1895. The post office was moved to Jonesborough on July 5, 1899.
An interesting piece of folklore from the Union community involves a creature known as the “Jacarineus” (pronounced Jack-a-rine-us). Descriptions vary as to what the Jacarineus was, but local tales told by many of our older people describe it as “Something Big.” It was seen from Garber’s to the Blair Cemetery and Cherry Grove, then through Dry Creek and up Cherokee Mountain to Union. The Jacarineus was said by some to be a panther of great size, while others said it was a formless being that would scare the very life from any person it met on a dark night. – contributed by Billy H. Campbell