Rural Heritage Trust









Union Depot





Union Depot
by Jimmy Ogle


    Union Depot appears on the early Shelby County maps in the middle of the 19th century, nine miles northeast of Raleigh and about two miles west of Green Bottom. In 1866 the area becomes Bartlett.

    On the 1857 map of Shelby County, Union Depot appears about seven miles northeast of Raleigh on the Memphis & Ohio Railroad line, at the intersection of Stage Road.
The Memphis & Ohio Railroad (M&O, also known as the Memphis, Clarksville & Louisville railroad – MC&L) was charted in 1852 and opened in 1859. The M&O extended through Arlington, Brownsville, Humboldt, and Milan in West Tennessee up through north middle Tennessee (Clarksville) all the way to Louisville (Kentucky), and eventually Cincinnati (Ohio). Its line was heavily damaged during the Civil War, and in 1865, the MC&L went into receivership and was bought by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company (L&N).

    The named Union Depot is derived from the “Union occupation” during the Civil War to protect its interests in keeping troop and supply movement lines open from the north to the steamboat port of Memphis. The Union had taken occupation of the Memphis on June 6, 1862, because its importance as a rail and river center, and eventually a hospital center for wounded soldiers. Memphis became instrumental in Gen. Sherman’s “March To The Sea” and Gen. Grant’s planning of the Battle of Vicksburg.

    The railroad line was restored soon after the war, reopening on August 13, 1866. Heavy rain again caused disruption in December 1866 through a landslide near Clarksville. In 1868 the railroad was bankrupt and could not pay its wages; this led to an 11-day strike in February. The railroad was dissolved on September 30, 1871, then purchased by the L&N. L&N operated the line as its Memphis Branch, but saw declining traffic through the early 20th century, with the last passenger train serving Clarksville in February 1968. L&N was merged into CSX, and CSX sold the former MC&L line to R.J. Corman Railroad Group in 1987, becoming that company's Memphis Line.

    Also, during the Civil War years, Gen. Lew Wallace was assign to Union Depot and the lines extending to Memphis and further to the northeast towards the Tennessee River, as Confederate Gen. N.B. Forrest was known for disrupting service constantly by tearing up the line in random areas in West Tennessee. Lew Wallace became known in later with the authorship of the epic “Ben-Hur”.

    From www.ben-hur.com:
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace was published by Harper & Brothers on November 12, 1880. Wallace had been researching and writing the novel for seven years. He did most of his work underneath a beech tree near his residence in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The novel grew in such popularity during Wallace’s lifetime that it was adapted into a stage play in 1899. That dramatization was followed by the motion picture productions in 1907, 1925, 1959, and 2016. Ben-Hur has also been adapted into several cartoons and a musical. Ben-Hur‘s impact on American culture is larger than the dramatic adaptations alone. The Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur, a national fraternal organization founded upon Ben-Hur, later reformed into Ben-Hur Life Insurance. There have even been American towns named after Ben-Hur.

For the continuing history of Union Depot, go to Green Bottom and Bartlett in the Community Histories section of this web site.



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