Granny Rat’s Tavern

Sorting through Provine’s papers at the TSLA, I came across a couple of descriptions of it from when it sold in the 1820s and 30s. Here’s what Provine thought he knew–it was a huge stone building with 14 fireplaces and a horse barn that was amazing. It sat six hundred feet south of the split of the Clarksville Pike and the road to Springfield (Whites Creek Pike), probably about where the Anderson-Garrett Funeral Home is. It was sometimes described as a “bawdy house” but more commonly was described as a tavern or an inn. The earlier seller had improved the access to fresh water on the property (if you look at a map, you can see that this would have been the challenge of the spot).

Just being generous, knowing that Elizabeth and Joseph certainly didn’t build a tavern together before they met and they both had a lot going on for which they are pretty publicly visible in 1791-1793, the tavern could not have existed prior to 1795. And it had to be complete by the early 1820s, the first time it sold.

So, last night, I had coffee with a dude who used to work at the Rock Castle. So, finally, I had a chance to pick someone’s brain about the logistics of building a huge rock structure out on the Middle Tennessee frontier and, in talking with him, I firmed up some of the problems I have with this tavern.

1. Where did they get the money to set this thing up? We’re talking a massive stone structure and a woman whose biggest claim to fame is being charged with bastardry and a man who had an employer. Neither of these people should have had the money to build what had to be among the largest stone structures in the area.

2. Where did they get a workforce to build it?

3. Provine finds evidence of Elizabeth having had children with this Bennett dude, this Hensley dude, Demonbreun, and then Deraque (and possibly a Cagle later on). This isn’t more men than Adelicia Acklen tried to have children with, but none of these dudes were dead when the other dudes came into the picture and no one dueled over her. As the guy I was talking to last night pointed out–that’s really weird behavior considering the circumstances. Unless Elizabeth already had a social status that gave her access to a lot of men but left them unsurprised when she got pregnant with someone else’s child.

4. But, even so, if Elizabeth had been a bawdy woman from the get-go, that would have given her her own spending money (thus explaining how she had the funds to buy Lot 45 from Demonbreun in the first place), but enough money to build the tavern?

I wonder what it would be like to get into the archives at Kaskaskia or St. Louis during that time period to see who up there was sending money down to Nashville. I suppose Demonbreun could have been something of a backer, but I think that the money and the labor must have come not from Nashville, where there’d certainly be more of a record of it being amassed, but from Demonbreun and Deraque’s contacts farther west.

I think my instinct to look at Rock Castle and try to judge the layout and set-up of Granny Rat’s Tavern is wrong. I probably need to know how buildings that size and for that use looked in the French territories nearby.

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9 thoughts on “Granny Rat’s Tavern

  1. If they didn’t build it, who would have built it is an even bigger mystery (unless it just straight up was Demonbreun who built it). The nearest station would have been Frederick Stump’s (his house is still there on Buena Vista, under Briley, but Goodspeed doesn’t show anything north of there.

    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/map_item.pl

    If they did buy it from someone, it seems like I should be able to find that real estate transaction. But it still leaves the interesting problem of how anyone managed that. Dude last night told me that the Rock Castle happened because he pulled in people from back east. Cragfont happened because people from Maryland came and did it.

    And neither of those buildings are 14 fireplaces big (I’m assuming you could run four fireplaces up one chimney, two on each floor, but I’d love confirmation).

  2. Some ideas…

    1) It sounds similar in construction to the Amis Stone Tavern in Rogersville.

    2) I think your idea of looking to French constructions is a good one. I’d look at the stone structures in St. Genevieve (the Felix Valle house springs to mind) for cognates. I will also point out that the “French towns” experienced a burst of stone construction in the late 1790s because some German stonemasons (three brothers named Burtcher) in-migrated. That fits your time guess. However, the far more typical French construction was vertical logs set shoulder to shoulder in a stone-lined ditch — poteaux en terre — and even the log taverns with stone foundations aren’t as large as what she got up to.

    3) Was there ever a regimental unit quartered out there? It sounds like it was built on the plan of a barracks house…two floors, four chimneys — 12 fireplaces for the chambers, one big one for the public room, one big one for the winter kitchen. (Just saw one of those yesterday at Fort Frederick…)

    4) Check p. 23-24 of James Patrick’s Architecture in TN, 1769-1867 (thanks, Google Books!) for names of working stone masons in your time period and the locations of the houses they built. That would give you the general feel for how costly these structures were ($200 and provisions for the year) and give you some names to look around for. Patrick also suggests that there was a rather narrow window for the type of stone construction you describe.

  3. No kidding! Either that or the price of staying there was a cord of wood. Still, the hills around where the tavern was are very wooded, even now. So, even if the highlands were cleared for farming, there was still a good store of wood. But, yeah, someone’s got to be cutting and hauling it.

  4. I see in the Demonbruen society stuff that they say his stone tavern is on a Nashville map in 1804. Are they talking about Granny Rat’s or does he, too, own a stone tavern? Maybe he got a volume discount.

  5. He owned a tavern downtown. I believe that’s the one they’re referring to. What I’m curious about and just haven’t figured out how to track down is that he sold Elizabeth Lot 45, which is at the corner of Broad and College (I think College is 4th now? 3rd?), and then she sold it back to him two years later. I’d like to know if his tavern was on Lot 45. I’d like to know if she first owned his tavern for a bit before opening her own. “Her own” to the extent that I think Demonbreun kept his finger in that pie, so to speak.

  6. Since Demonbreun financed the first Catholic church, of what material was it built and when? I was originally joking about a volume discount, but the more I think about how stoneworkers set up and work…

  7. I’d like to get a better sense of this church financing thing, too. The wide-spread story is that he financed the first church, but Provine just says that he tried to finance the first church, but the church declined his gift. Now, there may have been a second offer, which would make sense of both stories, but I’d just like to know that for sure.

    Also, the Demonbreun Society site says that Demonbreun and Deraque knew each other from Vincennes. Your old stomping ground.

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