Blue Springs Creek

One thing that sucks about my sunburn is that, even though I’m not uncomfortable anymore, when I go out in the sun, it feels like someone pushing a finger into a bruise.

But I went out yesterday and drove around Blue Springs Creek, which is one of the major tributaries of Sycamore Creek, and also the creek along which Joseph Deraque supposedly died. I also went by the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ, which one of the Durards at the Demonbreun Society told me is on old Binkley land–that Asa Binkley, whose wife was a Durard–gave it to the church. I think, judging by the headstones, it may have actually been the land of Asa Jr., whose mother was a Durard, but still. I did wonder if Joseph might be in that cemetery, unmarked, hence the reason it became a church yard. There’s also another cemetery down right at the creek, but it’s always padlocked and I don’t quite trust myself to climb into it.

Anyway, I’m sure if he is either place, the headstone is long gone. There are Girards in the churchyard, though.

There are only three Girard families in Tennessee–as far as Find-a-Grave goes. Some over in Memphis (who have a straggler wife in Joelton), some in the Catholic cemetery, who are all related to a bigamist whose real name was Gerard, and the Girards in the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ Graveyard. One is William Washington Girard, a painter. His father was Joseph.

Are these Girards our Durards, though? I don’t know. Folks on Ancestry seem to think so–that his father, Joseph, was Timothy Durard’s kid.

Anyway, there aren’t that many Durards in Tennessee, either, but a big mess of them appear to be up in the Cedar Hill cemetery, so I need to get around to that.

Story Research Hits a Snag

I’m writing a story about a creek, well about a dance done in 5/4 taught to a man by some dudes he met near a creek that barely exists anymore. Today I went out to photograph said creek. It did not go as well as I hoped, because my goal was to go out on the bridge, reach the camera over the side of the bridge and… take some pictures. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but it was. It seemed fine at first, but the longer I stood there, the dizzier I became and the more unable to get off the damn bridge I found myself.

But I’m glad I went, because I put my creek in the story in slightly the wrong spot.

My Demonbreun Talk

Well, the talk was to the Demonbreun Society, but about Joseph. They had this big room up on the 5th floor at the TSLA (which, let me just say, has a bathroom that is so perfectly 50s office building that it about hurt my heart) and there was barbecue and then I told them all the stuff I knew about Joseph and all of the stuff (mostly from the Provine papers) I had come to doubt about Joseph. And I told them of my growing suspicion that we were going to find that Joseph had some family tie to Timothy and that’s why he was willing to take on Timothy’s family for him.

So, here’s the awesome part. I got to speak with a couple of Durards, who are cousins. Who I’m going to leave nameless because I didn’t ask them if I could write about them. But the one’s dad is Joseph Durard, from a long line (except for one man) of Joseph Durards. They’re just not clear if they’re the grandchildren of the Joseph Durard whose father was Joseph Durard (whose parents were Joseph and Elizabeth) or if they’re the grandchildren of the Joseph Durard whose father was Timothy Durard (whose parents were Joseph and Elizabeth). But that’s not even the cool part.

The cool part is that the guy grew up like four houses down from this house! He knew my house. He knew the creek and the woman who lived here. He’s been to the Durard cemetery in Durard Holler and been denied entry by the property owner and those are his people in there. The Durards in the Methodist church on Brick Church Pike are his and the ones in the Methodist church cemetery on Old Clarksville Pike are his people. I said, “So, it’s your people I’ve been visiting!” I felt like I was meeting a neighbor.

And he knows where the big cemetery on Lickton is, which I have long wondered about.

And his hands were dirty in that way people who work on vehicles get dirty, with the grease all in the cuticles, no matter how hard you scrub. And it just made me happy because dude was so fucking brilliant. And it reminded me of the kinds of men I grew up around. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. But yeah.

And I met a woman who knew the Butcher. People, I repeat. I was at a meeting of the Demonbreun Society. And a woman there knew the Butcher.

Is there anyone in this town he doesn’t know?

And then I got lost in the bowels of the TSLA, and had to call for help. Which was not my proudest moment, in some ways, but in other ways, what?! It’s so fucking great.

Demonbreun Society

Today is the day I’m going to talk to the Demonbreun Society. My talk is unofficially titled “All the things I don’t know about Joseph Deraque and how I came not to know them.” I mean, a big problem for the study of our Joseph Deraque is that Durocher was a really common name along the Mississippi river and Joseph is a pretty damn common first name for a Catholic dude. So, it’s just not that easy to say “Oh, the Jauseph Duroche at Vincennes must have been our Joseph.” Well, not if the Mississippi Durochers had some sons named Joseph.

Or take the problem of Granny Rat’s Tavern. I’m not saying there’s not a deed to that land in a name that would indicate she was the proprietor. I’m just saying I didn’t find it. And we have a pretty good history of who all was trying to sell it starting about 1816 through about 1835, and those names are never her or people we normally associate with her. So, if she and Joseph were involved, it had to be between 1793–when she became “‘Rat” and 1816– and whose granny would she have been in that time period? Assuming the 1786 birth date is good for William, possibly his children, but his wives were all born (as far as I can tell, between 1800 and 1816) which just doesn’t give us any time for them to be having kids who could have called that tavern Granny Rat’s tavern before we start to know who owns it.

Or it could be that Granny Rat ran the tavern after 1835, but now, if we believe her birth date, we’re talking about her running a tavern in her 90s.

And to add intrigue, there was another Elizabeth Bennett, running around having illegitimate children with men in the same families that our Elizabeth’s kids married into. She lived in Robertson County for a while. And there’s at least some suggestion that one of her children may have lived with our Elizabeth for a while. This does not appear to be Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth Durard, using her mom’s maiden name. I think this is a niece.

And I remain of the opinion that we’re going to find Joseph in Timothy’s family tree.

Anyway, I’m excited. I should get in the shower.

I Have Been into the Bowels of the State Museum

Oh, you guys. It was like being backstage. I mean, I guess it was backstage. There were huge pieces of exhibits and pictures and hallways and offices filled with oil paintings of long dead Tennesseans. And every nook and cranny was filled with smart people doing interesting things.

So, yes, the sheet music. It’s in a display. Which means I have walked by it without realizing it. But that also means it’s pretty solidly behind glass.

But I told them all I know about all the Rock City Marches and they’re fascinated. They, like other folks, were disappointed that I didn’t record the versions I have. And they were contemplating whether they could put on a little recital or at least bring some musicians in to record.

So, the gist is this–I didn’t get to see the music. But they seem stoked about briefly retrieving it and making a scan of it and putting it together with the other marches.

It was so awesome. Maybe I missed my calling. Maybe it’s not as awesome when it’s your job, though. I don’t know.

Still, wow. Just wow.


Of course the State Museum has tracked down its copy of the Rock City March just as I’ve run out of time to go see it.

I wonder, is there a point when you’re going to be so far behind anyway that you feel okay saying “Well, fuck it, yep. Let’s go to the state museum?”

Is this that point?

Fine, I’ll Do Something Nice for Myself

I’m going to see Dave Rawlings Machine and John Paul Jones is going to be on the stage and I will be happy. My seats are in the balcony, which I am a bit worried about, but it’s too late now.

I have to run to Hendersonville this afternoon and everyone here at work is so sorry I have to make the trip. Oh, darn, I get to be driving around in this sunny afternoon. How will I cope?

Rock City Marches

Yesterday, K. hooked me up with a guy who could play all the Rock City Marches I had. It was amazing to be sitting in a room, the three of us, listening to music we weren’t sure anyone had heard in decades.

I really love the feeling of going into the TSLA and finding things and knowing that I might be seeing something that no one has seen in years. But this experience of turning around and sharing it with others is also really amazing.

But, yes, as I say in my post, I ended up apparently a Rock City march short. But on Twitter, a guy from the State Museum offered to see if he could track down their copy.

How is this my life? I honestly don’t know. I have all these incredibly interesting people I know who all are happy to help me feed my curiosity. I don’t even know why. But it’s pretty awesome. My hope is that it’s awesome for them, too.

Putting My Thoughts in Order

I’m really tempted to title my Joseph Deraque talk “Everything I Don’t Know about Joseph Deraque.” Because, people, the list of things I don’t know is substantial and growing. Was he the Jeuseph DuRoche from Vincennes? Is he related to the Durochers over along the Mississippi? Why did he and Richard Finnelson change their minds about moving the Indians against Nashville? How many kids did he have? When was he born? When did he die? Did he and Elizabeth really ever own Granny Rat’s tavern?

I do have two things I want to be sure to do during my talk. One is to try to put Timothy, Elizabeth, and Joseph in some kind of context, just to explain that the French way of living in the world was very different than the English/American and that it’s not surprising that a.) Timothy would have had a church wife and a Nashville wife, because French traders worked by kinship ties and the way to get kinship ties with a group is to become a part of a woman’s household; b.) that there are rumors that Joseph and Elizabeth were both half-Indian, even though the more I dig into it, the less likely this seems to be true as we understand the term. It just doesn’t preclude this being a judgement about their behavior and ease in living in non-English/American approved ways. Just keep in mind that Sam Houston was a Cherokee Indian, straight up, beyond dispute, at the time and now we couch it in terms like “adopted,” because we can’t understand a racial or ethnic identity that doesn’t have some genetic component.

The other is to warm people away from using my beloved Provine Papers as any kind of fact. Because, damn, half of figuring out what we honestly don’t know is figuring out if the only source for it is Provine. If the only source for it is Provine, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be wrong.

I Have a New Theory about Joseph Deraque

Here’s what we absolutely know about Joseph–1. He came from Canada. 2. He worked for Andre Fagot.

Based on those two things, there are some things we can feel are reasonably certain. 1. He didn’t come from Canada alone. He had some kinship ties here. 2. He had to be somewhere where he could run into Andre Fagot in order to begin working for him–either St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, or Kaskaskia–the three towns Fagot is associated with. 3. ‘Deraque’ is an Anglicanized version of his name, because there aren’t any Deraques in Ste. Genevieve or Kaskaskia (I couldn’t find a census for St. Louis, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it.). In Ste. Genevieve, there are Durochers, who sometimes spell it DuRoche. By the 1830s, some of them are Durards and some are Deraques.

So, what we’re looking for is a family who came down from Canada and settled along the Mississippi. We might expect them to be in the fur trading business, which would explain why the Demonbreuns, through Fagot, would make business ties with them. Do the DuRochers fit the bill?

Piece of evidence one: A “Jauseph DuRoche” signs the loyalty oath in Vincennes at the same time Demonbreun does. No DuRoche is listed in the 1783 census, though, suggesting DuRoche did not live in Vincennes. (See page 57).

Piece of evidence two: Laurent DuRocher (b. 1749). He has exactly the kind of life we would expect someone in Joseph’s family to have. He came to St. Louis from Quebec as a fur trader and he married into a prominent family in Kaskaskia. His parents, Jean-Baptiste and Genevieve Durocher, also had a son named Joseph, born in 1760.

There’s one more interesting DuRocher–Auguste. (See page 155). Born in 1779, he’s a fur trader out of St. Louis who goes up the Missouri River. He does not appear to be the son of Laurent. But he does have sons named Louis and Joseph, which, as you recall, are also the names of two of our Joseph’s sons.

One might ask herself what Joseph was doing between 1760 (if that is indeed him) and 1791, when he shows up in Nashville. Thirty is awfully old for a French guy not to be married (though it appears Fagot never married. [I think it's not cool to laugh at the obvious insinuation, but no one will hold it against you if you do and just don't tell anyone.]). Maybe it’s too easy–giving Joseph Auguste, but I’m tempted.

Rock City Marches

I’m on a side mission to track down the music the Rock City Guards would have heard at their great public marches. And it turns out that there’s at least four possible pieces of music! I can’t tell if they might all be variations on a theme (though I don’t think so), but one is a march in 6/8 time, which, ugh, just shoot me now. I can’t imagine trying to march to that.

Why Joseph is On My Mind

I’m in the middle of working out the details, so I’ll leave it intentionally vague, but I might have occasion in April to talk to people who are intensely curious about him about the kinds of things I’ve discovered, so that it might aid in their attempts to do their own research on him.

The absolute biggest obstacle to researching him is that his last name isn’t standardized, nor that distinct, and his first name is “Joe.” If you know that Timothy Demonbreun spent time in Vincennes, was an important politico in Kaskaskia, and traded down in New Orleans, as well as doing shit here, when you come across anything about Timothy Demorgbbuelrembum or Timothy Mmmmbmbmbm or all the ways they could have slaughtered his last name, you can kind of sound out the last name, decide it sounds close enough to “Demonbreun” and put it on your list of potential Timothy Demonbreun sightings.

But that’s not exactly the case for Joseph. However, once you know that the guy who is “Joseph Deraque” in the State Papers and in the state legislature records is also the guy married to “Granny Ratt” and thus also referred to as “Joseph Duratt” or “Joseph DuRat” and that Elizabeth Girard in the 1850 census living with Demonbreun grandchildren with children all named “Durard” is our same old Elizabeth providing us with two more forms of his name.

And then, interestingly enough, even though, in the State Papers, in his first person account, they spell it Deraque, at the end of one of the narratives, it says “Joseph Deratte, his+mark Robert Hays Justice of the Peace.” Now, the reason this interests me are two-fold. Deratte or De Ratte is a last name French people had in the 1700s and it would seem to indicate that, though they were spelling his name Deraque, he signed it “Deratte.” Meaning, that’s his name.

So, if you were going to look for his parents in Canada, you could do worse than to start there.

(Just as a side note, I’m not going to be at all surprised if Joseph and Timothy also end up being related.)

Oh Joseph

My efforts to pin down where Joseph Deraque might have some from are thwarted by the realization that “Deraque” isn’t an actual last name. So, the question is what kind of name is “Deraque” the messed up version of? If we search for Anthony Fagot–remember, he’s Joseph’s boss–the only historical reference I could find to him, other than in Arkansas, was as a merchant in Ste. Genevieve. The “St. Louis” clue is, as of yet, right now, unconfirmed.

So, I couldn’t find any names even vaguely like “Deraque” in any other French cities. But, there in Ste. Genevieve, in the early records I could find, there are Durands, Durochers, and Girards. Durand and Girard are both names “Deraque” has been Anglicanized to, which makes them possible cousins of Joseph. But I also found a really interesting footnote that I’d like to confirm, should I figure out who to ask, that the “illiterate” French folks along the Mississippi had a habit of pronouncing things oddly. So, some people said “Prairie du Rocher” like “Prairie du Roe-she” but with equal stress on both syllables and other said “Prairie du Rock-eh,” with, as far as I can tell, almost no stress on the “eh.” How close to “Deraque” might “Du Rock-eh” come?

Anyway, Ste. Genevieve is the best lead I think there is.

The Exact Location of Jack Macon’s Shop

The 1859 city directory says it was at 10 North Front Street. Here’s what I learned today. At the time, the north/south dividing line was Spring Street. Even lots on the right, odds on the left. Spring Street is now Church. Jack Macon’s shop/office stood where the parking lot at the corner of Church and 1st Avenue is now. Judging by the ways other buildings are numbered, it seems likely that there was a 2 N. Front and a 4 N. Front and so on, so it probably sat 5 doors north of that corner. I would guess before the alley, judging by how many buildings (six) fit on the other side of the alley but I’m not sure.

Tomorrow, Allen

Last month, I went to the city archives and I tried to learn about the slaves Nashville owned. Tomorrow, my story about it comes out in the Scene. I’m really proud of the story. But the difference between the version I turned in and the version that’s running gives me great pause. See, the version that’s running is very much like the version I turned in, but the edits have substantially improved it. They cut a paragraph or two, rearranged things where they made the cut and they turned the ending from sad into a kick to the throat.

I like the story I turned in. I 100% thought it was great. But it’s much, much better now.

And that’s always what frustrates me about my fiction. I think it’s good. I know it would be better with an editor. I know I’d learn a lot from that experience. I don’t know. I can’t actually do anything about it at the moment but fret over it. But I have to figure out how to make that happen. I need to get over a hump I don’t even understand the scope of. Yes, I know, this directly contradicts my happiness about things earlier on this week. So, the truth is I don’t know.

Anyway, Allen is the slave I focused on, because he’s young, like my nephews. It’s easy for me to imagine what his life should have been like–had he not been the captive of our city.

But it got me thinking a lot about what we owe the people of the past. I mean, I drink water out of pipes Allen placed in the ground. I directly benefit from Allen’s enslavement. It’s not such a long time ago when I can open a faucet and, ta da, thanks, Allen.

One thing I think is that any discussion about this leads directly to reparations because it’s such a big distraction. It’s a way to talk about the issue in such big, abstract, impossible-to-achieve thus easy-to-dismiss terms so that we don’t have to consider a much more basic question. Like, what do we, as a city, owe Allen? And, given that we can’t give him what we owe him–what would come close to making us even for what we stole from him–what should we do to acknowledge that debt?

That’s the real trick. When you owe a debt that cannot be repaid, what responsibilities to your debtor do you incur?

So, the question isn’t “What do we owe Allen?” because it doesn’t matter. The legacy we inherited as the living embodiment of the city is that we can’t make it right with Allen. But what is our responsibility to Allen?

I think, in part, since we robbed him of his own people, we have to acknowledge our responsibility to act as his descendants. We stole it, but we’re his beneficiaries. Our responsibility is to remember him and to admit that we owe him a debt we can’t repay.

Lovely Saturday

I had such a nice day yesterday. I mailed my blanket to Australia and discussed with the postal worker the wonders of biscuits. I got my prescriptions from Walgreens and commiserated about the rising price of my eye drops. I was early to my coffee with S. and I saw a bunch of people I knew and had a nice chat with a woman who paints psychedelic buffalo. Coffee with S. was lovely. Then I went over to East Side Story and ran into another person I knew. And Project X is moving forward or at least there’s a game plan for moving it forward. And things are on-track for Proto Pulp.

So, that was nice.

Today I cleaned the bathroom. So, you know, I guess today has also been kind of productive.


One of my favorite things about Nashville is how easy it is to get someone to tell you a story. You just give them a little push and off they go, telling you something interesting. Yesterday, I had to go to the store because I forgot chicken broth and I was telling the guy who was checking me about about how I never can remember the difference between chicken broth and chicken stock and I always send the Butcher to the store for the wrong thing. And he told me about a guy they had in the other day who was buying four gallons of milk and five boxes of Jello among other things and the checker caught a glimpse of his list and realized that the guy’s wife had numbered her list–”F. gallon of milk. 5. Jello”–but dude was reading the numbers as an amount. and they could not talk him out of his mistake.

So, I know this guy who shares the last name with a minor character on True Detectives. It’s a pretty distinctive Louisiana name, so every time it comes up on the show, I have this moment where I’m like “Now, how would she be related to K.?” So, I asked him whether he’s watching the show and if it’s weird to have someone with his name on it. And he said that there was only one original guy with that name, so, even if he couldn’t understand why her family has been living that far below Lafayette, she must be one of them, because everyone with that name goes back to that one guy.

I love this so much. I mean, I love the ways fact and fiction can blur (in fun ways, not in distressing ways) and I love a kind of largesse that says “everyone, real and imaginary, with our name is ours.”

But I think it’s a similar thing–this idea that you have to be prepared to meet narrative with narrative, that people are telling stories and you best be ready to tell one right back.

My family is good at story-telling in some ways. I mean, we can tell a mean story, even a demonstrably untrue one, with the best of them. But we have trouble inhabiting a space it’s so easy to fall into down here–where everyone is kind of bullshitting (I mean, four gallons of milk? Really? I don’t know.) for the sake of amusing each other

Sometimes, when I meet new people, I think that I talk too much. I don’t know how to be quiet with you until I know you. But it’s also that I enjoy telling stories and I have this impulse that, if I tell you a great one, maybe you’ll turn around and tell me one even better.

The Other Mason’s Restaurant

Not this one, but the one in the Lowe’s hotel. My co-worker has been talking all week about their Kopecky chicken sandwich and, on Friday, we decided we were going to have it. Well, we get there and it’s not on the menu. But the chef is there so he’s just going to whoop it up for us. And he did!

And then he came out and talked to us!

It was so weird and awesome. I mean, it’s not like you can’t talk to the cook at the Goodlettesville Mason’s, but you can see right in the kitchen there. Anyway, the Lowe’s Mason’s. He told us where our meat had come from and some of his thinking behind this spicy chicken dish he serves at the bar and it was just really, really cool.

So, even thought they’re very different dining experiences and only one features prominently in a ghost story I wrote, I can now recommend both restaurants named “Mason’s” in the area.

New Year’s Day

So, this weekend, I was talking to E. about my trip to the city archives on Friday and just how heavy-hearted it left me and how part of the problem with the past is that you are born complicit in some shitty things with no way to extract yourself–I’m not in love with the idea of drinking water that flows through pipes put in the ground by a 14 year old boy whose back was already “much scarred with the whip” by the time he got to Nashville, but here we are. I’ve drank a lot of water through these pipes and will continue to. Sorry, Allen.

But the other part–and it goes hand-in-hand with why you can’t even extract yourself from complicity–is that we don’t know our history and we don’t know what we don’t know. So, I brought up, as a for-instance, people touting how the owner of Nottoway Plantation (from the Ani DiFranco mess) having a meal with his slaves on New Year’s Day as an example of what a fine master he was, when, really, to force the people you keep enslaved to eat with you on New Year’s Day? Total dick move. A total dick move that makes sense–if ever there was going to be a moment of rebellion, it’s when you know which family members you’re going to lose tomorrow, but haven’t yet lost them.

She’d never heard that New Year’s Day was the day when slaves were rented to other plantations for the year or sold (slaves were sold year round, obviously, but, if you faced, say, a glut of 10-12 year old girls on your farm, or if you had a bunch of men fit for cotton but had decided to switch to sugarcane, New Year’s Day was, for lack of a better term, the traditional day for bulk sales of people). In some places, it was called Hiring Day (that’s how Harriet Jacobs knew it.) and it’s speculated that this is one of the reasons early emancipation celebrations centered around New Year’s Day–the first tangible difference that most people knew between being a slave and not being one was that, come January 1st, nothing happened. No one came to your door to tell you who was going away. It was a radical change.

So, yes, January 1st was the day you found out who you were going to lose and January 2nd was the day you lost them. Throwing a barbecue for your slaves and hanging out with them all evening on the 1st doesn’t make you a decent person. It makes you a wise person who knows from what circumstances trouble comes.

But E. had never heard of this. Which, of course, is why Nottoway can pass the January 1st story off as a good one instead of evidence of what a shitty person Randolph was. That bit of history is well-known in the circles it’s well-known in and passes unmentioned, untaught, in the wider world.

Anyway, just putting it out there so that it can be more widely known.

The Corporation

I had heard that Nashville owned slaves, but the story I was told was that it was just a small group of men who installed the water lines and did some maintenance on the roads and then Nashville got out of the slave-owning business by 1830. George Zepp’s excellent book suggested that wasn’t the whole story. But I kind of didn’t really let that sink in. But then there’s all this Ani DiFranco nonsense and, while I agree that there’s no need for social-justice song-writing retreats at plantations that gloss over their history and are owned by rightwing assholes, I kept thinking about Nashville–which doesn’t really acknowledge that it was even in the slave-owning business, that the water you’re drinking when you stay downtown is because of those men. And we’re governed by right-wing assholes. Sure, not at the city level, but at the state.

And I’m not trying to say, then, that it’s too hard to deal with slavery so it’s fine if Ani DiFranco wants to fart around at a plantation all weekend. I’m trying to come at it from the other direction–what she intended to do was obviously bullshit. But social justice icons play Nashville all the time. Hell, some of them play the Ryman, with its Confederate balcony. I don’t want to ask them not to play Nashville, to not play the Ryman. I don’t have a good reason why Nottoway is off-limits, but Nashville is okay. I just, honestly, want it to be that way.

But I also wonder why we don’t ask these big names, the ones who are devoted to social justice, to bring pressure on the city to acknowledge its direct complicity in slavery? Not just as a place where slaveowners lived, but as a slaveowner itself.

The Nashville City Cemetery shows that the story I was told about slavery in Nashville is a lie. I wrote them and asked them who “the corporation” was and the woman who wrote me back knew because The Corporation had owned the Cemetery back then–because it was the city. And so there are Nashville’s slaves, dying in the cholera epidemic in ’49 and later. And there’s a woman. Look at how young they are.