Awesome Demonbreun News

I want to kiss Bridgett on the mouth and then kiss this very moment on the mouth. So, as you know, I’m working on the fake Nashville ghost stories for October and I was inspired by a set of shoulders I saw the other day to write a story about why the Devil lives here, on and off.

It’s a long story and involves Elizabeth Bennett, who was Timothy Demonbreun’s lover/mistress/country wife.

So, of course, I ask Bridgett all about it,  because, America, there are few historical things about the mid-South that she cannot explain to me in a manner I can understand.  And, of course, in the back of my mind is the wondering I have about why there are Demonbreuns in the Barnes cemetery and in that cool little cemetery I found on Bull Run Road.

Well, Bridgett sends me back this long, awesome explaination, which I will not republish here so as not to undermine the sales for her future book, “Things B. Finds Fascinating.” Yes, it will have a very small market–me and a handful of academic libraries–but with the way scholarly publishing is going, that will be considered a smashing success and she’ll get a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education and everything. Other scholars will egg her house in envy.

But in it she mentions that Bennett ran a tavern in Germantown. I have written her back asking for clarification. The Memphis Germantown? That seems unlikely as that Germantown didn’t exist until the railroad went through. The Germantown that is a neighborhood in Nashville?  Possible, but I think that started being called Germantown towards the middle and end of the 19th Century.  So, what Germantown does that leave us?

Folks, I suspect Bennett was right up the ridge where I buy my groceries, where what is now Clarksville Pike crosses Old Hickory Boulevard!

But that’s not the cool part.  No the cool part is that Timothy Demonbreun’s wikipedia entry mentions a monument to Demonbreun that is in the Carney Cemetery in Ashland City, which is on Bennett’s old farm.

Well, Ashland City only by nearest city. That cemetery is on little Marrowbone Road, which is just the next valley up from Bull Run Road (where there are Demonbreuns buried) which is just the next road up from OHB (down which, in the Bend, there are Demonbreuns buried). And, clearly, that’s why. They stayed near Grandma.

I’m going to look right this second.

Also, I’m interviewing a cactus, but that’s neither here nor there.


56 thoughts on “Awesome Demonbreun News

  1. Yes, she lived on the Marrowbone farm after Tim’s death with her son Jean Baptiste and she is buried there in the family cemetery. Reputedly that’s where Tim is also buried…family insists that she moved the body there before she died, but that would be a weird thing to do if she was at all Choctaw, as there’s a strong death taboo about messing with corpses. So, while there might be a monument, I am a little skeptical that his bones are there.

    I don’t know exactly where she operated her tavern (it was an offhand mention in a genie write-up), but I’m betting that you’re right and it’s the Germantown that is up the road from you. I don’t have a copy of the various TN censuses handy, but the question would be easily settled by looking at the 1820 or 1830 census or county court records, since the tavern would have to have a license. I am guessing that the tavern license would be in his name, though it wasn’t so uncommon for a widow with trade connections to run a tavern. By 1850, she was 109 and probably not running anything but a food grinder to soften up her dinner.

  2. Also, anyone else think that Marrowbone could be a hillbilly transliteration of Bonne Mere (or “Our Good Mother,”), which would be a logical thing for an old Francophone Catholic woman to call her farm? Anybody?

  3. Oh, Bridgett, I wish you could have been with me to see it. I have to tell you, if she had a FARM farm there, I would be surprised. I guess it depends on where her house was situated, on which side of the creek and how close to the cemetery, but the cemetery is in a very narrow part of the holler, and you have to go somewhat up hill to get to it.

    But… you have privacy, fresh water, lots of trees, and really easy access to Ashland City Highway. Knowing she owned a tavern and seeing where her land was, I wonder if she wasn’t a moonshiner.

    And the cemetery was full of Demonbreuns, spelled a couple of different ways. You’ll be unsurprised to learn there were Barneses there. But I forgot to look to see if her husband was buried there.

    I have photos! I will upload them here in a little bit.

    The Demonbreun marker was clearly fairly new (Tim, I mean), but it had a footstone, so I didn’t know quite what to make of that.

    And there were a lot of graves marked only with what looked like a piece of limestone or sandstone.

  4. Sounds very cool. Wish I could have been there.

    What looks like a “good farm” has changed dramatically since she chose hers. She would have looked for a lot of trees, some grassy hills, some swampland, a spring or creek that didn’t go dry and didn’t flood, a sheltered bowl or ravine for a cabin site, with sufficient room to build some outbuildings and put in a good eating garden and a couple acres of corn. (The “plant one crop wall to wall” mentality of Earl Butz didn’t obtain.) The stuff I’ve read about her suggests that she held several parcels of land over time; she might have lived one place and sent her workers or sons/grandsons to crop somewhere else. Cemeteries of that vintage are often on hills — scrap land with good drainage, not to be too gross about it. She’s definitely in the 1850 census, so it would be pretty easy (with some maps) to figure out just where the farm was.

    Many people made their own whiskey in her day. It wasn’t against the law to still your own whiskey — only to sell it without paying the tax on it or sell it to Indians if you didn’t hold a federal trade license.

  5. Paternity issues resolved — according to JB’s 1812 pension application, he said that he didn’t know that his true father was Timothy at the time that he enlisted, which was why he enlisted under the name of Durat. (The guy to whom Elizabeth was legally married.) His half-brother, Timothy, also swears this to be the truth. Apparently, the kids were kept in the dark about the complicated lives of their parents.

    In 1850, she’s claiming to be 105 and living with her grandsons (Gabriel and Spencer) next door to JB.

    Her tavern’s name was (allegedly) Granny’s Rat. She was (allegedly) a member of the Mill Creek Baptist Church until she got thrown out for immoral behavior.

  6. Hmm. I wonder where the Mill Creek Baptist Church is. I think we went by a Little Marrowbone Creek Baptist Church on the way there… Maybe it had an earlier name? (The Mill Creek Baptist Church I could find in Nashville is way, way, on the south side of town).

    I have to tell you, though, I’m kind of not buying a 1745 birth date for her, because it seems like that would be putting her having kids with Tim in her late 30s, early 40s, which I guess is possible, but how did she get that old at that time, being clearly fertile, without more children?

    I suspect she may have been born at least ten years later. I’m guessing by your saying she was claiming to be 105, that you think she might have been exaggerating, too.

  7. My reasoning exactly, though placing ordinary women’s birth dates given the relative dearth of records is very challenging. There’s all sorts of explanations about “why no earlier kids” — children died, moms could run oft, husbands could take them and leave (they were property) — and there’s nothing to say that she didn’t have earlier kids that were indentured away from her. It was a rough world. This would be a case where you’d have to do a records dig.

    Maybe Tim had a taste for women who were already settled.

  8. You know, between her and Rachel Jackson, I feel like these early Tennessee women were just as cool and tough as can be. I guess I still have this stereotype of the proper Southern woman, but these women just seem rowdy in a way I find surprising and charming.

    They did have hard lives, no doubt, but it seems like they did their best to stand in the face of that.

  9. There’s a descendant of the Demonbreuns (still has the last name) that cut my hair once at the Headsup on elliston place.

    I squinted at his placard and noticed the name and before I could finished asking “so are you …” he replied, sighingly, “yes…” and left it at that..

    I guess he wasn’t too proud of the family legacy.

  10. You know, the more I think about that birth date, the less plausible it seems. In doing a little more long-distance digging, I’ve found maybe four other kids that she had after she married Durrard and apparently his kids, concentrated bang-bang between 1793-1800, spaced in a typical pattern for women who nursed. She would have thus been 55 years old when she was last brought to bed. Although possible, it just seems unlikely.

  11. Mrs. Elizabeth Bennett Durrard Demonbreun is my 6th Great Grandmother. She had her first child with Timothe in the Cuberland River Cave. Then she went on to have more children with Tim.. one being my 5th Great Grandfather, then on down the line to my Great Grandfather, Andrew Demonbruen who had my grandmother, Myrtle B. Demonbruen (Bunnie). Yes, its the germantown you are thinking of, not the one next to Nashville, and im unsure about the bones of Timothe as well. There is a place in nashville where he may have been buried, but it doesnt have a marker and it is behind some rundown auto building or something. Im not sure about the other children of Tim and Elizabeths other sons, but on my side, most of the men have all been breeders and liked their alcohol. My family is mostly in Ashland City Tn, or on the outskirts of. As for her age, she was over 115, so said, but i think it could be off a little bit. Although, if she did take to the alcohol, maybe she just pickled perfectly! Who’s to know. But if you have any more info on her, id love to hear, or if you need to know any info about their children, i can give you info. Just let me know!

  12. Oh, Shawnee, how cool that you’ve stopped by! I was just up to the cemetery yesterday to visit your 6th Great Grandma. Do you know whereabouts in Germantown she had her tavern? I was thinking of going to the state library and archives and see if I couldn’t find it on a map.

  13. Aunt B! Thank you so much for your entry on my family history. I am doing more and more reading on Timothe’ and his ascendents and decendents, again thanks.

  14. Well I see my twin sister beat me to the punch ;)
    I’m very interested in learning about my Demonbreun history as well. I’m Shawnee’s sister, so ..yep.. direct relation to Timothy Demonbreun. Our grandmother being Myrtle B. Demonbreun.
    I saw also in your pictures some Biggs in the family. We are technically Biggs’ since Myrtle Demonbreun was first married to Donald E. Biggs (Son of Clarence E. Biggs and Leona Clouse) and had our father, Leon, before she divorced and married Gene Pemberton.
    Anyways, interesting that there is another Biggs connection. :)

  15. I am a bit confused by the thread. Who was writing the book about Elizabeth Bennett back in 2009, Aunt B or Bridgett? Which ever, did it ever get published?

    For descendents of the illegit branch of the Demonbreun’s Elizabeth is an interesting blank. There is more speculation than hard fact.

    As the cemetery above Little Marrowbone Creek gives evidence, the DeM’s and Carney’s became quite entwined. Check out surnames in this old photo

    Cheatham Co records indicate that her son Jean B. had 3000 acres of land. You have to suspect that he sold land to many of the Carney’s. It is also possible that the land could be traced to Timothe DeM.

  16. Hi, Bob,

    I wrote a book with a fake ghost story in it about Elizabeth Bennett. You can make your library order you a copy or buy a copy from the link on the left (or, hell, search this site for Elizabeth Bennett and it will pull it up).

    And Elizabeth is indeed an interesting character. You know she married Demonbreun’s old running buddy after Demonbreun’s wife showed back up, right? And that she had some kids with him–Durards or Durands or Duratts.

    Interestingly, what this suggests is that her kids had no idea how old she really was. If she was the age JB put on her gravestone, she’d have been having kids well into her 50s.

    It’s confusing because Demonbreun’s sons had similar names, but I know the Cheatham county Demonbreun (buried up in a Baptist churchyard outside of Coopertown) was legitimate. But I also know he was a huge help to his illegitimate siblings and helped them secure their parts of Demonbreun’s pension after he died.

    Demonbreun’s legitimate daughter married a Dozier and he gave them the land he owned on the other side of the Cumberland south of Ashland City.

    Interestingly enough, the Durards who believe they’re descended from Elizabeth report that she had at least three children with Durard–one of whom she named Timothy.

    I don’t think she ever got over him.

  17. Thanks for the response.

    I’ve always suspected that Elizabeth assumed or fabricated a name and birthdate of an older person that served her purpose at one time or another. That would explain her apparent great age and length of fertility.

    I’ve also doubted the Choctaw theory although it is reasonable. There are Choctaw Carney’s in MS & AL related through common ancester with the Marrowbone Carney’s. The Choctaw Carney’s that I have met have a very strong family tradition of being part Choctaw even when it is a tiny part. We Marrowbone Carneys that descended from Elizabeth have no similar tradition. We do, however, have a strong oral tradition of being part French Canadian.

  18. I just discovered this blog! I love it!

    Say, have you ever happened to see Spencer Demumbrie’s grave up in that area, or an Effee Jane? Elizabeth’s grandson Spencer (who she was on the 1850 census with) is my 3rd great-grandfather. He goes on to be listed as Demumbrie on later census records. He married Cornelia McMillan/McMillen and had my 2nd great-grandmother Cornelia Ann Minerva “Minnie” (who apparently told everyone her father was from France, though that is obviously not true-especially since he shows on every census he was from Tennessee….oh, the imagination). Cornelia died at some point and he married a woman named Effee Jane Gilchrist in 1872. Then they….just disappear. Minnie was living in Memphis popping out kids of her own, but I no one knows where Spencer went. My mother suspects he is buried in Marrowbone or nearby. Honestly, it’s pretty annoying not being able to figure out where he might be. The last census record he was on is the 1870 in Tunica. Silly people disappearing!

    Also, I told my mother that I doubted the age of Elizabeth. I figure that if she was full blood Choctaw there might be a chance that she didn’t know her actual age, and just kind of picked a birth year around Timothy’s. She might have been a very adult looking 12 year old, for all we know. And when he said, “so, how old are you?” she probably said, “well, how old are you?” and he said, “I’m 32 year old” and she replied, “what a co-inky-dink! me too!”, but only because she knew he wouldn’t take her clubbing otherwise.

  19. Hi, Stephanie,

    I haven’t been out there in a while, so I can’t say for sure. Is Spencer one of Jean Baptiste’s kids?

    There are Demonbreuns of all sorts (Demonbrum, Demombrum, etc.) in the Marrowbone cemetery, but I’ve also seen some in the cemeteries north of me. Are y’all still Catholic? It seems like a lot of the Demonbreuns ended up Methodist (judging by the church cemeteries I’ve found them in) but I wonder if some of you have returned.

    And I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking that Elizabeth was lying about her age. Your line abut clubbing cracked me up.

    Be sure to search the whole blog for Demonbreun stuff. I’ve found a lot of cool things about y’all, most of which, I guess, you probably already know.

  20. Yup, Spencer is one of JB’s. He is listed as John Spencer on the Demonbreun website, but I haven’t actually seen his name on documents like that, that I am aware of at least.

    I’m not sure if Minnie was Catholic or not, but I don’t think so. We are Episcopalian, which just means that we can do all of the heathen stuff in public, unlike the Catholics that have to do it in private.

    I do need to look around! I just put your book in my Amazon cart, but I have to wait for my husband to come home so I can actually order it…that way I feel like he bought me a gift.

  21. How cool. John Spencer is my 3rd great grand uncle (his brother Samual Bynum Hampton Demonbreun being my 3rd great grandfather)
    I always thought the story of Elizabeth’s age to be quite “iffy” as well :)

  22. You Demonbreun descendants are spoiling the hell out of me. Why can’t all historic Nashvillians I have questions about send their living relatives to be cool as all get out?!

    Anyway, I will continue to argue that Elizabeth has to be about ten years younger than she claims to be. There are Durards that trace themselves back to her and Joseph Duratt and I have found evidence of possibly four children for them–Joseph, Elizabeth, Timothy (and Lewis, possibly). Timothy and Lewis (or Timothy Lewis) were/was born in 1795.

    If we go by the birth date on her tombstone, she’d be 55. In fact, all of her Durard kids would have been born when she was in her 50s. Plus, it would have made her ten years older than Timothy Demonbreun.

    I think it’s more likely that she was in her 30s or 40s when Teresa came back into the picture.

  23. Do you know if there is a historical book written about the Demonbreuns/DeMontbruens/Demumbruns etc etc?
    I’m so glad our family has such great stories and mystery!

  24. As far as I know, there is not (and I looked, as you can imagine). I think what we need to do is hope that some PhD student floundering for a dissertation topic stumbles across how awesome and interesting the Demonbreun story is and takes it up, because there’s a lot of stuff going on that could use some explanation.

    Like, when I went to the TSLA to try to figure out where Elizabeth’s tavern would have been, we never did find that but we found weird indications that Timothy, Elizabeth, and Joseph were all constantly selling land back and forth to each other.

    But how could Elizabeth have owned land back then? And how could she sell land to her husband (Joseph)? They would have legally been one unit. It’s like moving your change from your right to left pocket and saying you made forty-five cents.

    Plus, if there’s anything to be tracked down about Elizabeth, it’s going to take someone with some historian skills and the time to sift through a lot of records.

    But hopefully someone will do it.

  25. Well, that too.

    Are you sure they were selling the land and not transferring it in some other fashion (donating, hypothecating, something similar)?

  26. No, not really. Like I said, someone with more of a history bent is going to have to someday tackle these people. In the old deed books we were looking at reproductions of, it seems pretty clearly to be property for money transfers between the three of them, but figuring out the context for them just wasn’t clear enough from the scant information to even let me give it a good guess.

  27. Does Elizabeth alienate the land “with permission of” one or the other of the men? That would be fully in accordance with English law at the time (and, I’m guessing, with colonial/Federal period law — Bridgett?). Oh! or has Joseph gone to court and declared her to be a femme sole? Again, Bridgett will have to say whether that could be done in TN, but it was not uncommon in England when a married woman was actually doing business on her own.

    Also, if it was the same parcel of land they kept swapping, it’s possible that there’s some story there, but it seems more likely to me that it was being used as collateral for a series of loans.

  28. I haven’t seen the docs. I can tell you that the gap between what women were “supposed” to be allowed to do and what they were actually doing…especially women in formerly French or Spanish controlled territory, especially women business owners, and especially women who were perceived as “elite outsiders” (which would be metis women in the fur trade, acculturated Indians to whom English law could be seen to have only passing relevance, women who were country wives/now widows but still retaining connections to their former partner)…was pretty large. I’ve seen property exchange used for all sorts of things, from cash transfers to collateral to asset shielding. If they’re engaged in a trade partnership, she could be fronting him goods and securing her investment by holding onto title to real property. The post-rev period is a very fluid time in American property law and the trans-App is perhaps the most fluid place because of the intersection of so many different legal systems. (And the rules get interpreted by those with the most property to hedge, so there’s always that.)

  29. Bridgett, that’s a good point. I imagine that what two French dudes and an Indian woman got up to in northwest Davidson county probably wasn’t much concern for the folks in Nashville as long as they had some record of who owned what.

    I mean, let us note that she had multiple kids with Demonbreun and they only brought her up on bastardry charges for the first one.

    So, maybe they did decide those three were outside the concern of the “English” folks.

  30. I also think that there was a tacit understanding that there really wasn’t any legal weight to throw around. The French had been promised (or insisted retrospectively that they had been promised) retention of their ancient rights and customs…and US authority in the region was super-weak. There were credible rumors throughout the 1790s that the Spanish were trying to flip the loyalties of the far western settlements and in practical terms, that created a lot of “get along and go along” between those representing the settler-state and the previous generation of migrants to the area. As long as people like Demonbruen and Bennett agreed to use the US institutions to keep track of what they were doing with their property, I reckon that was considered win enough.

  31. NM, no. Honestly, when we saw it, we just both were like “Oh, that’s weird,” but were more concentrating on whether we could figure out where Bennett’s tavern–Granny Rat’s Tavern–was. I didn’t go looking for originals or anything.

    Also didn’t find the tavern, but I guess that’s not too surprising. Still think it was on Eaton’s Creek Pike at the top of the ridge.

  32. The docs you describe would be in the Deeds book – which was the catchall records book of the time. Deeds might contain tenant agreements, indentures, slavery papers, freedom documents, mortgages…pretty much anything that needed preserving for future reference that wasn’t a will.

  33. I saw a book on Amazon, something about a book for young descendants of Timothy….I didn’t really take a good look at it, though…

    Yeah, I cannot find JB’s pension records at all…it’s pretty much driving me insane. Nearly as insane as the land grant record I found for Timothy in a box of photos that I can’t find now (I know it’s in that dining room!).

    Dawn, what relationship does that make us? I am not good at calculating family relationships!

  34. PS.. Up there somewhere Shawn posted in this discussion. She is my twin sister :) So she, of course, would also be your 5th cousin :)

    Now..are we also related to Aunt B???

  35. i will say that I have been contacted by Demonbreun descendants and Durard descendants and I wish I was related in to you guys. Every single one of you who has contacted me has been incredibly interesting, friendly, funny, and very smart. I like to think that, if so many of you–both Demonbreun and Durard descendants–are like that, then maybe that’s what Elizabeth was like.

    And, if so, who can blame the Frenchmen in town for all wanting to fuck her?

  36. I can’t help but think that Elizabeth was a spitfire. All the rest of us had to get it from SOMEWHERE LOL

  37. Also, I didn’t realize there were Demonbreuns burried on Bull Run rd. I can’t count how many times I passed by that cemetery. Gonna have to get Shawn to drive out that way for me (I’m in Texas, she’s in Ashland City)
    PS..the Germantown where Granny Rat’s Tavern was is the same Germantown we get our “Germantown wine” from :) How fitting LOL

  38. Dang it…I need to read fully before I respond LOL So no Demonbreun’s burried on Bull Run? You are talking about that lil one on Old Hickory?

  39. 5th cousin once removed! yay! man, genealogy is fun…..

    if only we were related to Aunt B…of course, you never know, since lines ran all over….

  40. The “age” question. I’ve seen this numerous times in Native people. For one thing age was revered in Native culture, and another, they counted by lunar cycles, so that adjusted to the European calendar the Native “year” was 13 months. Combine the two and fudge a bit and voila! The 60 year-old in one census is 80 years-old ten years later. I have several who did this. One died at 89 according to his obituary, however, going by his birthdate he was 71. I don’t see this in my European ancestors. They may be off a year or two one way or the other from census to census but they don’t age 20 years in 10! :)
    Great discussion. She must have been an *extraordinary* woman.

  41. I would like to talk to Aunt B and Bridgett about the Durards. My family has lots of history in the Whites Creek, Joelton, and Germantown Hill area. Send me a email.

  42. Anyone descended from Nashville area French should read “A Company Man” . Part of the book is a narrative of Louisiana Territory life circa 1730 and the very dangerous relations with the Native Americans. The book mentions the trading settlement at Kaskaskia where Timothy would later operate before permanently relocating to Nashville. The extended Boucher DeMontbruen family were spread all over Louisiana, and some were in colonial government. Timothy and his family were well connected for trading via New Orleans and Mobile.

    Kaskaskia has been flooded away, but an interesting account of the French settlement can be found at . Search for Monbrun and you will find plenty. Some took wives from the Illinois tribe.

    Interesting times to have been alive in.

    Bob C

  43. Thanks for stopping by, Bob, and thanks for your good recommendations. I get the feeling by the number of cemeteries either formally or informally called “The Carney Cemetery” that there must have been a huge number of Carneys that settled this part of Davidson County (and on up in the Cheatham) early on. I don’t have any good stories about them yet, though.

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