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.