Early History
Early History of Middle Tennessee
By Edward Albright, 1908

Chapter 5
Timothy Demonbreun

      Late in the autumn of 1760 a strange craft appeared on the Cumberland just below French Lick. With a single sail fluttering from a low mask it was creeping up with noiseless motion along the western bank of the river. On deck stood a tall, athletic man with broad shoulders, long arms, and an eagle eye. Over his face was an expression of daring and adventure. He was clothed in a blue cotton hunting shirt with a red waistcoat, and leggins of deer skin, and on his head he wore a fox-skin cap with the tail hanging down his back. With him were several companions. The craft proved to be a French trading boat heavily ladened with wares and merchandise, and the strangely attired individual in command was Timothy DEMONBREUN, a French soldier who had come to establish a post in the Wilderness, as the Cumberland country was then called.

      The Indian hunters loitering on the bluff where Nashville's countless mills and factories now stand had never before seen a vessel like this, and supposing it to be a "war boat from the Great Spirit's lake" prostrated themselves in an attitude of humble worship.

      Slowly the party moved up the river, and on coming to a small tributary now known as Lick branch, they decided to enter and trace it to its source. A little way up they found a spring and around it the tracks of buffalo, bear, and deer. At this spring they landed, cooked their evening meal, and retired for the night, sleeping on their arms lest they might be attacked by the natives. However, they were undisturbed, and in the morning after having stretched a line between they had out bright red blankets, strings of beads, shining trinkets, and other articles with which to attract the Indians. They were careful to show by their actions that the mission on which they had come was one of peace, and made such signs as they were able indicating a desire to trade their wares for pelts and furs, such as the savages possessed.

      DEMONBREUN had come to Canada with the army of his native land during the war between England and France. He fought bravely at the battle of Quebec, which took place on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, and upon the restoration of peace concluded to maake America his home. In the spring of 1760 he journeyed from Quebec to Kaskaskia, Illinois, and thence to the French Lick. His trade with the Indians proved profitable, and her, except at brief intervals, he spent the remainder of his life. For some years he lived during the winter months in a cave above Nashville on the bank of the Cumberland between the mouth of Stone's River and Mill Creek. After the first season his family came to live with him in the cave, and here was born his son, William DEMONBREUN, long honored citizen of Williamson County, where some years ago he died, leaving a large family and a fine estate. William DEMONBREUN was probably the first white child born in Middle Tennessee.

      In the summer of each year DEMONBREUN, the elder, would return to Kaskaskia, taking with him a cargo of buffalo hides and furs which laid by in store during the winter and spring. Later he would come back to his station with a new supply of goods for the trade of the following season.

      At the beginning of the Nashville settlement he built two cabins of cedar logs; one near the northeast corner of the Public Square, and the other at the juncture of Broad and College Streets. The first was used as a storehouse and the other as a dwelling for himself and family. Later he erected a farmhouse on Broad Street near High, and in this he died in 1826, at the advanced age of ninety-six years. It was in honor of this brave and venerable pioneer that the city of Nashville gave the name "DeMonbreun" to one of its principal streets.

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