The George W. Demonbreun Family History:Information about Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun
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Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun (b. March 23, 1746/47, d. October 30, 1826)Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun (son of Jean Etienne Boucher DeMontbrun and Della Marie Racicot)116 was born March 23, 1746/47 in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada, and died October 30, 1826 in Nashville, Davidson Cty, Tennessee.He married (1) Therese Marquerite Archange Gibault on November 26, 1766 in Boucherville, Chambly, Quebec, Canada117, daughter of Etienne Gibault and Marie Catherine DuBois.He married (2) Elizabeth Hensler Bennett on February 1784 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.
Notes for Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun:
The Tennessean - Arts & Leisure Section, Section D, Sunday 5/19/1985
Mysterious DeMonbreun Now In Focus
New Documents Provide A Glimpse
by Louis Davis (First of Two Parts)
Thanks to newly available documents at the State Library and Archives, the high-spirited
French-Canadian hunter-trader now steps out of the mists of more than 200 years ago in sharp focus.A mystery even in his own day, DeMonbreun had become a romantic myth in Nashville with little known about him except the legend that he was the first white man to live here, and that he once lived in a cave on the banks of the Cumberland. But nowthrough an invaluable collection of official government letters, military records, church records, etc. assembled over many years of research by a fascinated Presbyterian minister, the late W.A. Provine of Nashville DeMonbreun rises on the frontier scene in amazing strength and courage. Restless as the animals he hunted over two centuries ago, DeMonbreun, descendant of an outstanding French-Canadian family, paddled his swift canoe over the rivers from Canada to New Orleans on numerous expeditions packed with danger. Apparently as early as 1769 he rowed up the Cumberland to the bluff where Nashville now stands, and got his first glimpse of the cedar-crested hill where our capitol now stands. More importantly, he got a whiff of the sulphur spring where he knew buffalo herds would gather to lick the salt. And when he climbed the bank near what was later the Sulphur Dell baseball park, he did indeed find buffaloes in astonishingnumber around the Tall, light of foot, sharp of eye, he could scent out the enemy man or beast, quick as a deer. Tanned by years on the rivers,in icy winds and summer suns, he was described by early Tennessee historian Jo Conn Guild as a "dark-skinned man with a large head, broad shoulders and chest, small legs, a high short foot and an eagle eye. It was his spirit of adventure, his hunger for new land that drew DeMonbreun to the lush forests and tall cane where Nashville would grow. When winter locked northern rivers in ice, and freezing boat crews had to work in the water as they hauled the boats over shoals DeMonbreun pressed on. When spring floods turned the broad Mississippi into a swirling expanse of muddy sucks and powerful currents tossing fallen trees in his way, DeMonbreun threaded his way between them. In combat, whether against Indians or British soldiers, he went cheerfully into battle volunteering on deadly missions when other soldiers paled. When Indians refused to make peace with other white men, DeMonbreun won their confidence. And he knew every bend of the rivers from Quebec to New Orleans. Though ambitious, determined to protect his own rights as well as those of this country (during the Revolutionary War), DeMonbreun never lost sight of the fact that he was the great-grandson of the first titled man in Canadian history. Timothy himself was honored with appointment as lieutenant governor of the Illinois Country (before it became a state). He corresponded with Alexander Hamilton, then secretary of treasury, Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, and he traveled to Williamsburg and Philadelphia on government business. He served under the famed hero, George Rogers Clark, during the Revolutionary War, and he dealt firmly with contentious Spain when he was Illinois governor. DeMonbreun's official letters in French, were gracefully written. He was as much at home in frilled shirt and silver-buckled knee breeches as he was in rough hunting shirt and fox-skin cap. His speech a combination of French and English made him a curiosity in Nashvillepioneer community. A free spirit, he loved land and acquired a great deal of real estate both in Nashville and in what are now Davidson, Williamson, Robertson and Cheatham counties. Though he was appointed to high office, and moved gracefully among the powerful, this former governor of Illinois did not hesitate to operate a tavern near Nashvilles public square or, later, in his home on what is now quote lower Broadway.And he was glad to have the contract to keep Nashville streets and the new court house clean and in good repair.A strange mixture of bold adventurer and solid citizen, he saw to it that all of his legitimate children were baptized in the Catholic Church and indeed he assembled fellow Catholics in his own home to organize the first Catholic church In Nashville. And his romances, ranging from the hometown sweetheart he married in Canada, to the common-law wife who was part of the frontier life he knew in Tennessee, were as colorful as his military and political careers. The date of his first glimpse of Nashville is uncertain with earliest evidence in 1769. For years the date of his birth was uncertain. Now it is known, through church records, that he was born on March 23, 1747, at Boucherville, in the province of Quebec Canada. The town of Boucherville, some 40 miles east of Montreal, is in itself a tribute to DeMonbreun great-grandfather, Pierre Boucher, who was given the title of siegneur or by King Louis XIV of France in 1661 in recognition of his work in inducing Frenchmen to settle in Canada. After leading the French-Canadian defense against a siege by Iroquois Indians, Boucher traveled to France to persuade the king to provide military protection. Called the Father of New France (Canada), Boucher received from the king not only the title but the land to establish the village named in his honor. After he returned from France, Pierre Boucher, Lord de Montbreun wrote a history of Canada, published in 1664. Born In France, he had moved to Canada in 1635, served as governor of his district for five years and died at age 95 in 1717. His descendants not only kept the de Montbreun but eventually dropped the Boucher from their name. Thus Pierres great-grandson, the early Nashville settler, was actually named Jacques-Timothe Boucher, Sieur (Lord) de Montbrun. His companions in his river-roving days called him Jacques, but in Nashville he was known as Timothy DeMonbreun the name he signed on deeds and other legal documents. The spelling of Demonbreun is as varied as the speech habits and literacy of those who wrote the name. Some shortened it to Monbrun and others reduced it to the mumbled Mumbre. And in Nashville, ever since Timothy DeMonbreun lived here, the street named in his honor has been spelled Demonbreun. Son and grandson of men who had distinguished themselves in military careers, Timothy DeMonbreun had uncles who were governors of West Florida and the Natchez country. They and his cousins had been among the first white men to see the Rocky Mountains, and had established outposts as far west as what is now Minnesota, the Dakotas and Iowa. Timothy DeMonbreun, from a devoutly Catholic family, had two sisters who were nuns on the staff of a hospital in Montreal. Timothy himself, on Nov. 26,1766, when he was 19 years old, married Marguerite Therese-Archange Gibault, daughter of a merchant at Boucherville. Her cousin, Pierre Gibault, the town priest, performed the marriage ceremony, and in time baptized the DeMonbreun children. When Timothy was a teenager, in the 1760s, Canada was torn by fierce fighting between England and France. But they signed a peace treaty in 1763, and the French flag was lowered for the last time in the Illinois Country in 1764. Young French-Canadians tried to escape British rule by moving to the old French town of Kaskaskia, headquarters for the Illinois Country, some 60 miles south of the present St. Louis, on the Mississippi. There, Timothy took his young wife in 1768, along with their first child, Therese-Archange, born during the long canoe trip to their new home. On that hazardous journey, Timothy and his wife were accompanied by Father Gibault and the priests mother and sister. And in the years ahead,when DeMonbreun traveled the rivers between Kaskaskia and Nashville like highways today, he left his wife and young family in the care of her Gibault cousins in Kaskaskia. Fortunes were made in fur in those days, and hunters scurried up and down the Ohio, the Mississippi and the Cumberland (then called Chauvenon), not only to hunt but to buy the fur that Indians sold.French traders traveled in tremendous canoes, sometimes with small sails and crews of several men. By 1766, the year of DeMonbreuns marriage, traffic up the Mississippi from New Orleans had so increased that one traveler reported passing three hunting parties on Nov. 24 alone. The hunters would salt-up (the meat) in large piroques (canoes) and batteaux (flat-bottomed boats) and descend generally in December, to New Orleans to supply the inhabitants. The skins and tallow they also prepare and take with them. Their piroques generally carry from 3,000 to 5,000 weight, but I have heard of much larger.So in the very week that DeMonbreun was married, other French traders were exploring the Illinois Country, where the two mighty rivers the Mississippi on the west and the Ohio on the southeast were the highways to the world. Besides the wealth to be made from furs, there were thousands of unclaimed acres of rich farm land. Timothy had doubtless heard from his much traveled uncles about the spring above the Cumberland where herds of 30 or 50, or even 100 buffaloes at a time, came to drink. And almost certainly by 1769, Timothy was in the Cumberland area. For Kaskaskia, a French settlement that became the first capital of Illinois, was suffering a severe depression when Timothy Demonbreun arrived there in 1768. Many of the French Canadians who had fled there turned out to be poor farmers, unable to support themselves. The British commandants, attempting to feed the hungry new-comers, hired a Philadelphia land company to provide meat. Earlier settlers had been so profligated in killing more animals than they needed that there was little game left in the area. The Philadelphia company gave DeMonbreun a contract to lead a hunting party south in search of game, and at 22, in 1769, he set out in his sturdy piroques with supplies and ammunition for himself and his crews. The great hunt was to take him south on the wild, churning Mississippi, and then on to the calm Ohio and into Kentucky and perhaps to the Cumberland.
THE TENNESSEANARTS & LEISURESunday, May 26, 1985
War Hero DeMonbreun Returned To Nashville
By Louise Davis Second of two parts.
A statue of Timothy DeMonbreun may rise at Nashvilles Riverfront Park, if his descendants succeed in their well organized campaign to raise the money and get the citys permission.For he was the first white man to live here and establish a business, and there is reason to believe that the young French-Canadian returned here to hunt and trade for months at a time nearly every year after 1770, until he finally settled here. But in his earliest days in the wilderness here, he had to leave his wife and children in safer Kaskaskia, Ill., 60 miles south of St. Louis. His first son, Felix Timothy, was in fact born and baptized in Kaskaskia in I770, and that same year, one early Tennessee historian stated, the first American traders found Timothy DeMonbreun set up in business in Nashville. In 1775, DeMonbreun was listed as a resident of Eatons Station, across the river, but he was mostly on the rivers and in the woods, where he saw no Indians that summer, fall or winter, but immense number of buffaloes and other game. The next spring, in 1776, he left here for New Orleans to sell his tallow, hides furs, etc.And on the way back, after heraised a company to hunt on the Arkansas River, he narrowly escaped death when his party was twice robbed by Indians.The British were using Indians of many tribes to stir up trouble against the Rebels. DeMonbreun, who was in Canada at the beginning of the Revolution, was soon in the midst of the struggle between the British and the Americans for possession of Illinois. Vincennes, on the Wabash in what is now Indiana was then an old French village in the Illinois Country, but the British took it over in 1777 and made it one of three key supply bases, two of them near the present St Louis. TheBritish assembled hordes of savages to spy and fight for them, and on one day alone in 1778 they reported that they expected 60 merchant boats at Vincennes with supplies, presumably to bribe the Indians. But Col. George Rogers Clark, the Revolutionary War hero who was determined to break the grip of the British in Illinois, organized a small band of daring fighters to take the three key towns: Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia. DeMonbreun was listed among Clarks bravest men in that victorious campaign. On July 20, 1778, at Vincennes, DeMonbreun was among the 182 Frenchmen who lined up at a Catholic church to take the oath of allegiance to the United States and the cause of the "Rebels".By September 1778, the British, in a confidential report, said they knew that lieutenant DeMonbreun, was using Indians against them.When the St. Louis area was again threatened by the British, DeMonbreun accompanied Clark and Col. John Montgomery to the defense. When the Savages came in order to destroy the country last spring, DeMontbrun turned out with the foremost to repulse them, Montgomery, commandant of one of the forts, stated in May 1779. In June, when Montgomery had only 350 men to attack the enemy at what is now Peoria, the suffering and hunger were so intense in the wilderness that the men had to eat their horses. But DeMonbreun went with the greatest cheerfulness. When an attack by Choctaws and Chickasaws on Fort Jefferson lasted for five days in June 1780, the Americans sent an appeal for help to Montgomery at Kaskaskia but they would not volunteer. When I could get but 12 men to go with me, DeMonbreun again ventured his life, Montgomery wrote. But in 1780, DeMonbreun, who had been serving without pay applied for compensation to support his family. Failing that, he resigned his commission in the fall of 1782, and his correspondence on the matter with Clark, Montgomery and other officials shows him a man of exceptional education, writing letters distinguished by great by ease and felicity of expression. Montgomery had written of him on Oct 17, 1780: Lt. Monbrum hath Beheved him Self as a Frend to the Cause of America in Every Respect and he hath Been Ready at all Times on Eaney imrnergencey to do Evey thing in his power for the defense of his Country. When I was ordered to Go on the Expedition up the Wabash,he allso Went with the Greatest Cheerfulness and when The Savage attacted Fort Gefferson...he ventured his life to the Releefe of that post. Montgomery said DeMonbreun oute to be aplaused by Evey Good Man and Rewarded Acording to his Merrite, And DeMonbreun, pleading his case. said that serving without pay and leaving his family to the mercies of friends should be a shameful thing to one of noble birth, such as I am. At length, in May 1783, DeMonbreun received a total of $640 for two years military service. He had become a man ofconsiderable eminence in the West. And, because of his Attachment and Zeal to the public good and his Abilities and Integrity, he was, on Jan. 18, 1783, appointed lieutenant governor of the Illinois Country a position that meant he was head of the government there (at that time, under the authority of Virginia). It was a difficult task. His predecessor broken in health and spirit wished DeMonbreun better success and less difficulties than I have met with. As head of the Illinois Country, DeMonbreun had not only executive but also judicial and military duties There were land titles and public debts to be settled, and policies to be established in a government just feeling its way. There were Indians to deal with, and quarrelsome Spanish neighbors across the Mississippi. His handling of the aggressive Spanish has been called masterful. And in June 1784, when Virginia turned Illinois over to the Federal government, DeMonbreun warned Congress of the problems of dealing with the Spanish. He was eager to be relieved of his duties as head of the Illinois Country so that he could devote full time to his business in Nashville. Therefore on August 14, 1786, in Kaskaskia, he resigned, and left immediately for Nashville. By October, he was in Davidson County court, suing for money owed the store he owned. And through the following years he was frequently in court, suing or being sued. Over the years, there were generous land grants in recognition of his military service. In 1786 he was granted 1,000 acres in Tennessee, and in April 1788, he was granted another 1,000 acres by North Carolina. In 1795, Kentucky granted him 2,656 acres for his considerable service to the State, during the late war with Great Britain.For the last 41 yeas of his life in Nashville, where he continued to operate a store and tavern, he bought and sold many town lots in Nashville and farms in adjoining counties. Two of the town lots were at Fourth Avenue, on the street named Demonbreun in his honor. But Lot No. 45 in the towns original plat, at the northwest corner of Third and Broad (where a branch of Commerce Union Bank stands now), was the site of the home where he lived longest in Nashville, and it was there that he died. He bought the lot in 1790, the same year he moved his family here from their home in Kaskaskia. It is not clear whether his wife and their infant daughter, Marie Louise, died before the rest of the family moved here. But church records show that the child was born in Kaskaskia on Jan. 28,1789, and was baptized there on May 22, 1790. She was their fifth child, but there is no further mention of the mother or child in records either at Kaskaskia or at Nashville.All of their children three daughters and two sons were born in Kaskaskia (or nearby) and baptized in the Catholic church there. They were: Therese, born 1768; Felix Timothy, born 1770; Julienne, born March 12, 1785; Jacques Timothy, Jr. born April 7, 1788; and Marie Louise. According to a family story, DeMonbreuns wife, Therese, did bring her infant daughter and other small children with her to Nashville in 1790, but soon lost her health after a gruesome shock. The story is that she was riding her horse near Fort Nashboro, holding the year-old Marie Louise in front of her, when Indians snatched the child, and scalped and killed her. The mother supposedly never recovered, and died soon afterward, either here or on a visit to Canada. But in the years that DeMonbreun had a legal wife in Kaskaskia, he had a common-law wife in Nashville. Court records show that Elizabeth Bennett,commonly called Himslar, (or, Hensler or Hinsley)
dblquotewas living here in 1784, and she had a child at that time. When she met DeMonbreun is not known, but the first of their three children, Jean Baptiste, was born here on Jan 24, 1788. Their second child, Polly, was born In 1792 and the third, William, was born in 1794. Oddly, DeMonbreun on July 7, 1791, sold to Elizabeth, for the token sum of $50, the house and lot at Third and Broad that he had bought the year before. In 1792, Elizabeth married Joseph Darrett (or Duratt, or Durard), and the two of them sold the house back to DeMonbreun for the same amount on June 1,1793. Stranger still, Elzabeth's third child by DeMonbreun was born in 1794.According to her tombstone, erected by her son William, Elizabeth lived to be 116 years old, dying in 1856, 30, years after DeMonbreuns death. Newspaper accounts of a later day tell of her long life, in her latter years operating a stagecoach inn on Paradise Hill called Granny Rats Tavern. In his will, written on Sept 24, 1823, when he was 76 years old, Timothy DeMonbreun made clear distinction between his legitimate and his illegitimate children. But he divided land and money equally between them, and he appointed as executor one of the leading businessmen in Nashville, my friend, Joseph T. Elliston, a noted silversmith. In fact, DeMonbreun had been a merchant here for years when the first meeting of Nashvilles Board of Commissioners, on April 5, 1802, was held in his commodious dwelling, with three fireplaces and a brick kitchen, a stone meat house and an elegant two-story stable with a good floor and 24 good stalls.
dblquoteThat was behind his tavern, on Second Avenue, southwest of the courthouse square. In 1803, the county court issued a license to DeMonbreun to keep an Ordinary (Inn) at his new dwelling in Nashville. For years he paid $5 a year for his license to operate an Ordinary. He bought slaves and advertised for a good cook, at a generous price. But by 1820, when the hospitable DeMonbreun assembled a group of Catholics in his home to organize the first Catholic church here, he was living in a big cedar-log house with some pretension for comfort that he had built at the northwest corner of Third and Broad. And there, on May 11, 1821, the first Mass ever said by a Bishop in Nashville was offered by Bishop Flaget in the house of M. Montbrun, Frenchman, Catholic records show. On Nov, 27, 1820, he gave a lot at the corner of what is now Jo Johnson and Second Avenue, N., to build the first Catholic church here. As it turned out, that lot was turned down as the church site and it was sold back to DeMonbreun. At that time the total number of Catholics in Nashville and its vicinity did not exceed 60.In 1796, three young French brothers, including the heir to the throne (later King Louis Phillipe of France) visited Nashville, and DeMonbreun was one of the few citizens who could greet them in French. By 1825, the great French hero, the Marquis de Lafayette was wined and dined here, and DeMonbreun was among those who welcomed him. In his silver-buckled knee breeches and ruffled shirt, 78 year-old DeMonbreun joined in at toasts at the formal dinners in LaFayettes honor. A year later, on Oct 30,1826, DeMonbreun was still of sound intellect and had all of his teeth when he died at his home at the corner of Third and Broad. On the following Saturday, Nov. 4, a Nashville newspaper published the brief announcement:Died, in this town, on Monday evening last, Capt. Timothy Demumbrane, a venerable citizen of Nashville, and the first white man that ever emigrated to this vicinity. There are various theories about where he was buried, but there is no proof. The hundreds of descendants who meet on Memorial Day weekend every year to share their research about his life are unsure. Somehow the daring warrior who rowed out of the mists to build so much of the city has disappeared just as elusively.
More About Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun:
Military service 1: In the Revolumtionary War, Timothy served in the Northwest Territories Campaigns under George Rogers Clark..
Military service 2: Lt of Militia in the Illinois Bat., also Lt. Gov of Illinois Country.118
Military service 3: Served with George Rogers Clark in Ill Country. .119
Occupation: First in the Nashville area as a hunter & fur trader.
Residence: Kaskaskia-A French settlement until 7/4/1778.
More About Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun and Therese Marquerite Archange Gibault:
Marriage: November 26, 1766, Boucherville, Chambly, Quebec, Canada.120
More About Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun and Elizabeth Hensler Bennett:
Common Law: Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.
Other-Begin: February 1784, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.
Children of Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun and Therese Marquerite Archange Gibault are:
- Therese Archange Demonbreun, b. August 18, 1768, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois, d. WFT Est. 1790-1862.
- +Timothy "Felix" Demonbreun, b. February 12, 1770, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois, d. October 05, 1868, Edmonson County, Kentucky.
- +Julienne Demonbreun, b. March 12, 1785, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois, d. WFT Est. 1807-1879.
- +Jacques Timothy Demonbreun, Jr., b. April 07, 1788, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois121, d. September 17, 1872, Coopertown,Robertson County, Tennessee122.
- Mary Louise Demonbreun, b. January 28, 1789, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois123, d. Abt. May 1790, Kaskaskia, Randolph, Illinois.
- Marie Louise Demonbreun, b. January 28, 1789, d. WFT Est. 1790-1883.
Children of Jacques Timothe Boucher DeMontbrun and Elizabeth Hensler Bennett are:
- +Jean Baptiste DeMontbreun, b. January 24, 1788, d. May 25, 1872.
- +Mary Polly DeMontbreun, b. Abt. 1792, d. date unknown.
- William DeMontbreun, b. Abt. 1794, d. January 11, 1870, Williamson County, Tennessee.