The following newspaper article, well, let’s just say it’s a little over the top. No, it’s a lot over the top. It makes mention toward participation in the Battle of Quebec during the French an Indian War, at which time Timothy would have been just twelve years of age (please refer to Timothy Demonbreun: Part Four for more information pertaining to his age during key events, such as the battle and when he came to what is now the United States). Also, according to the article, Timothy ruled over what is now Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It also states in a roundabout way that he owned Nashville, however I am dubious.
I could go on and on about the comicality of the extraordinary story (did you know that he was apparently a doctor, too!?!?), but I think most readers will see this as a fantastic performance piece that deserves to be read aloud with as much flourish as can be mustered.
This article comes from the February 13, 1879 issue of the now defunct Public Ledger (Memphis, Tennessee; 1865-1893), page 2. All of the spelling and grammar errors that appeared in the newspaper are left intact in the transcription.
After you read the article you will probably have many questions. HOWEVER, I have posted what I think is the MOST IMPORTANT question following the article.
LIMOTHE DE MONTEBREUNE
A Romantic Chapter in Our Local History.
How the Bluff on Which Nashville Now Stands was First Discovered by White Men --- Thrilling Experiences of the French Traders Over a Century Ago.
Cor. Nashville American, 11th]
At Faller’s watch-shop, on Deaderick street, hangs an old watch, which if it could talk, would be able to settle many a dispute relative to the first settlement of Nashville. This watch heard the thunders of the cannon at the battle of Quebec, where Wolfe found immortality and the grave. It ticked on as unconcerned, as if time was all and eternity a myth, though it marked the last hours of the intrepid Montcalm and his heroic compatriots. Even when the man upon whose bosom it rested fell badly shot, it paid no attention, but worked diligently on its task, for, mayhap, it foresaw the work in store for its master; how he was to be sent, with a stiffened arm out to subdue the wilderness and, ‘mid wonderful ‘scapes by flood and field, establish the site of a great city. Yet it was thus that Limote de Montebreune, a captain of his Catholic Majesty, Louis XVI of France, fell in that great battle that gave Canada to England, with a ball from an old blunderbuss in his elbow. Unlike the captains of the present day, Captain de Montebreune, or Timothy of the Brown Mountain, carried a carbine in his hands with which he assisted to harass the enemy, and that old implement of warfare is still in the hands of his grandson, in Edgefield, as capable as ever of firing into the ranks of an enemy, provided the enemy was thirty paces from its muzzle, but no further.
Soon after the battle the captain was sent by his king as governor of the territory of the then Southwest, and held his court in Kaskaskia. His province included all of that country now composing Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Here he remained until his health was fully restored, when the spirit of trade began to infuse its restiveness in him. He then organized a part of about twenty men, and, embarking on the Ohio river, in a fleet of pirogues, he set out for the wilderness, seeking a mart for his goods. When he had reached the mouth of what was then called the Shananau, or Cumberland river, they turned their prows up that stream and rowed into a terra incognita, for no white man had ever passed up its dark and turbid waters.
Day after day passed and still they paddled on or pushed their frail boats upstream. One day they all, tired and worn out, were slowly driving against the current when they saw before them a huge bluff rising up from the water’s edge, crowned with a huge tuft of cedars. Below the bluff appeared a good landing, and, while consulting as to the best point to land, they detected the smell of sulphur. As soon as they landed, while some were making preparations for the evening meal, others followed the “branch” to find the spring whence the sulphur water came. They did not have far to go before they came to the famous “French Lick.” To their astonishment they found the surface trod with innumerable tracks, beating down all undergrowth for many yards around. While they were debating these wonderful “signs,” forth from the cane that surrounded the space flashed a shower of arrows which, however, fell harmless around them. One of them, well acquainted with Indian habits immediately fired his gun into the air, which informed the savages they were friendly. At this indication of peace the Indians showed themselves, but at a safe distance. Though the Frenchmen had no knowledge of these Indians, yet they had sufficient knowledge of the dialect to make known they were friends and allies. The red men had heard of the friendly Frenchmen, and, in fact, some of them had received pay from the wily Gaul. So soon as friendly relations were established, the exploring party made known their intentions and invited the Indians to trade, making some presents to them. They determined, on consultation, to establish a trading post, and certainly no better point could have been chosen. The “lick” was a great attraction to “game,” coming from away off as far as the Tennessee river, so no difficulty was met with as to food.
It was the spring of 1760, and nature “unadorned” had on her loveliest garments. The russet cliffs stood out with a bold front, and on its face trailing vines hung in festoons to the water’s edge. Each crevice gave life to luxuriant plants, and bright-hued flowers, while its top was crowned with a everliving foliage of grand old cedars. Birds of sweet voices sang strange songs, while others of bright plumage gracefully swept from bough to bough watching the singular beings who had interrupted their solitude. The Judge’s spring, on one side of the bluff, and Wilson’s on the other, gave cool, refreshing draughts to the thirsty emigrants. The soil was of unsurpassed fertility, and enough had been left of its growth by the foot of wild animals to give them bread. Salt was in abundance in the waters of the “lick.” Huge cane, such as is unknown to our generation, conceald the face of the country everywhere.
Our friends felt as the spies did who went into the land of promise, and gladly said, “Here we will make our abode.” They erected a log house just above the work-house, where they stored their goods, and soon a brisk trade sprang up with the Indians, who resorted to their quarters in large numbers when their arrival was made known. The settlers remained here until the frosts began to make their rude abode uncomfortable, and their goods were all disposed of, when they loaded up their canoes with the accumulated furs and prepared for their return to Kaskaskia. Up the river about four miles they had found a cave fronting on the water and which a concealed entrance. They cleared this cave of rubbish and stored their cooking utensils and other such rude furniture as they desired to preserve and set out on their return. What must have been the joy of the travelers once more to be in the haunt of civilizations, to once more be at the heart of home; and how gladly they were welcomed by the anxious wife or the fond child, racked for so many dreary months of dread, can only be left to the imagination. They saw their defenders leave, go into the blackness of darkness, as it were, and for six long months no work or token could assure them of safety. They had dangers innumerable, unseen, to encounter. The wild beast might at any time spring down from a bending leafy covert, or the yet more terrible savage, crouching underneath a bunch of cane or from some moss covered oak, might at any moment send his deadly spear, or the twang of the bow might be the first warning of the severance of all ties of home and love.
On one occasion (I can’t get the date), the governor brought his wife with him, intending to return as usual. Her woman’s love rebelled at the frequent separations, and her woman’s courage, incited by love, failed to yield to the dictates of caution. Before the annual return, Mrs. C. Montebreune gave birth to a son, “the first male child born in the vicinity of Nashville.” When her approaching confinement became a positive assurance, she was conveyed to the cave at the mouth of Mill Creek, as a place of safety from Indians, as well as protection from the cold. It was made with a strong door and an opening for the escape of smoke, and there William Demonbreun, of Williamson county, first saw the light. What wonderful changes are made in names. His father had already lost voluntarily a portion of his name, leaving out the last two e’s at the end of the last two syllables, but here was innovation that landed him, so far as the name went, out of the family. At an early age he went to the frontier near College Grove. No pedagogue had ever instilled the alphabet into his mind, and so his neighbors adopted the name for him and spelled it as it was pronounced. And thus two brothers, one in Nashville and the other thirty miles off, owned two entirely different names. The necessary removal of the mother to the cave deprived the child of the honor, and gave it to Dr. Robertson, of “being the first white male child born in the city of Nashville.”
The next spring, having laid in new supplies of goods an recruited their numbers, they returned, and continued to return thus for many years, never staying through winter. Occasionally, a skeleton is exhumed in the Sulphur Spring bottom, and each time great discussions take place as to the dead. These graves and several mounds, now leveled by civilization, existed there at the first landing of Captain, or rather Governor de Montebreune, and the “oldest” Indians were just as ignorant of the dead occupants as we are now. There was, beyond question, a great city here in the age of the mound-builders; in all probability, far more populous than the one here now. Their remains still exist in large numbers all around, and it is reasonable to suppose the Salt Lick presented the same inducements to those unknown and vague peoples as it did in after ages.
Hitherto our settlers had deemed it an impossibility to endure the hardships of a winter in the wilderness. Now they were, by stern necessity, forced to do so; for, before the governor’s wife had recovered sufficiently to return, the winter commenced in earnest; the river became frozen over, and they were forced to remain.
The winter passed far more pleasantly than they anticipated, and thereafter the only visits made to Kaskaskia were for a fresh stock of goods and to dispose of their peltries. Before this year, however, which I failed to mention in its proper place, a great difficulty occurred between the settler an the Indians, which resulted in the massacre of every man of the party except Demonbreun and one companion. They escaped by being out hunting at the time of the attack. Finding, on their return, their fellows all murdered and their stores plundered, they betook themselves to the forest an made their way through by land, and with their sad tale of woe safely arrived in their native town, after incredible hardships and privations. But it took them three months to accomplish the journey, for no turnpikes or blazed pathway lent its inviting way to the jaded travelers. Their way was through dense, unbroken forests, impeded by cane, tangled vines and fallen timber that obstructed every foot of the trip.
After the birth of Billy, as he was called, they remained all the year. Occasional difficulties occurred with the Indians, but none serious. A man named Le Fevre, a bold, restless hunter, was disposed to make trouble, but usually left home for his fights. He soon became known to the Indians as a man to be dreaded. He would leave “Bluffs” for weeks at a time, and when he returned many scalps hung from his belt. The Indians watched him closely and sought to kill him, but he was fortunate in evading them for several years. One morning, however, when a little boy, the father of W. R. Demonbreun, of Edgefield, went to the pasture to drive up the cows, he found the dead body of Le Fevre lying by a log within a few steps of Wilson’s Spring, and the absence of his scalp told the tale. Retribution had at last overtaken him.
To diversify the tedium of frontier life, the traders established a race track that began near the Judge’s Spring and ended at Brown’s Landing, near the work-house. In a visit to their old home, years afterwards, a sudden accession of cold overtook them and they came near freezing to death. One of the men killed a bear, and, stripping off its smoking hide, wrapped Mrs. Demonbreun up in it. The next morning it was frozen around her and could only be hacked off, they being without fire. The governor did all the doctoring of the colony. A three-cornered file and a hammer served to pull teeth. If any took colic a heated board was used as a seat and a few herbs gathered from the woods served them as drugs. He sold all the land around and over the present site of Nashville at one dollar per acre and took pay in furs, then the only currency.
And thus these bold, hardy men continued to live year after year, content with their lot, few in numbers and with fewer wants when discovered by the colony with Robertson and Rains.
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: what happened to the watch?