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When Nashville residents hear ‘Demonbreun,’ they might think first of the bar-littered street that runs parallel to Broadway. However, the history of Demonbreun in Nashville runs far deeper; it is named after Timothy Demonbreun, a French-Canadian fur trapper, American Revolutionary War officer, and by some accounts the first citizen of Nashville. While you may have driven down Demonbreun street or have visited the historic Timothy Demonbreun house, chances are that you might be less familiar with the Timothy Demonbreun cave and its storied role in Nashville’s history.
Timothy Demonbreun (born Jacques-Timothée Boucher, Sieur de Montbrun) was born in Canada and moved south to live in the United States in the mid-to-late 18th century. He settled in the Nashville area in the 1760s (lack of precise records make it difficult to pinpoint the precise year, but historians suggest that Demonbreun settled in Nashville between 1765 and 1769.) As an avid hunter and fur trader, Demonbreun spent a substantial amount of his time along the Cumberland River; according to local history, he even spent months living in a cave that is now regarded by many as Nashville’s “earliest remaining home.” While Demonbreun soon went on to construct and live in more traditional houses in Nashville, this cave still exists today and in 1980 was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
While the cave is no longer technically open to the public to visit — its entrance is, in fact, blocked off by steel bars — Demonbreun’s history lives on in Nashville. Over the course of his lifetime, Demonbreun had nine children (five by his wife Therese and four by a woman named Elizabeth Bennett.) Today, many of Demonbreun’s descendants still live in Nashville — so many, in fact, that a nonprofit historical society was founded in 1975 by Marian Demonbreun and her husband called the Timothy Demonbreun Heritage Society. Demonbreun’s descendants, along with many other devoted history fanatics, keep Timothy’s legacy alive today by hosting annual gatherings open to all members of the society.
Enterprising and adventurous history buffs can get a firsthand view of the cave via the Cumberland River. It is located roughly one mile south of Downtown Nashville and across the river from Shelby Bottoms Park. But even if you can’t manage the boat trip down the river to see this historical crevice for yourself, know that its legacy has carried on in Nashville for centuries.
(Note: this is an approximated street address.)