Jacques Timothé Boucher, Sieur de Montbrun

 aka: Timothy Demonbreun, Nashville’s “First Citizen” and regarded by historians as the “The Patriarch of Middle Tennessee”.  He was an adventurous Frenchman who “belonged to that noble band of patriotic adventurers who encountered the hazards of a wild country and hostile Indians to lay deep and broad the foundation of civilization”.

Montbrun les Bains  - which has been classified as one of  the 100 most beautiful villages of France.  This lovely, unspoiled part of France is well known for its  medicinal and aromatic plants as  well as its lavender fields.  The very
 tall houses (of 6 or 7 stories) - are  supported by buttresses and are  dominated by the ruins of the  Renaissance castle of the Dupuy-Montbrun family.
(pictured below)

Born in 1731 of French-Canadian Nobility, he was the grandson of Pierre Boucher, founder of New France and Boucherville, Quebec. Boucher was the first nobleman of Canada to be commissioned by King Louis XIV having originally come from France.  

Timothy left Quebec and headed for the French held territory in Illinois Country on the Mississippi River. This land was little affected by the English and the fur trade was a brisk and lucrative business enjoyed by many French Canadians including three of Timothy’s uncles. 

Soon after settling in at Kaskaskia (Illinois), Timothy set up a fur trading business. It wasn’t long before he was exploring and hunting in the wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee where he met Long Hunters and explorers from the Atlantic Colonies. He made friendships with the native American Indians while camping along the way. It was a “Voyage to French Lick” (Nashville) in 1769 which introduced Timothy to the Cumberland Valley of Middle Tennessee. His efforts proved successful and a profitable trade was inaugurated. In a short period of time Timothy had developed a fur trade on the Cumberland that required seventeen men to operate and had constructed a fur storage cabin at French Lick. Early each Spring peculiar looking pirogues with sails transported the furs to the New Orleans market and Timothy became the earliest entrepreneur of Middle Tennessee.

Although he carried on a profitable trade with the Indians, the whites began to move in and settle around Nashville, then called French Lick. The growing of the settlements stimulated hostility on the part of the Indians who held Tennessee as their great hunting ground. Neither the Creeks, Choctaws or Cherokees dwelt within this land of fine hunting ground but considered it common property of the tribes. During their first raid, the Indians killed all of Timothy’s men except two who made their escape with him to Kaskaskia. But he would not give up his trade and returned, building a storehouse of cedar logs on the bluff near the Northeast corner of the Public Square. When Indians refused to make peace with other white men, Timothy won their confidence. By 1780, James Robertson and John Donelson had established Fort Nashborough at French Lick and Timothy played a vital role in placating the Indians who resented the settlement.

Timothy Demonbreun statue

by Alan LeQuire

 

The beautiful, bronze statue has been erected of him overlooking his beloved Cumberland River.

Location:

     Riverfront Park

     Broadway and 1st Avenue

     Nashville, TN

Though established in commercial trading from the Illinois Country and Middle Tennessee to New Orleans, with the advent of the American Revolution, Timothy’s commercial interests became secondary. It was at this time that he pledged his allegiance to the colonists and his given name of Jacques Timothe Boucher deMontbrun was Anglicized to "Timothy Demonbreun".

Throughout the next ten years, Timothy served as an officer with George Rogers Clark during his vital conquest of the Northwest Territory. After the Revolutionary War, he was honored with the appointment as Lieutenant Governor in Command of the Illinois Country (before it became a state). He corresponded with Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of Treasury, and Thomas Jefferson, then governor of Virginia. He also traveled to Williamsburg and Philadelphia on official government business. His letters were gracefully written in French and his speech was a combination of English and French.

After the establishment of the new American regime in the territory, Demonbreun resigned his post in 1787 and returned permanently to his beloved home on the Cumberland. His farm home was at the intersection of Nashville’s present day Third Avenue North and Broadway. His stone Inn and store were located near the town square. A road coursing along the back of his farm came to be named Demonbreun Street.

He lived in Nashville for forty years and engaged in commerce and land acquisition. He was a generous and honest man, active, energetic and bold. Toasted as the “Patriarch of Middle Tennessee” and the “First Citizen” of Nashville, he was a familiar figure dressed in knee breeches, lace frilled shirts, silk stockings and silver buckled shoes. He died in 1826 at the grand old age of ninety-six. Nashville has honored the memory of this noble old pioneer by naming one of its streets “Demonbreun”. Also, his birthday of March 23 has been designated by the Mayor of Nashville as “Timothy Demonbreun Day.”