|Image courtesy of Justin Hydrick|
Along the bank of the Cumberland River is a wide crack in the rock wall known as Demonbreun Cave, the namesake of Timothy Demonbreun.
Who is Timothy Demonbreun you might ask? His great-grandfather, Pierre Boucher was the first Canadian to be raised to the rank of nobility. His father Etienne, served in the French army in Canada during the French and Indian War, but after the French army was soundly beaten in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, he migrated south to what is now the United States and got into the fur trade. Timothy was a teenager when they moved into the middle Tennessee region.
In regards to the cave itself…
After compiling information from a multitude local historians it first appeared that,while hunting in 1766 near the muddy water at the mouth of a small creek he noticed a large number of buffalo and deer using a mineral lick (French Lick Site at Sulphur Dell). He decided to stay in pursuit of his livelihood as a fur trader, living in a nearby cave until a more suitable residence could be built. There were also tales reporting that he lived in the cave with his Wife for one week, during which time she gave birth to the first European baby born in Middle Tennessee.
On reaching out to the Aaron Deter-Wolf at the TN Division of Archaeology, I was informed that this myth had been busted through historical research by Author Paul Clements (website) who included it in an article for the Nashville Retrospect back in 2012. Mr. Clements graciously provided a copy of this information (link).
In summary, it’s extremely unlikely that Timony Demonbruen ever occupied the cave with his wife and child, though it is reasonable to assume that he did take refuge there following an Indian attack in the late 1760s or early 1770s.
In more modern times… as you make your way to the other entrance away from river, there are modern concrete stairs, a concrete floor, and electric lines that were installed during the 1960s or 70s by a property owner who lived adjacent to the site where it was used as part of a private park or garden.
There are also decorative iron grill works that were placed over both openings during the 1920s but were pried away as seen in the below photos. Their purpose was to “protect enclosed artifacts”, but it is unknown what the artifacts were, when they were removed or by whom.
Please note that caving can be a dangerous activity for the inexperienced. If you have an interest in exploring caves, check out a local grotto from the National Speleological Society website so you can connect with experienced cavers in your area who will show you the ropes. Also, remember that caves can be on either private property or government land so please always ensure that you either have permission from the landowner or the proper permits obtained before visiting a cave. While there, remember to…
Take nothing but pictures.
Leave nothing but footprints.
Kill nothing but time.