Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Search of Granny 'Rat's Tavern

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 8:33 AM

In the past, it's clear to me that the people of Davidson County were a mumbly sort.
click to enlarge Now days, you can get McDonalds or a Dairy Queen in Joelton. Back in the day, things to eat at this intersection were a little more exciting.
  • Now days, you can get McDonalds or a Dairy Queen in Joelton. Back in the day, things to eat at this intersection were a little more exciting.
A man with "de mont brun" stuck on the end of his real name ends up with offspring named Demonbreun, Demonbreum, Monbrun, Demonbre, and just about every other iteration you can imagine.

His mistress marries a man who was called Durard or Durrand or Durratt or Duraque. And Dur... um... Dur-mumble signed his name with an X, so who knows how he thought of himself. You'd think the difference between Durard and Durratt would be substantial enough that sources would agree on what the guy was actually called.

Not, of course, if they mumbled.

I have been on a quest to find where Elizabeth Dur-mumble née Bennett or Hensley or Hemsley or something had her tavern--a tavern, they say, of ill-repute (so, of course, how can I resist?).

So today I went to the Tennessee State Library and Archives to see what I could dig up on Elizabeth Bennett Dur-mumble. Once the will of Timothy Demonbreun came out and people could no longer write histories of Nashville in which all of his children were by his wife, a very few facts about Bennett became known.

She was said to be at least half Native American and she made bullets during the attack on Buchanan's Station. Only in more recent times have people talked about how she seems to have shared affections with both Demonbreun and Dur-mumble at the same time (having Demonbreun children while married to Dur-mumble). I found one account in a newspaper of earlier newspaper accounts "of a later day [which] tell of her long life, in her later years operating a stagecoach inn on Paradise Hill called 'Granny 'Rat's Tavern.'" And that was about it.

But that one sentence tells us a lot. First, it tells us that Elizabeth probably understood her last name as Durratt, hence the Granny 'Rat. (Though she was buried under the name Elizabeth Durard and presumably her son would know how her last name sounded, so who knows? These were pre-Hooked on Phonics times.) Second, it tells us almost exactly where the tavern sat.

Paradise Hill was where Joelton is now. In the old days, the route to Clarksville ran right through there (you can still follow that route, if you're looking for a nice drive; just take Buena Vista Pike to White's Creek Pike to Old Clarksville Pike, which is a far different drive than Clarksville Pike is now) and the road to Springfield veered off to the right. A place to eat and sleep and get fresh horses before traveling on would have been situated right at that intersection, right at the top of the ridge.

I tried to confirm my hunch that this is where Granny 'Rat's Tavern was, but even with the three helpful people at the TSLA, we couldn't make it happen.

But what Dean Anderson says over at Joelton.com sticks with me: "Just underneath the front lawn of Anderson & Garrett Funeral Home lies the foundation of an old building. In dry weather the grass just over the foundation turns brown, making the outline of the long-departed building visible from the front of the funeral home. According to legend, the building atop the foundation was a tavern, which served as a stagecoach stop."

I took a drive up the ridge this afternoon and stood in the front lawn of the Anderson & Garrett Funeral Home, but I couldn't make out the outline of any old building. And I listened for any ghostly mumbly confirmation, but there was none.

I have no proof that's her tavern under the front lawn, but I feel pretty sure it is.

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