Monday, November 5, 2012

You Say "Demonbreun," I Say "Demumbrine"

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 9:13 AM

The guile (or lack there of) with which one pronounces the name of one of our city's downtown streets can tell you whether or not that person has lived in Nashville very long.

If recently transplanted, as WPLN's Bradley George notes, the speaker opts for a most wonderful butchery of the name "Demonbreun," turning it into something akin to "Demon Brewn."

But just who is this mysterious Mr. Unpronounceable, and what is he (if anything) to modern-day Nashville?

With an assist from Pith's very own resident history nerd, Aunt B., George sought out to discern just that — as well as clues on how to pronounce the long-dead fur trapper and OG Nashvillian's surname.

“A lot of this has been forgotten, but not that much, so there’s lots to find out,” says Betsy Phillps. She’s not related to Timothy Demonbreun, as far as she knows, but she does describe herself as a ‘nerdy fan girl’ of all things Timothy. Curious about the origins of Demonbreun Street, she pored over historical records to learn more about the man. She even moved to White’s Creek, where many of Timothy’s children and descendants lived … and died.

The Demonbreun Family Cemetery lies in a holler between Joelton and Ashland City. Several generations of Demonbruens are buried here, though they all didn’t spell their last name the same, as Phillips points out. There’s D E M U M B R U N and D E M U M B R I N E.

So which is it? Take a listen and find out for yourself.

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