From Boucherville to Nashville, a story link that speaks volumes

Statue of Jacques-Timothée de Montbrun in Nashville’s Riverfront Park (photo Nashville news media)

Jacques-Timothée Boucher Sieur de Montbrun (Timothy Demonbreun in Tennessee) was born on Thursday March 23, 1747 in the parish of Sainte-Famille in Boucherville, Québec.

In 1766 he married Thérèse Archange Gibault, an urban girl. Then the couple, accompanied by Father Pierre Gibault, left Canada under British authorities to settle in Kaskaskia where their first child, daughter Agnès, was born. In Kaskaskia, Timothy was a justice of the peace in spring and summer and a fur trader in fall and winter. His trading territory was the wilderness between the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, particularly the current site of Nashville where sulfur springs could be found. The springs attracted game in large numbers which, in turn, attracted Native American hunters with whom De Montbrun traded. At that time, the site was known as the French Spot, the “Place des Français” in French.


The French Spot

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (the French Spot) in Nashville, Tennessee (photo Julia Bruck)

According to historical records the French Spot was located on the actual site of Nashville‘s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. In 1788 De Montbrun settled in Nashville permanently. He became the first citizen of Tennessee’s capital, which is also the State’s largest city. He died there on Monday October 30, 1826 at the age of 79. However, if De Montbrun was the first official resident of Nashville, he was not the first French to have frequented the place. Previously, Martin Chartier, born in Saint-Jean-de-Montierneuf, Poitiers (France), erected a seasonal trading post among the Shawnees in 1689 before moving northeast with his Shawnee wife to the site of what would become Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After Chartier came Jean de Charleville, called Charles, in 1710. It is said that his fur trade business was highly successful. So much so that it is from that year that the sulfur springs location was named by the native people the French Spot, now Nashville.

With regard to Father Pierre Gibault, who was expelled from Canada by the British because he was a Jesuit priest, he took up residence in Kaskaskia. From there, he attended to the needs of several parishes in the Illinois Country, notably Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Vincennes, and Sainte-Geneviève. He also ministered in Ouiatenon, Peoria and Saint-Joseph (see Niles, Around the Great Lakes). He retired to New Madrid, where he was naturalized Spanish and died there on Monday August 16, 1802.