Sunday, August 15, 2021

Adrian V. S. Lindlsey Home, Springside

 Springside


Springside, Lindley Home in East Nashville, ca 1895 from Artwork of Nashville.
Color added by myheritage.com


Springside was the name given to the home of Adrian V. S. Lindsley. It was on Lindsley Avenue, an extension of Woodland Street. In 1850 the road ran to the Gallatin turnpike at what is now 10th and Main. At that time, there was little development east of South Tenth. A few houses on large tracts, and the land was thickly wooded. My interest in Springside was for the schools that occupied it in the 1890s. I found out that I didn't know what I thought I knew and decided the house needed a little more investigating.


The earliest deed found for Lindsley buying lots in the Weakley plan was written on August 9, 1850, and recorded September 24, 1850, in Davidson County deed book 13, page 561. The lots in this deed are part of a subdivision of the land of Robert Weakley, deceased, made on January 1, 1846. Lindsley purchased the property from David T. Scott for $10,000. Scott had acquired the land in December of 1847 from Robert Branham for $2720. The price change indicates that Scott had made improvements on the property, probably including a house. The deed describes three lots. Lot 15, contained 18 acres and 140 poles, Lot 16, 14 acres and 140 poles, lot 17,20 acres 132 poles. In 1851 Lindley purchased adjoining tracts, lot 14 and lot 8, each containing just over 14 acres. The deeds mention a lane running past the lots that led to the Gallatin Turnpike. The roadway that would become an extension of Woodland Street ran from the Lockland Mansion along the path of the present Woodland to about 11th Street then veering north to terminate at the current 10th and Main Street. The 1871 map shows the street and the location of the Lindsley home place.



1871 map showing path of Lindsley Ave, later part of Woodland Street
from the Lindsley home to Tenth and Main Streets.


The 1850 census, taken in October, does not indicate to me where Lindsley is living. The names of residents surrounding him are not familiar to the 18th district, though a few lived in Edgefield in the 1855 city directory. The section of 153 pages seems to cover many areas of the county. If he were living on his Springside property, he would have been in a house that existed when he bought the land from David T. Scott. The family believed that he was the builder of Springside. However, we have all encountered well-believed family stories that turned out to be untrue. If he built Springside, it would be in the years following his August 1850 purchase. I don't believe there is a way to find a definite answer as to if or when he built the house known as Springside.


1908 Atlas of Nashville showing site of Springside, A. V. S. Lindley's home.



The Lindsley family lived in the house from about 1850 until 1886, when A. V. S. Lindsley built a new home in Nashville at 1404 Broadway. In June of 1904, John T. Lindsley, son of A. V. S., moved back to the home place with his family. While the family was gone from the house, it was repaired and renovated multiple times. It housed the East End College and the Nashville Military Institute from 1890 until 1898. When John T. Lindley moved back, the house had electricity, steam heat, and running water. The exterior was painted a Colonial Buff, and the walkways and winding drive were pleasant to see. Inside, the house contained eighteen rooms and three halls. The woodwork was painted white, and the wallpaper was of Colonial design. The home was the site of many social affairs, often described in local newspapers. Dances and parties were held in the home and on the grounds. In 1925, Lindlsey sold the home to William Litterer, who divided the house into apartments. In 1933 the old house was demolished, and a new subdivision of the property was drawn. New homes were built along Lindsley Park Drive. The drive had served for many years as the driveway to the Lindsley home.


Plat of Lindsley Park 1925



More information can be found on the Lockeland Springs website. There you can download an exerpt of Philip Thomason's paper; A Preservation Study of the East End and Lockeland Springs Neighborhoods.




 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Geist Property Cemetery, Jefferson Street.

 

Now that I have both Demonbreun's gravesite and the Sulphur Spring Cemetery sorted, it is time to deal with the Geist property cemetery. The Geist family has long believed that the old Sulphur Spring Cemetery was on their property.  Maps show that is not possible. John Geist, Sr. indicated that he had seen Timothy Demonbreun gravestone. And yet we know that in 1850, only one marker was readable in that old cemetery. That was not the marker for Timothy Demonbreun. The search started with deeds of the property. A deed search for the Geist property gives an historical ownership record. Originally a part of the salt lick, most of the sulphur spring bottoms were owned in Nashville's early days by Judge John McNairy. There were two large springs on his property. One was near today's Farmer's Market. The other was closer to the river at the place where Sulphur Dell Ballpark was built. The land was divided and sold in big tracts. By 1824, the lot that would be later owned by Geist was part of a tract, subdivided by Alfred Balch with the title Balch & Whiteside Addition to Nashville. The subdivision also included both the Sulphur Dell Spring and Judge McNairy's Spring. The subdivision ran east to west from the Cumberland River to 9th Avenue North. The boundaries north to south were Line Street (the Nashville City limits line) to Jefferson Street. There is no mention of a cemetery on the subdivision plat. Historical maps, when used together, prove that the rear of the Geist property cannot be the location of the Sulphur Spring Cemetery.

Lot 29 of this subdivision began at Jefferson Street and Cherry Street, now 4th Avenue North. Balch first sold the lot in June of 1826 to free women of color, Judy Young, and her daughters, Harriet and Nancy. Judy came to Nashville in 1812 and filed her freedom papers with the Davidson County Court. Her papers stated that on January 9, 1808, James Young of Columbia, South Carolina, had freed his slave Judy and her infant daughter Nancy on the condition that they leave the state and not return. In May of 1808, Judy was in Knox County, where she first filed her freedom papers. The 1808 court record stated that Judy was about 28 years old and that Nancy was five months old. It was in December of 1812 that Judy filed her freedom papers at Nashville. Records show that eventually, Judy had three daughters and one son. 

The daughters mentioned above, Harriet and Nancy, had a sister named Almira Young. The son was James Young. The Young's purchased a lot that began at Jefferson Street and Cherry Street (now 4th Avenue North). It ran 210 feet along Cherry Street back to an alley at the edge of lot 30. Lot 29 ran along Jefferson Street for 70 feet, then back 210 feet to the alley at lot 30, and then along the alley to Cherry Street. According to Dr. Bobby Lovett, the area was populated by free persons of color. Perhaps the few slaves who were allowed to live and work independently boarded in this area. The property was less expensive here because it was near the undesirable riverfront section. 

Within a few years, Judy sold her part of this tract to Harriet and Nancy. The two sisters lived together in a house that faced Cherry Street. Interestingly, the witnesses to this deed were John Overton, James Collinsworth, and G. M. Fogg, all noted attorneys in Nashville. 

Harriet Young's last will was recorded in 1837 in Davidson County. Harriet references her property, part of lot 29, and asks that she be buried in "my own garden attached to the dwelling house where I now live." She also asks that her remains not to be disturbed. She gave her sister Nancy a life estate in her half of the lot. She requested at Nancy's death that the lot go to her niece Mary Jane Young. Mary Jane was the daughter of Almira Young.  In June of 1837, Almira as heir of Nancy, transferred the lot to Mary Jane. There may have been other burials in Harriet's garden. Nancy died soon after and could be buried there. No record has been found for Almira or Mary Jane Young after 1837. They may have very well died soon after. In 1847 Judy and her son James once again owned lot 29 at Cherry Street and Jefferson Street. In that year, the two sold a part of the lot. 

Judy died on September 20, 1847, and was buried at Nashville City Cemetery. Later that year, James, as heir of Judy, sells the rest of lot 29. Forty years later, in 1886, Geist purchased a part of this lot and established his blacksmithing shop. Geist bought more of lot 29 within a few years. Most of lot 29 had by this time been subdivided into several lots. It was not until 1952 that John Geist, Jr. added the last of lot 29 to the family's property. Harriet Young's grave would have been on lot 29 to the rear of the Geist Blacksmith shop. There was no mention of a Young family cemetery or any other cemetery in the dozens of deeds that were searched. The property that was lot 29 changed hands many times after the Young's owned it. 

This selection from the Ayers map shows the location of the Sulphur Spring on lot 46, nearest to
what would later be the Geist Blacksmith Shop on lot 29 of the Balch and Whitesides addition.


Demonbreun's original burial spot has been proven. The location of the Sulphur Spring Cemetery is a mystery solved. At least one grave on the Geist property belonged to Harriet Young, a free woman of color who died in 1837. and was buried in her own garden. I suspect the other graves were for her family members and subsequent owners of the property. 
This research has been conducted over many years. I have been saving bits and pieces as found, always with the quest of finding the old cemetery. In the last few weeks, a lot of new information has come up while looking for Timothy Demonbreun. If I find more, I will add an update.

 In the meantime, remember that you read it here first on the Nashville History Blog.

Sulphur Spring Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

 

Now that we know where Timothy Demonbreun, Sr. (click his name to find out) is buried, it is time to share what research revealed about the old Sulphur Spring Cemetery location and that cemetery behind the Geist Blacksmith Shop. There was a Sulphur Spring cemetery, and there was a cemetery at the rear of the Geist property. Two cemeteries, not one.

The Sulphur Spring cemetery was called the second cemetery. The first burial ground was near the present courthouse on the bluff above the river. The soil was too shallow, and another location was found on private land near Nashville to the north. The third cemetery is the Nashville City Cemetery on 4th Avenue South. This second cemetery was on a bluff above a sulphur spring. Posted below is a map that shows the cemetery above Judge McNairy's sulphur spring. I have a reference stating it was on Cabbage Hill, but no reference for where Cabbage Hill is located. This old cemetery was not much used and badly neglected. Located on private property, the cemetery was in an out-of-the-way spot. In the beginning, it was a quiet and peaceful spot. 

As the town grew, the cemetery ground became a hangout for rascals and rouges. One of the pastimes seems to have been to vandalize grave makers. Couples also gathered to share intimate moments. Outside of the city limits, it was not a place that mourners would care to visit. By 1811, the cemetery was neglected and in poor condition. Citizens clamored for a graveyard in a better location to be owned and maintained by the city government. Many locals were buried in churchyard cemeteries. There is a mention of a Presbyterian Cemetery in Nashville in an 1806 newspaper, An exact location was not given, but it would have been within the city limits. Not to be outdone, it is likely that other denominations had a burial ground for the faithful. Anyone with a bit of land could have a private family cemetery. 

Nashville 1804 map drawn from the recollections of Mrs. Temple.

Numerous references state the cemetery was on a bluff above the sulphur spring. The earliest piece of evidence for the location of the sulphur spring cemetery is a map. It was is referred to as the 1804 map of Nashville and was drawn from the recollections of Mrs. Temple, daughter of Duncan Robertson. On this map, the cemetery is nearer to McNairy's sulphur spring. This spring was southwest of the lower sulphur spring. McNairy's spring would later be called the Judge's spring. You can view and enlarge this map online or download a copy here. TEVA This map is questionable because it was drawn from the memory of Mrs. Harriet Robertson Temple, daughter of Duncan Robertson. Mrs. Temple was a young child in 1804, and though the map is valuable, her age must be taken into account. Further research indicates that she was in error on the location of the old cemetery.

The 1804 map was one of many that was searched looking for the Sulphur Spring Cemetery. Two maps give a better idea of where the old cemetery was located. An 1833 map, published by John P. Ayers, does not indicate the cemetery. As it had been long abandoned by the early 1830s, this is not a surprise. The map does show the sulphur spring in the area where the Sulphur Dell ballpark would be built about forty years later. It shows all of Nashville at the time. In 1859 John Meigs drew a map of the location of the cemetery. The motivation for Meigs's map was the removal of a soldier's grave from the old cemetery to Mt. Olivet. The soldier was Lieut. Richard Chandler.  In 1850, Nathaniel Cross reported to the Tennessee Historical Society on his Sulphur Spring Cemetery visit. 

"Being on the bluff immediately above the Sulphur Spring this afternoon, which as is well known was formerly a place of burial for our city, as we now consider it, I observed that there was but one stone left with an inscription on it to tell who lies beneath, as this will disappear like the others."

The inscription on the stone, according to Cross, read:

"Erected by Sundry Brother Officers and Comrades"

"To the memory of Richard Chandler, late 1st Lieutenant and Paymaster, 4th Regiment of Infantry. In the Army of the United States, who deceased on the 20th day of December, 1801, aged 37 years, 7 months, and 10 days.

"He lived esteemed an honest man and brave soldier.

"He died regretted by all who knew him.

"Exalted truth, and manly firmness shown. 

"Conspicuous in him beneath this stone."

It was not until September of 1859 that Chandler's remains were finally taken to Mt. Olivet to be reburied. Sadly there is no monument to mark his grave there.



Demonbreun's original burial spot has been proven. The location of the Sulphur Spring Cemetery is a mystery solved. Now to the Geist property cemetery on Jefferson Street. 

This research has been conducted over many years. I have been saving bits and pieces as found, always with the quest of finding the old cemetery. In the last few weeks, a lot of new information has come up while looking for Timothy Demonbreun. If I find more, I will add an update.

In the meantime, remember that you read it here first on the Nashville History Blog.




Thursday, May 27, 2021

Where is Timothy Demonbreun, Sr.?

 

Where is Timothy Demonbreun, Sr. buried? The question has been asked by descendants, by history buffs, and in news articles. Demonbreun was an explorer who traveled through the Cumberland Country hunting and trapping as he went back and forth from the Illinois Territory to Natchez. He would often camp in the area of the French Lick in Nashville and had a presence here long before the first permanent settlers. About 1790 he made Nashville his permanent home. It was that year when he bought a lot at the intersection of Broad Street and College Street (now 4th Avenue No.). Here he built his home, which doubled as a tavern for travelers and locals.

 According to Charles A. Marlin, sexton and superintendent of the Nashville City Cemetery 1914-1915, Demonbreun was buried at Nashville City Cemetery. Marlin told a newspaper reporter that he checked the cemetery records and found that Demonbreun was buried in section 28. After he left the sexton position he continued to search for the exact location of Demonbreun’s grave. About 1918, Marlin was informed by a Demonbreun descendant the remains of Timothy Demonbreun had been removed to a Demonbreun burial place in Cheatham County and his search ended. Marlin knew Timothy was listed in the Nashville City Cemetery internment books, so he had the answer. Even if a descendant went digging in his grave many years later, most of Timothy would have been left just where his remains had been since his death. Timothy Demonbreun is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. 

Nashville_Banner_Wed__Feb_6__1918_


Timothy Demonbreun had two families. His lawful wife was Theresa Gibault and she bore five known children during their marriage; Agnes married 1. Mr. Chenier. 2. Mr. Doza; Timothy b. 1770 (presumed to have died as young);  Julienne (Julia) b. 1785,; Jacques Timothy, Jr. b. 1787 and Marie Louise b. 1790 (presumed to have died young). The listed children were born and baptized in Kaskaskia.

While Timothy’s wife was giving birth to and raising her children in Kaskaskia, Timothy was fathering a second family in Nashville. There are many myths about this second family with varying dates of birth, etc. Listed are the names of the children of Elizabeth Bennett Hinsler Durat and Demonbreun, Sr.; Felix, Polly, William, and John Batteaste/Baptiste Demonbreun

The rumor of Demonbreun’s being moved is believed by many of his descendants. So much so, that about 1980 these descendants erected a gravestone in Cheatham County near Elizabeth's grave. 

The following are the known facts. Timothy died at his home at 3rd and Broad in October of 1826. The nearest and newest public cemetery was the Nashville City Cemetery a few blocks south on 4th Avenue. It was here that he was buried soon after his death.

Denise Boose 2018 - https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=117817


When Timothy, Sr. died, he had a grown son Timothy Jr. living in Nashville. Timothy, Sr. also had one of the children of Elizabeth living in the area. John Batteaste/Baptiste Demonbreun was living out at the farm of his mother and stepfather in Cheatham County. John B. had been using the surname Durat until about the time Timothy, Sr. died. It is stated in his pension file for the War of 1812 that he did not know that Demonbreun was his father and that he was raised by Joseph Durat. It is possible he did not know his true identity until the will of Timothy Demonbreun, Sr. was filed. It is also stated that he was born a few months before his mother married Durat. The marriage occurred in March of 1793.

According to some descendants, soon after Elizabeth Bennett Hinslar Durat died in 1856, her son John B. Demonbreun went to the city cemetery. With shovel in hand, he dug up the grave of his father, took the remains, and buried them at the side of his mother. Timothy, Sr. had been buried thirty years before. The first question that came to me, was there anything left to dig up? The next thought was would Timothy’s lawful children or city officials, allow anyone to come and disinter Timothy, Sr.’s remains? And what happened to the remains of Elizabeth's husband Joseph Duroque/Durat if Timothy was buried at her side? Elizabeth and Joseph were the parents of several children, who still lived in the vicinity. Would they not have objected to Demonbreun being buried with their mother and father? Or is this just another tale that is a part of the many myths that surround Timothy and his family?

I am convinced from the newspaper article and other clues that Timothy was buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. Though there is no marker to show the place, somewhere in the old section 28, he or at least a part of him must still be there. This is the first of a series of planned articles about Timothy Demonbreun, Sr. to be published on the Nashville History blog.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Suffrage in Tennessee

written by Debie Oeser Cox

Many people know the popular story of how the Tennessee Legislature passed the resolution on Aug. 18, 1920, to approve woman's suffrage. Tennessee was the 36th and last state needed to ratify the amendment. On August 26, 1920, The Amendment was adopted to the Constitution of the United States, giving women the right to vote.

The final vote was cast in the Tennessee House, by Representative Harry T. Burn, who was just 22 at the time. Initially, he favored the passage of the resolution but was apparently worn down by his colleagues and seemed to have changed his mind. As the vote came down to the wire there was a tie vote in the house of 48 to 48. Emotions were high and no one seemed ready to budge. Burn had not yet voted, instead twice making a motion to table the resolution. In the end, Burn voted "Aye", breaking the tie. He was the hero or the villain of the day, depending on one's view of the passage. Burn revealed that he carried a letter from his mother in his pocket that read in part,

"Hurrah and vote for suffrage. Don't keep them in doubt! I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the "rat" in ratification."
Young Mr. Burn was obviously raised in a home where his mother made up her own mind and spoke out about her beliefs.

Harry T. Burn, Tennessee House of Representatives from McMinn County


Our family celebrates a more personal story concerning the 19th Amendment. Our two daughters' paternal great grandfather was serving in the Tennessee Senate in that August of 1920. His name was Verner A. Bradley of Robertson County. Mr. Bradley had served in the House from 1903-1905, and 1907-1909 representing Robertson County. His Senate term was 1919-1921 for Robertson County. Years later he would serve once more 1941-1943 as a Representative from Robertson, Cheatham and Williamson Counties.

Tennessee Senators met on Friday, August 13, 1920, discuss the Constitution Amendment before their body, designated as Resolution No. 1. They were addressed by L. E. Gwin, Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments. Mr. Gwin advised that committee members believed that the Legislature a legal and moral right to ratify the resolution. The majority report was entered into the record.

"In view of the fact that all the members of this Senate are either Democrats or Republicans and that both nominees and platforms of their respective parties, State and National, have unequivocally declared for the ratification of this Amendment and that its final adoption is as certain as the occurence of the seasons, and the further fact that this Senate has heretofore taken a stand in favor of woman's suffrage by the enfranchisement as far as was legally possible of the womanhood of Tennessee, we have not considered it necessary to state the many good reasons that might be urged in favor of the adoption of the Amendment.

National woman's suffrage by Federal Amendment is at hand; it may be delayed, but it cannot be defeated; and we covet for Tennessee the signal honor of being the 36th and last State necessary to consumated this great reform.

The report was signed by Chairman Gwin and Senators, Copenhaver, Houk, Collins, Murrey, Coleman, Wikle, and Haston. 

A minority report was also submitted, signed by two members of the committee. The report gave the opinion that the Legislature had no authority to act on the resolution and that no action be taken. A vote was taken and the majority report was adopted. After further discussion, the resolution was adopted through a roll call vote of Ayes - 25, Noes - 4 and 2 - Present not voting. The first of the Aye votes was cast by Senator Verner A. Bradley. That first vote for woman's suffrage is remembered by few. The descendants of Senator Bradley are proud of the stand that he took. His oldest child Marguerite came of age soon after the Amendment was adopted. She said her father always insisted that she exercise her right to vote. Mr. Bradley was a civic leader for most of his life. He served in both county and state positions. He was married to Mary Susan Dowlen in 1898 and they were parents of two sons and three daughters. He died on October 3, 1964, at the age of 94.

Verner Adolphus Bradley, Tennessee State Senator from Robertson County


Sources: House and Senate Journal of the Extraordinary Session of the Sixty First General Assembly which convened at Nashville on Monday, August 9, 1920. Provided by the Tennessee State Libray and Archives, Legislative History Staff.

Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly, Volume III, 1901-1931

Records of the Cox and Bradley families.

Photo of Harry T. Burn from Tennessee Virtual Archive.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Faucon's







Faucon’s, An early French Restaurant in Nashville

Debie Oeser Cox


Xavier Faucon, born in France, came to the U.S. when he was 14 years old. He first settled in New Orleans where he married Marie Pons. In 1896 he opened a restaurant bearing his name at 419 Union Street. Faucon's restaurant became known across the south for the thick steaks, duck, soups and the famous Faucon's salad. The restaurant was homey.  The china was mismatched and the atmosphere was casual.


The Nashville American Sun, February 9, 1896

After eight years Xavier decided to make his principal home in Biloxi, Mississippi. This was probably because of a bit of legal trouble Xavier had gotten into for selling liquor in violation of the law. The ownership of the restaurant was turned over to his son Leon Faucon. Xavier often visited Nashville so that Leon could have time away. 

Faucon's is in the middle of the 400 block of Union Street, in this ca 1918 image from TSLA



This alternating management was the practice until January 1926 when Leon became ill and died. Xavier Faucon returned to Nashville and the restaurant for a short time after Leon died but it was too much for him. In April of 1926, he declared that he was tired and closed the restaurant and returned to Biloxi. Xavier Faucon died in May of 1930 at his home in Biloxi.




Variations of Faucon's salad are served in Nashville today, more than 100 years after it was created by Xavier Faucon. Belle Meade Country Club and Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse have this longtime favorite on the menu.The original salad was made in a wooden bowl, rubbed with garlic across the bottom. Iceberg lettuce that had been chilled on ice was shredded by hand was placed into the bowl. Finely chopped boiled egg and chopped bacon were added. A dressing was made from 2 parts olive oil and wine vinegar into which salt and paprika and a generous amount of crumbled Roquefort cheese were mixed. 




The Tennessean, April 30, 1926







Thursday, February 20, 2020

Robert “Black Bob” Renfro: Tennessee’s First Black Entrepreneur

In June of 2006, Kathy Lauder and Mike Slate published a book of essays, From Knickers to Body Stockings. The essays were chosen by Lauder and Slate from their Nashville Historical Newsletter which was first published in January of 1997. I am posting with permission from Lauder and Slate, one of the essays, Robert “Black Bob” Renfro:  Tennessee’s First Black Entrepreneur. It was written by Larry Michael Ellis, who wrote and published Spizerinctum, The Life and Legend of Robert “Black Bob” Renfro, in 2004. A link to Spizzerinctum will be included at the end of this page. 



Robert “Black Bob” Renfro:  Tennessee’s First Black Entrepreneur

By Larry Michael Ellis

Robert “Black Bob” Renfro is mentioned by name in at least 25 records during the period that Nashville-Davidson County was part of both North Carolina and Tennessee, and he is listed as both a slave and a freeman.  Part of John Donelson’s epic river voyage, his group left the Donelson party on April 12, 1780, at the Red River near present-day Clarksville.  His master, Joseph Renfro, was a kinsman of the group’s leader Moses Renfro.  Indian attacks drove them from what had become Renfro Station, probably in June 1780.  Accounts differ as to the sequence of events which followed, but we do know that Joseph Renfro was killed near present-day Coopertown at what came to be known as the Battle Creek Massacre.  Folk legend says that Black Bob saved his mistress and her children.  Other historical accounts state that only a Mrs. Jones escaped.  Nevertheless, Bob’s mistress, Olive Renfro, did arrive at Fort Nashborough where she petitioned for and was granted “letters of administration” for the estate of Joseph Renfro.

Bob does not appear in an official record until August 8, 1792, when he was sold by Olive Renfro (now Shaw) in what appears to be a three-party transaction.  Bob became the property of Josiah Love, whose financial troubles involved him in several lawsuits,  with Andrew Jackson serving as his lawyer.  One foreclosure on Love lists Bob as his only asset.  Around the same time, Love entered into another complicated transaction in which two people claimed ownership of Bob: Robert Searcy, a prominent lawyer, and Elijah Robertson agreed to let the courts determine the true owner. In November 1795 the Court ruled Searcy was the rightful owner.

In the meantime, on January 16, 1794, the Davidson County Court agreed that “… a certain Negro called Bobb [sic] in the town of Nashville be permitted to sell Liquor and Victuals.”  This was the origin of what came to be known as “Black Bob’s Tavern.”  A 1797 record lists an assault occurring at the “house of Black Bob.”  This establishment was probably located on what is now Third Avenue, south of the Public Square. 

An unusual event occurred in April 1800 when schoolmaster Anderson Lavender assaulted Bob.  Lavender was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury.  When he agreed to pay court costs, the case was dissolved.  This was a significant moment in legal history: a white man was indicted for assaulting a slave and the case was not simply dismissed.  Andrew Jackson, Archibald Roane (future governor), and David Campbell were the judges when the suit was heard before the Superior Court.

Robert Searcy maintained ownership of Bob until 1801, five years after Tennessee became a state.  Searcy believed that Bob had more than paid back his investment and agreed to free him.  However, freedom and emancipation are not synonymous terms.  Fifty-three of Nashville’s most prominent and influential citizens, one of whom may have been a woman, signed a petition to the General Assembly requesting that Bob be emancipated, “giving him all the privileges that is [sic] usual to persons in a similar situation….”  The Fourth General Assembly of the State of Tennessee Chapter XCIII on 
November 10, 1801, granted the request and further stated that he “shall in the future be known as Robert Renfro.”

The emancipated Robert Renfro opened a new “House of Entertainment” in 1802 that was located on Main Street (current day Second Avenue).    Robert then purchased a life estate in Lot #25 from Robert Searcy on Main Street where he built and operated his business until a fire destroyed the establishment in 1814.  He then rented and operated the “stone tavern on the public square, near the courthouse….”

Robert Renfro continued to be involved in court cases, prevailing in at least three cases before white juries.  In an 1805 breach-of-contract case he sued Charles Dickinson (who was killed the following year by Andrew Jackson), and the appeals process established several Tennessee legal precedents.  Renfro’s name is listed on militia and tax roles, as well as in the records of several other legal transactions.


The last record mentioning Robert Renfro dates from 1816. Although no record has been found of his death, his name does not appear in the 1820 US Census of Nashville.  

***

Click the link to read a preview of Larry Michael Ellis' book. 


The book Spizzerinctum is fiction based somewhat on historical fact.