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.