Isaac Shelby was born on December 11, 1750, in Maryland. In 1773, he moved
to the Holston settlements on the western frontier of Virginia. In 1774,
Isaac Shelby served under his father in Lord Dunmore's War. Following
that, he explored the territory of Kentucky. In July 1776, Shelby was appointed
captain of a minuteman company. In 1777, he was appointed commissary
of supplies for frontier militia and performed the same service in 1778 for the
In 1779, he supplied boats to George Rogers Clark was elected to the Virginia
Legislature. In 1780, he was commissioned by North Carolina Governor
Caswell as a Colonel of militia. In September 1780, he joined the pursuit of Major Patrick Ferguson
and was instrumental in Ferguson's defeat at the Battle of King's Mountain
on October 7, 1780. In 1781, he served under Francis Marion for
the remainder of the war. In 1781, Isaac Shelby was elected to the North
In 1782, Shelby moved to the territory of Kentucky and soon married. In April
1792, he was a member of the convention which framed Kentucky's first
constitution. In May 1792, he was elected the first governor of Kentucky,
but was not reelected in 1796 because the state constitution barred anyone from
serving consecutive terms as governor. In 1812, Shelby was again elected
governor. He personally led militia volunteers and fought at the Battle of
the Thames on October 5, 1813. In 1818, he was commissioned with General Andrew
Jackson to negotiate an Indian treaty. On July 18, 1826, a stroke killed
Shelby while he was at his home Traveller's Rest.
Early Life: 1750-1776
Isaac Shelby was born on December 11, 1750, in Frederick (now Washington)
County, Maryland. He was the son of Evan Shelby and Letitia Cox
Shelby. He spent most of his time until he was twenty-one tending his
father's farm, although he excelled at wilderness skills, leadership from
watching his father and what education could be managed on the frontier.
In 1773, he moved with the rest of his family to the Holston settlements on the
western frontier of Virginia and what would become Tennessee.
In 1774, Lord Dunmore's War broke out and Isaac Shelby received a lieutenant's
commission and served under his father Captain Evan Shelby in Fincastle County's
militia Company. He fought at Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774, in
fierce hand-to-hand combat with Indians under Cornstalk. Shelby's description
of the action in a letter to his uncle John Shelby is considered by historian
as the best account of the battle. Shelby then served as
second-in-command of the garrison at Fort Blair, which was built near Point Pleasant
at the mouth of the Great Kanahwa River until June 1775. Following that, he
spent a year exploring and surveying lands in the territory of Kentucky.
Revolutionary War: 1776-1781
While in Kentucky on July 1776, Isaac Shelby was appointed captain of a
minuteman company by the Virginia Committee of Safety. In 1777, he was
appointed by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry as commissary of supplies for
frontier militia. On July 20, 1777, he attended the Long Island Treaty at
Fort Patrick Henry where his father served as one of the commissioners.
In 1778, Shelby now performed the same service as commissary for the
Continental Army in its operations by General McIntosh against Detroit and the
Ohio Indians. In 1779, he supplied boats for George Rogers Clark's Illinois
campaign as well as a campaign against the Chickamauga Indians. In the
spring of 1779, Shelby was elected to the Virginia Legislature from Washington County.
In the fall of 1779, he was commissioned a Major by Virginia Governor Thomas
Jefferson as part of a guard escort for commissioners deciding the western
boundary of Virginia and North Carolina. In 1780, he was commissioned by
North Carolina Governor Caswell as a Colonel of Sullivan County militia. On
July 30, 1780, he captured Tory fortifications at the Pacelot River. He helped
command the Patriots to victory at Musgrove's Mill on August 18.
In September 1780, he joined other militia colonels including John Sevier in pursuit of
Major Patrick Ferguson, who had threaten the settlements of the western frontier. The seven
colonels shared command at the victory at the Battle of King's Mountain
on October 7, 1780, though Shelby is often given large credit for the winning
strategy and was awarded a sword by the North Carolina legislature. In
May 1781, he and some of his mountaineers arrived at Augusta, Georgia to support the successful siege of Colonels
Elijah Clarke and Andrew Pickens.
He then joined and served under Francis Marion for the remainder of the war.
Battle of King's Mountain
On July 25, 1780, Maj. General Horatio Gates
arrived in North Carolina and took command of the Southern Department.
On August 16, 1780, he was routed at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina by
Lt. General Charles Cornwallis. The loss at Camden and Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's
subsequent victory over Thomas Sumter's militia
at Fishing Creek on August 17th decimated the rebel resistance in the South.
General Cornwallis appeared to now have a clear path all the way to Virginia. In September, Cornwallis
invaded North Carolina and ordered Major Patrick Ferguson
to guard his left flank. On September 2, Ferguson left for the Western Carolinas with
seventy of his American Volunteers and several hundred Tory
militia. Ferguson arrived at Gilbert Town, North Carolina on September
7. When there on September 10, Major Ferguson paroled a captured rebel
and sent him into the mountains with a message to the leaders there, "that
if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, and take protection
under his standard, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their
leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword." This
threat proved to be his undoing.
The mountain men who lived in the Blue
Ridge area were mostly isolated and kept
to themselves, but a threat to their own moved them to action. A call to
arms went out and they gathered at Sycamore Shoals. On September 25,
Colonels William Campbell, Charles McDowell, John Sevier and Isaac Shelby left
Sycamore Shoals in pursuit of Ferguson. Shelby and Elijah Clarke had
previously skirmished with Ferguson on August 8 at Cedar Springs.
On September 30, they were joined by Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and Colonel
Joseph Winston. When they reached Gilbert Town, Major Ferguson was gone.
Sometime after this, the seven colonels had to decide on a chain of command
until a Continental Army general officer arrived. They chose the youngest
of them all, Colonel William Campbell to act as overall commander.
The Over Mountain Men moved south in search of Major Patrick Ferguson.
On October 6, while camped at Cowpens, South Carolina, the Over Mountain Men
were joined by Colonel James Williams and 400 South Carolinians. From a
Rebel spy they now learned that Ferguson was thirty miles to the north, camped
at King's Mountain. The colonels wanted to catch up with Ferguson before
he reached Charlotte and Lt. General Charles Cornwallis'
protection, so they chose 900 of the best men and horses and quickly made their
way north overnight.
The combined force of Over Mountain Men under the temporary command of Colonel
William Campbell arrived at King's Mountain on the afternoon of October 7,
1780. Major Ferguson had chosen the position because he felt that no
enemy could fire upon his position without showing themselves. The
Patriot force deliberated and decided to surround the mountain and using
continuous fire to slowly close in like an inescapable noose.
The force was divided into four columns. Colonel Isaac Shelby
and Colonel Campbell led the interior columns, with Shelby on the left and
Campbell on the right. The right flanking column was led by Colonel John Sevier.
The left flanking column was led by Colonel Benjamin Cleveland. They
moved into their respective positions and began moving toward the summit and
Major Ferguson's position. The battle commenced at 3 o'clock with the
middle two columns exchanging fire with Major Ferguson for fifteen minutes
while the flanking columns moved into position. Ferguson used his
Provincial Corps to drive back Colonels Shelby and Campbell with a bayonet
charge, but then the Corps had to fall back under sharpshooter fire.
Another bayonet charge repelled Shelby and Campbell.
Because of their exposed position, Major Ferguson's men were being
overwhelmed. The sharpshooters were picking them off from behind the
trees and brush that surrounded the summit, while their own aim was high as
they shot downhill. The Over Mountain Men then gained a foothold on the
summit, driving back the Loyalists. The net was now quickly closing in.
Major Ferguson finally attempted to cut a path through the Patriot line so that
his forces could escape, but this failed as Ferguson fell from his horse,
riddled with bullets. Ferguson's second-in-command quickly raised the
white flag of surrender. Following the request of surrender, it took a
while for the firing to dissipate, with cries of 'Remember Waxhaws' and
'Buford's Quarter' spurring some men to continue for a time.
The battle had lasted a little over an hour and not a single man of Ferguson's force
escaped. Though the numbers of casualties reported varies from
source to source, some of the most commonly reported figures are that 225
Loyalists had been killed, 163 wounded and 716 were captured, while only 28
Patriots were killed, including Colonel James Williams, and 68 wounded.
When Lt. General Charles Cornwallis
learned of Major Patrick Ferguson's
defeat, he retreated from Charlotte, North Carolina back to Winnsborough, South Carolina.
Contributed by Wanda Snyder
3. Susannah2 Hart (Nathaniel1) was born
in Caswell Co., NC February 18, 1764. Susannah died June 14, 1833 in Lincoln
Co., KY, at 69 years of age. Her body was interred in family cemetery at
Travellers Rest, Lincoln Co., KY.
She married Isaac Shelby in Boonesborough, VA
(now KY), April 19, 1783. Isaac was born in near Hagerstown, MD December 11, 1750. Isaac
was the son of Evan Shelby, Jr. and Letitia Cox. Isaac died
July 18, 1826 in Lincoln Co., KY, at 75 years of age. His body was interred in family
cemetery at Travellers Rest, Lincoln Co., KY. At 33 years of age Isaac
became the father of James Shelby February 13, 1784. At 34 years of age Isaac
became the father of Sarah Hart Shelby October 8, 1785. At 36 years of age
Isaac became the father of Evan Shelby July 27, 1787. At 38 years of age Isaac
became the father of Thomas Hart Shelby in "Travellers Rest", Lincoln
Co., KY, May 27, 1789.
At 40 years of age Isaac became the
father of Susannah Hart Shelby March 20, 1791. At 42 years of age Isaac
became the father of Nancy Shelby December 23, 1792. At 44 years of age Isaac
became the father of Isaac Shelby, Jr. 1795. At 46 years of age Isaac became
the father of John Shelby March 3, 1797. At 48 years of age Isaac became the father
of Letitia Shelby January 11, 1799. At 50 years of age Isaac became the father
of Katherine Shelby March 14, 1801. At 53 years of age Isaac became the father
of Alfred Shelby in "Travellers Rest", Woodford Co., KY, January 25,
Isaac Shelby was one of the heroes of
the Battle of King's Mountain, South Carolina in the Revolutionary War. He was
the first Governor of Kentucky serving 1792-1796. He served again as Kentucky's
Governor 1812-1816 and led the Kentucky troops in the War of 1812. He is listed
in the Kentucky Encyclopedia. Shelby County, Kentucky is named for him as well
as counties in Ohio and Iowa. His biography from The Kentucky Encyclopedia
follows: SHELBY, ISAAC. Isaac Shelby, Kentucky's first governor, was born near
Hagerstown, Maryland, on December 11, 1750, to Evan and Letitia (Cox) Shelby. The family
moved to western Virginia in 1772.
Young Shelby gained military experience
in Lord Dunmore's War and the Revolutionary War. He emerged from the latter as
one of the heroes of the Battle of King's Mountain, South Carolina, on October
7, 1780, when Great Britain's Maj. Patrick Ferguson was killed and his command
was eliminated. In late 1783 Shelby and his bride, Susannah (Hart) Shelby, moved
to his preemption holding near Knob Lick in Lincoln County, and his
reputation made him a leader in Kentucky politics. He participated in several
of the conventions that preceded Kentucky's statehood in 1792, and on May 17 of
that year the state's electors unanimously chose him as the first governor. He
served from June 4, 1792, to June 1, 1796.
After leaving office, Shelby spent
sixteen years developing his properties and increasing his fortune. In 1812, as
war with Great Britain became imminent, the public persuaded him to run for
governor again. The electoral college had been discarded by then, and Shelby defeated
Gabriel Slaughter easily, 29,285 to 11,936, on the strength of his
military experience. He held office from August 24, 1812, to September 5, 1816.
Shelby insisted that Gen. William Henry Harrison be given top command in the
western theater, and he pushed for a statewide preparedness program. In 1813 Shelby
raised 3,500 troops, double the number requested. With the permission of the
General Assembly, he personally led the troops to join Harrison's army. The
doughty sixty-two-year-old governor was active at the Battle of the Thames on
October 5, 1813, when the British and the Indians were decisively defeated. After
his second retirement, his last public service of consequence occurred in 1818,
when he and Andrew Jackson negotiated with the Chickasaw Indians the purchase
for Kentucky of the area west of the Tennessee River that became known as the
Jackson Purchase. In his first administration, Shelby provided sound, reliable
leadership in the implementation of the new constitution. His role was much
like that of George Washington on the national scene three years earlier. Shelby
was a Jeffersonian Republican as that party emerged, and he sought federal
assistance in curbing the Indians in the Northwest and in securing the vital
use of the Mississippi River. His refusal to take action against pro-French
groups upset the federal administration, but Shelby proved correct in his
belief that the Genet affair would collapse of its own accord when Genet failed
to win support for France in the United States. The economy proved stable, as
adequate finances were found for a relatively passive government.
Shelby's second administration was
dominated by the War of 1812, and he paid little attention to domestic
concerns. The militia laws were revised in an effort to create a more effective
organization, and women were urged to sew and knit for the cause. But the
Kentuckians who fought in the Battle of New Orleans were poorly equipped. When
Shelby left office, honored by most Kentuckians for his service, he returned once more to
his farm Travelers Rest, south of Danville, where he died on July 18, 1826. He
was buried in the family cemetery. See Sylvia Wrobel and George Grider, Isaac
Shelby: Kentucky's First Governor and Hero of Three Wars (Danville, Ky., 1974);
Patricia Watlington, The Partisan Spirit: Kentucky Politics. 1779-1792 (New York 1972). LOWELL H. HARRISON
At 19 years of age Susannah became the
mother of James Shelby February 13, 1784. At 21 years of age Susannah became
the mother of Sarah Hart Shelby October 8, 1785. At 23 years of age Susannah
became the mother of Evan Shelby July 27, 1787. At 25 years of age Susannah
became the mother of Thomas Hart Shelby in "Travellers Rest", Lincoln
Co., KY, May 27, 1789. At 27 years of age Susannah became the mother of
Susannah Hart Shelby March 20, 1791. At 28 years of age Susannah became the
mother of Nancy Shelby December 23, 1792. At 31 years of age Susannah became
the mother of Isaac Shelby, Jr. 1795. At 33 years of age Susannah became the
mother of John Shelby March 3, 1797. At 34 years of age Susannah became the
mother of Letitia Shelby January 11, 1799. At 37 years of age Susannah became
the mother of Katherine Shelby March 14, 1801. At 39 years of age Susannah
became the mother of Alfred Shelby in "Travellers Rest", Woodford
Co., KY, January 25, 1804.
Susannah Hart met Isaac Shelby at Fort
Boonesborough and they married there April 19, 1783. The couple lived at
Travellers Rest in Lincoln County where they raised eleven children. She is
buried at the family cemetery at Travellers Rest beside her husband. Her
biography from The Kentucky Encyclopedia follows: SHELBY, SUSANNAH (HART).
Susannah (Hart) Shelby, wife of Kentucky's first governor, was born in Caswell
County, North Carolina, on February 18,1764, the daughter of Capt. Nathaniel Hart
and Sarah (Simpson) Hart. She met Isaac Shelby at Fort Boonesborough, and they
married there two years later, on April 19, 1783. The couple lived at Travelers
Rest in Lincoln County, where they raised ten children. Susannah Shelby died
June 19, 1833, and was buried at Travelers Rest beside her husband. See Samuel
M. Wilson, Susan Hart Shelby: A Memoir (Lexington. Ky., 1923). FRANCES KELLER
Susannah Hart and Isaac Shelby had the
22 i. James3
Shelby was born February 13, 1784.
ii. Sarah Hart
Shelby was born October 8, 1785.
iii. Evan Shelby was born
July 27, 1787.
iv. Thomas Hart Shelby was
born May 27, 1789.
26 v. Susannah Hart Shelby
was born March 20, 1791. Susannah died January 12, 1868 at 76 years of age. She
married four times. She married James McDowell. She married James Shannon. She
married John McKinney. She married James Fishback.
vi. Nancy Shelby was born
December 23, 1792.
vii. Isaac Shelby, Jr. was born
29 viii. John Shelby was born March
3, 1797. John died October 11, 1815 at 18 years of age.
30 ix. Letitia Shelby was
born January 11, 1799.
31 x. Katherine Shelby was
born March 14, 1801. Katherine died April 29, 1801 at less than one year of
xi. Alfred Shelby was born
January 25, 1804.