Although not a direct ancestor of my husband, Marshall Mark (Mark) Blythe or our children, Isaac Shelby is of great interest to us for a couple of reasons. First, he was renowned for and distinguished himself for his actions in battle against United Empire Loyalists in Canada in the War of 1812, ultimately defeating Loyalist forces at the Battle of the Thames in southern Ontario. We are also related to and are descended from Loyalists who settled in this area. For a lengthy period of time, we lived in Trenton, Ontario which is located in the area of Loyalist activities and battles against American forces. This area is steeped in this history and it is still considered to be an honor to be from a Loyalist lineage.
Marshall Matthews Blythe
Portrait of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky.
Second, because Isaac Shelby is so revered in history, there are accurate portraits of him during the latter period of his life available. Upon comparing portraits of him with recent pictures of my father-in-law, Marshall Matthews Blythe (father to my husband Mark and grand-father to my children Erin and Stuart), the resemblance between them is quite remarkable. For clarification, Isaac is first cousin six times removed to my father-in-law.
Isaac Shelby (December 11, 1750 – July 18, 1826) was a revered and decorated soldier and the first Governor of Kentucky.
The son of Brigadier General Evan and Letitia (Cox) Shelby, Isaac was born December 11, 1750 near North Mountain, Frederick (now Washington) County, Maryland.
Having been raised with the use of arms, he became proficient at an early age and was very familiar with and accustomed to the hardships and stresses of frontier life. Isaac worked on his father’s plantation. However, having received an education, he was occasionally employed as a surveyor and also as Deputy Sheriff.
About 1773, the Shelby family moved to the Holston region of Southwest Virginia, now East Tennessee, where they established a new home. A timeline of Isaac Shelby’s military and political career thereafter is as follows:
Isaac Shelby served at the Battle of Point Pleasant as a Lieutenant under his father, Brigadier General Evan Shelby, in the Fincastle Company on October 10.
Second in command of the garrison of Fort Blair (until July 1775), which was built on the site of the battle. An uprising of the Shawnee and Delaware Indians compelled Isaac to take up arms and he served as a Lieutenant under his father Brigadier Evan Shelby in the Battle of Point Pleasant in West Virginia.
He fought in the Battle of Kenhawa of 10 October. This was believed to be the most severely contested campaign ever fought with the north-western Indians.
After July of 1775, he visited Kentucky and surveyed lands for the Transylvania Company.
After returning to Kentucky due to failing health, he became involved in the Battle of Long Island Flats.
At the first onset of the Indians, the American lines were broken and Shelby, who was there only as a volunteer Private, seized command, reformed the troops, and severely defeated the Indians.
In July he was appointed by the Virginia Committee of Safety to the position of Captain of a company of minute men. However, he was not called into service.
Governor Patrick Henry promoted Shelby to Captain and made him Commissary-General of the Virginia forces.
He attended the Long Island Treaty with the Cherokees, which was finalized at Fort Patrick Henry on July 20, 1777, at which his father was one of the Virginia commissioners.
Helped to provide supplies for the Continental Army and for the expedition projected by General McIntosh against Detroit and the Ohio Indians.
Provided boats for Clark’s Illinois campaign and collected and provided supplies upon his own personal credit for the successful campaign waged about the same time against the Chickamauga Indians.
In the spring he was elected as a member for Washington County of the Virginia legislature.
In the fall, Governor Thomas Jefferson made him a Major in the escort of guards for the commissioners appointed to run the western boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina. By the extension of that line, his residence was found to be within the limits of North Carolina.
He resigned his commission, but was at once appointed Colonel of Sullivan County by Governor Caswell.
Upon receiving news of the fall of Charleston on May 12th, he returned home to an urgent summons for help from Colonel Charles McDowell.
He organized a force and about July 25, he joined McDowell at the Cherokee Ford, South Carolina.
On July 30, Shelby captured the major Loyalist stronghold, Thicketty Fort (Fort Anderson), at the head of the Pacolet River. On August 8, his command successfully repulsed a party sent by Major Ferguson at the second Battle of Cedar Springs.
Upon receipt of the report of General Gates’ defeat at Camden on August 16, operations under McDowell and Shelby were halted.
On August 18, he was largely responsible for the victory at Battle of Musgrove’s Mill on the north side of the Enoree River.
As a result of a threatening message dispatched by Ferguson, Shelby held even greater resentment and determination and in consequence, with the assistance of John Sevier and others, he organized and conducted the expedition against Ferguson.
On October 7, they overwhelmingly defeated Ferguson’s combined Provincial and Loyalist force in the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Shelby has also been credited with the plan for the attack, which led to the Battle of the Cowpens on January 17.
In February, the legislature of North Carolina adopted resolutions of thanks to Shelby and his compatriots for their services at King’s Mountain.
Similar resolutions were adopted by the Continental Congress on November 13.
As a result of repeated uprisings by Cherokee Indians during the first half of the year, it was impractical to send forces from there to assist.
A treaty with the Cherokees was negotiated on July 20.
In October, upon receipt of a delayed message of appeal, Shelby raised 500 mounted riflemen and was accompanied by Colonel John Sevier in command of 200 more.
He marched to join Greene, by whose order they reported to General Marion on the Santee.
The joint command of Shelby and Colonel Hezekiah Maham, of the Carolina dragoons, contributed greatly to the capture of a strong British post at Fair Lawn, near Monck’s Corner, South Carolina on November 27.
Meanwhile, having been elected a member of the North Carolina legislature and having obtained a leave of absence, he attended the sessions in December.
Reelected to the North Carolina Assembly, he attended the legislative sessions held at Hillsboro in April.
He was appointed one of three commissioners to superintend the laying off of the land south of the Cumberland River allotted by North Carolina for military service in the Revolution.
Completed the laying off of the land south of the Cumberland River.
Appointed a Trustee of Transylvania Seminary (later Transylvania University).
Chairman of the convention of militia officers held at Danville on Nov. 7-8 (was also a member 1787-1789).
In January 1791, he was appointed a member of the Board of War, which was created by Congress for the District of Kentucky, and was charged with providing for the defense of the frontier settlements mounting punitive expeditions against the Indians.
For several years he served as High Sheriff of Lincoln County.
Member of the convention (April 2-19) which framed the first constitution of Kentucky.
In May he was elected Governor, taking office on June 4 and serving four years.
During his administration many events of importance to the infant commonwealth occurred, not the least being the part it took, under Shelby, in supporting Wayne’s campaigns against the Indians in the Northwest Territory.
At the close of his term, he declined reelection.
Retired from service.
Elected Governor of Kentucky a second time in August.
He actively participated in the planning and preparation for war.
With a sword presented to him by Henry Clay as voted by the legislature of North Carolina for his gallantry at King’s Mountain 32 years before, Shelby assembled and personally led 4,000 Kentucky volunteers to join General Harrison in the Northwest for the invasion of Canada, resulting in the defeat of the Loyalists on October 5 at the Battle of the Thames.
He was given the portfolio of War in March by President Monroe, but declined due to his age.
Isaac Shelby was awarded a gold medal by Congress on April 4 in recognition of his patriotic and heroic services.
Shelby and General Andrew Jackson were commissioned to hold a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians for the purchase of their lands west of the Tennessee River.
He was President of the first Kentucky Agricultural Society, formed at Lexington in 1818.
He was Chairman of the first Board of Trustees of Center College, founded in 1819 at Danville, Kentucky.
Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky – Traveler’s Rest Burying Ground Plaque.
After his death on July 18, he was buried at his historic home, “Traveller’s Rest,” and a monument was erected over his grave by the state of Kentucky. Counties in nine states have been named Shelby in his honor. __________ An account of Governor Isaac Shelby by Samuel M. Wilson is as follows:
Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky – Grave Marker.
“In person, Shelby was of a sturdy and well-proportioned frame, slightly above medium height, with strongly marked features and florid complexion. He had a hardy constitution capable of enduring protracted labor, great privations, and the utmost fatigue. Habitually dignified and impressive in bearing, he was, however, affable and winning. A soldier born to command, he nevertheless evidenced a high degree of political sagacity and executive ability. Numerous difficulties confronted him during his first administration, when the new government was passing through its formative stage, and much depended on the choice of officials then made by the executive. Shelby exhibited rare selective intelligence and an extraordinary mastery both of men and measures. Kentucky at this time experienced constant dread of the occlusion by Spain of the Mississippi River, and use was made of this situation by designing men to promote speculative ventures and political schemes hostile to the true interests of both Kentucky and the Union. Through it all, Shelby pursued a wise and moderate course which baffled the plots of all conspirators and held Kentucky firmly to her federal moorings.During his second administration, the pressure of the war with Great Britain fell with extraordinary and unremitting severity upon the state, and he showed himself not only a prudent and farseeing counselor, but an active, resourceful, and patriotic leader. His energy, determination, and perseverance knew no bounds, and his devotion to duty was unflagging.”
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Shelby, John Todd: KERR, C. ed. History of Kentucky, v. 3-5, 1922 #4.
History of Michigan; Moore, C.; v. 2-4; 1915; Shelby, William Read.
Family Data Collection – Births; Shelby, Alfred, 1765.
Family Data Collection – Individual Records; Shelby, Nancy, 1792.
1860 US Census; Shelby, John Warren, b. 1835; PO Lexington; Roll M653_365; Pg 0.
Shelby, Isaac Flournoy: KERR, C. ed. History of Kentucky, v. 3-5, 1922.
The Pioneer Mothers of America 1; Shelby, Susannah Hart; Green, H.C. and M.W.; 3 v., 1912.
American Biographical and Historical Dictionary; Shelby, Isaac; Allen (W); 1832.
Military Heroes of the War of 1812; Shelby, Evan; Peterson, C.J.; 1848.