The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Isbell roots in the Shoals area spread far and wide…

and there are some prominent figures among them. As part of my goal to place as many markers on unmarked graves as possible, especially for ancestors, I purchased a chronicle marker for Capt. Godfrey Daniel Isbell who is likely buried in the oldest cemetery in Madison County, Maple Hill.

There are other cousins of the Isbell family who have done a lot of documentation of the family, most notably Ray Isbell who is a descendant of John Birdwell who married Sarah H Isbell and his documentation is appreciated and some of it incorporated here. Captain Godfrey Daniel Isbell was one of our family heroes. He and other family members secured our nation’s independence from the rule of a king.

Captain Godfrey Daniel Isbell

1750 Lunenburg County, Virginia

1812 Madison County, Mississippi Territory, now Alabama

Godfrey Isbell served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War in the North Carolina Militia. He performed admirably in battle and participated in the Battle of King’s Mountain and the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill. He provided patriotic service and civil service during the war.

Godfrey Isbell was the son of Henry Isbell Jr. and Hannah Isbell of Virginia.

His exact grave site remains unknown but thought to be buried at Maple HIll, reputedly the oldest cemetery in Huntsville. Although formally established by deed recorded in 1822, the oldest intact gravemarker appears to be that of Mary Frances Atwood who died in 1820. And his burial would have been even earlier than that in 1812.

Some list his wife as Martha Milton, others give the wife’s name as  Hannah Clark. He may have married twice or more. Some notes that reference Godfrey Isbell that are documented follow:

1771 in Charlotte, Albermarle County, Virginia:
Godfrey Isbell, Thomas Isbell, and Pendleton Isbell posted a bond of 50,000.00 lbs for Godfrey’s appearance in court to answer to the charge that he did beat and ill treat David Gordon. (ref., John Carlton of Orange County and Albemarle County, Virginia by George H. Caldwell)

March 19, 1780:                                                                                                                                                                                                         Godfrey Isbell served in the Washington County, North Carolina (Tennessee) Militia

Feb. 21, 1782:                                                                                                                                                                                                               Godfrey Isbell was bondsman for his first cousin Thomas Isbell when he married Discretion Howard in Wilkes County, North Carolina. This couple is described as Presbyterian by descendant Zella Armstrong but they are buried at Grandin Baptist Church, Caldwell County, North Carolina.

This Thomas Isbell is not to be confused with Godfrey Isbell’s son Thomas Isbell who had four wives.

Thomas Isbell was also a soldier of the Revolutionary War and has a multitude of descendants still. From his Sons of the American Revolution application file is excerpted the following:

From family Bible in possession of the family                                                                                                                                       “Thomas Isbell enlisted at the age of 18 and served two years.”                                                                                              A pension was allowed Discretion [nee Howard]Isbell, widow of Thoams Isbell, in 1843 for the actual serivce of her husband in the Virginia troops. See certificate of Bureau of Pensions under date of September 15, 1897 which verifies the above statement and is attached hereto. (apparently lost, as it is no longer attached.”

August 10, 1783:                                                                                                                                                                                                             Wilkes County, North Carolina : warrant issued in death of John Anderson, killed in a fight in December according to the Anderson family history.

1793: in South Carolina

1799-1800: in Cumberland County, Kentucky

1801-04: in Wayne County, Kentucky

1808: Godfrey was living in Warren County, Tennessee, where he was a member of the first Warren County Court. His land adjoined the land of James Gailey.

March 19, 1811:                                                                                                                                                                                                       Minutes of Cumberland Presbytery: At Big Spring, Wilson County, Tennessee: Godfrey Isbell, was a representative from Liberty Congregation.

The obituary of Godfrey’s son Jabez’ daughter Lucinda Isbell Bookman states that she joined Cumberland Presbytery “early in life,” so a reasonable deduction is that Jabez was Prebyterian also.
The First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama was not established until 1818.

1811:                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Godfrey Isbell sold land in Warren County, Tennessee, when he moved to Alabama. In 1813, his widow Hannah Isbell was listed on the tax lists for Madison County, Alabama.

1815:                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Hannah and Jeptha Vining Isbell were on the tax list for Madison County.

November 1816:                                                                                                                                                                                                         Jabez Isbell was issued letters of administration on the estate of Godfrey Isbell at the Orphans Court of Madison County, Alabama. Hannah may have died by this time.

1816:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The estate of Godfrey Isbell was inventoried by John Birdwell, one of the founders of Enon Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Huntsville (1809). Two of John Birdwell’s daughters married granddaughters of Capt. Godfrey Isbell’s first cousin, Zachariah Isbell Jr. Those daughters are mine and Ray Isbell’s ancestors as is John Birdwell.

John Birdwell, who inventoried Godfrey Isbell’s estate, was one of the founders of Enon Baptist Church (First Baptist of Huntsville), which in 1810 was located a few hundred yards north of the present terminal of the North Huntsville Executive Airport. The small building, exact location unknown, was “close to the river bank…affording a convenient place for baptismal services. For some reason, perhaps a shortage of funds, construction was halted short of completion. Almost two years later, 6 Feb 1813, a new committee was named…to complete the work, and while there was apparently no fanfare to herald its conclusion, the structure was finished and in 1815 did accommodate the second annual meeting of the Flint River Association.” Of note is that Godfrey Isbell was NOT shown in the membership records of that Baptist Church.

Documentation may be found in the following sources:

Annals of Tennessee (1853) by James G.M. Ramsey, p.212

History of Cumberland County (1947) by J.W. Wells, p.35

Tennessee Cousins by Worth S. Ray

The King’s Mountain Men by Katherine White, page 192

The Overmountain Men (1986) by Pat Alderman, p.59

The Patriots at King’s Mountain (1990) by Bobby Gilmer Moss

History of Tennessee by Goodspeed, p. 455

Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence by Brent Tartar, p. 357

Service Source:
Service Description:

Some documentation for the relatives of the Captain will be noted here. A wife of Godfrey Daniel Isbell was Hannah Clark who died in 1816. Godfrey’s children include sons: Thomas Isbell 1784-1862,  James Milton Isbell 1784 – 1814, and Jeptha Vining Isbell 1787-1836. A brief of Dr Isbell’s life and family follows:

Dr Jeptha Vining Isbell

Birth: 1787
Death: 1836
Tuscaloosa County
Alabama, USA

Dr Isbell was a state legislator, and was among the founders of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dr. Jeptha Vining Isbell lived in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, where his father, Godfrey Isbell, died about 1812.Jeptha moved to Tuscaloosa about 1816, because he is on numerous records there and is considered among the founders of that city. He served in the state legislature at various times as well as (per one reference) in the State Senate. He probably went to St. Stephens and Cahaba during 1817-21 or traveled there when the house and senate were in session.He was a member of the House of Representatives, Second session begun and held at the town of Cahawha, on the first Monday of Nov 1820 (ref., MSS. History of Tuskaloosa, by Hon. W. Moody).He purchased property as a Homestead entry on 9 July 1823 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The homestead entry for eighty acres was located here: 1 W½SE HUNTSVILLE No 21S 9W 24.Tuscaloosa became the state capitol in 1826, and Jeptha V. Isbell was already living there. The book PIONEERS OF TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, ALABAMA PRIOR TO 1830 has several pages containing references to Dr. Jeptha V. Isbell.Jeptha Vining Isbell served during the War of 1812. U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815 provided the following information about Jepthah V Isbell and his service:  Name: Jepthah V Isbell  Company: DYER’S REG’T, CAVALRY AND MTD. GUNMEN, TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS.  Rank – Induction: PRIVATE  Rank – Discharge: PRIVATE  Roll Box: 108  Microfilm Publication:He married first to Asbury Cash (born 1787), daughter of James Cash and Margaret Dozier Cash. After her death, he married her sister Margaret Dozier Thomas (born 1783), widow of James Thomas, and had one daughter, Hypasia Ann Isbell.The widow Margaret Dozier Thomas Isbell married Daniel Wright 9 Jan 1827 in Lawrence County, Alabama, marriage performed by Manoah Hampton, Justice of the Peace. Manoah Hampton was a person of great historical value, but that is another story.Hypasia Ann Isbell, daughter of Jeptha V. Isbell and Margaret Dozier Thomas Isbell Wright, married Judge Andrew M. Wright, her stepfather’s son by his first wife.


Son of Godfrey Isbell, Thomas Isbell was a very interesting character.

Thomas Isbell

Birth: 1784
Montgomery County
Virginia, USA
Death: 1862
Monticello (Wayne County)
Wayne County
Kentucky, USA
From the strongest evidence, Thomas Isbell was the son of Capt. Godfrey Isbell in that he witnessed Godfrey’s consent for his daughter Nancy’s marriage.By his four wives (Leah Francis, Sarah McBeath, Sophia McLain, and Sarah J. Calhoun) he fathered 21 children.Thomas Isbell’s name first appeared in Wayne County, Kentucky, records, 5 March 1804, when he signed a marriage bond for James Brooks and Nancy Isbell [who was born in Virginia]. A note was included with the bond which states:
(1)”To Godrey [sic] Isbell- Sir as it is necessary for me to have your permission from under your hand therefore send by William Simpson.”
(2)” This may certify you that I have given consent for my daughter Nancy to James by Godfrey Isbell- witnessed by Thomas Isbell and Samuel Forbes.”
Thomas Isbell’s relationship to Nancy and Godfrey Isbell is not stated, but brother and son is probable as it was customarily an older brother who served as bondsman for a younger sister’s wedding. “However, it is to be noted that none of Thomas’ children were given the Christian name
of Godfrey.” (ref., June Baldwin Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky Marriages, 1801-1860, 1972. Vol.I, A-J,p. 153).Wayne County, Kentucky Marriages,1801-1860, (1972) by June Baldwin Bork, Vol.I, A-J,p. 153 and p.176: The Isbell Cemetery is located across the road from the old Isbell house (supposedly haunted) and on Ray Ellers farm in Wayne County. The reason for no Isbell stones is, according to tradition, that Thomas Isbell was superstitious about them. In an unidentified report, this home was described as having been built in the late 1700s, made of hewn logs with two floors and two huge fireplaces. The kitchen was as large as the main room. There was a front and back porch and was located on what is now Highway 167- the road from Monticello to Cooper in Wayne County.His wives were Leah Francis Isbell 1785-1833 and Sarah Jane Calhoun Isbell 1825-1890. He is buried in the Isbell Cemetery in Wayne County, Kentucky.

Another son of Godfrey Isbell was James Milton Isbell. There are probably other children as well.

James Milton Isbell

Birth: 1784
Death: 1814
Walker County
Alabama, USA
His state of birth is not known, but could have been Lincoln County, Kentucky or Pendleton County, South Carolina. Researchers state different birth states.There are discrepancies in the reported death place; some also give his date and place of death as 1812-13 in Wayne County, Kentucky, and others say Warren County, Tennessee and yet others, like me give it as Walker County, Alabama. There seems to be no documented burial.Some give his mother’s name as Martha Milton, but since he married Hannah Clark in the year 1795 in Lincoln County, Kentucky and she did not die until 1816, Hannah Clark Isbell is deemed his likely mother.James Milton Isbell married Sarah Jane Wallace, who was born in 1784 in Kentucky. And though her death date is not known, her burial place is given as Lawrence County, Alabama. There were at least two children born to this couple: Barbabas Wallace Isbell who was called Barney by family and friends. He was born 1809 and died 1853 and Godfrey Jefferson Isbell who was born 1811 and died 1877. At the present date that is all the information about James Milton Isbell and his family.

Yet to be explored are these siblings and their families. From the list of those of the Isbell surname who served in the War o f1812, it begs to question whether our Godfrey Daniel Isbell who was a Captain in the Revolutionary War who one of the Godfrey’s who served in the Virginia Militia during the War of 1812. This question arises in my mind with his death date. And if not our Godfrey, then who are these Godfrey Isbells as that was not a common name in our family lineage.

Isbells who served in the War of 1812:

Godfry – Pvt 1 Reg’t (Clarke’s) Virginia Militia
Godfrey – Pvt/Corpl 7 Reg’t (Gray’s) Virginia Militia
Godfrey – Pvt 8 Reg’t (Wall’s) Virginia Militia
James – Pvt 5 Reg’t Virginia Militia
James T. – Pvt 7 Reg’t (Gray’s) Virginia Militia
John – Pvt 41 Reg’t (Trueheart’s) Virginia Militia
John W. – Pvt Flying Camp (McDowell’s) Virginia Militia
Lewis M. – Pvt 1 Corps D’Elite (Randolph’s) Virginia Militia
Robert S. – Pvt 7 Reg’t (Gray’s) Virginia Militia
William – Pvt 64 Regiment Virginia Militia
William I. – Ensign 8 Reg’t (Wall’s) Virginia Militia
Jabas – Pvt Dyer’s Reg’t Cavalry and Mounted Gunmen, Tennessee Vol.
Jepthah V. – Pvt Dyer’s Cavalry and Mounted Gunmen, Tennessee Vol.
Miller – Pvt 3 Reg’t (Johnson’s) East Tennessee Militia
Temple – 2 Lieut. Bunch’s Reg’t (1814) East Tennessee Militia
Thomas – Corpl. Bunch’s Reg’t Mounted (1813-1814) East Tennessee Militia
Thomas – Corpl. 5 Reg’t (Booth’s) East Tennessee Militia
Thomas (Isabell) – Pvt 2 Reg’t (Cheatham’s) West Tennessee Militia
Daniel – Pvt Nash’s Regiment South Carolina Volunteers
Jabas – Pvt 16 Reg’t (Burrus’) Mississippi Militia
Levingston – Pvt 3 Reg’t (Miller’s) Kentucky Militia
Littleton – Pvt 5 Reg’t (Atkinson’s) North Carolina Militia

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