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Posts tagged “James H Isbell

Give that boy a good whooping and he will run away from home…

and maybe, just maybe, turn out to be a hero in the end. In this case William M Isbell and brother James H Isbell were heroes of the battle of San Jacinto.

The Isbell family line in the Shoals area runs deep. One of the Isbell sons was William. The history of his life is so compelling.

William M Isbell was born  in 1816 in Greenville, Green County, Tennessee on the 15th day of June and died 2 December 1877. When just a boy, William Isbell’s father, Dr James R Isbell, gave his son a good whooping after he caught him in a lie. William ran away from his homeplace and went to Abington, Virginia where he lived until fall of 1834. He traveled to Texas and established himself a farm on Cummings Creek. A number, too many, researchers give Dr James R Isbell’s wife’s name as Elizabeth Birdwell which is in error. The Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell is my line and she was married to a different James Isbell. Neither Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell or her husband James Isbell ever set a foot in Texas.

William M Isbell and James H Isbell’s grandparents were Zachariah and Elizabeth Isbell of the Watauga Settlement which of itself is very historic as well as his participation at Kings Mountain. William Zachariah Isbell was born in the year 1769 in Fort Watauga, Warren, Tennessee/North Carolina and died 1825 in Warren, Tennessee. It is unclear whether William Zachariah Isbell was a brother or a first cousin of Dr James R Isbell. who was the father of the San Jacinto heroes.  James R. Isbell was probably a son or grandson of Zachariah Isbell Sr. An Isbell family researcher, Sarah Coon commented on a genealogy forum with this statement,“ It is thought that James R. Isbell may have been a son of Zachariah Isbell, Jr.  But of course, there is no proof.” Ray Isbell, a cousin and avid researcher of the Isbell families provides this insight: Zach Isbell Jr. may have been too young to be James R.’s father.  One of his older brothers Jason or William was more likely James’ father.

Jason Isbell also lived in Greene County, Tennessee for a time, as did brother William.  Their sister Hannah Isbell (b. c1747) lived in Greene County, Tennessee when her first husband Samuel Williams died there 1788 and in 1791 when she married second to James Taylor.  Brother William Isbell was bondsman at that marriage.

William Zachariah Isbell and Sarah Richardson Isbell were also the parents of Levi Isbell who married Sarah H Birdwell and James Isbell who married Elizabeth Birdwell. Levi and James Isbell and their families are the ancestors of many Shoals area Isbell families. Because it is an important facet of our history, a synopsis of the settlement from the Watauga Association follows: 

Watauga Settlement

  • Watuaga Association

In the spring of 1768, a few adventurers, from the neighborhood of Raleigh, in North Carolina, crossed the mountains, westwardly, in search of a new place of residence. And, having explored the country on the Watauga River, they selected a spot there, made some preparations, returned, and, the same year, moved over their families, ten in number, to live in the interminable wilderness. At the head of this little colony was James Robertson, afterwards so extensively known by the title of General; whose name the early history of Tennessee, if ever written in detail, will exhibit on many a page.This now became a place of rendezvous to all who followed their footsteps over the same stupendous heights. And so many gathered in, from the Carolinas and Virginia, that, within three years, they could muster nearly three hundred soldiers. But , in the very infancy of the settlement, by a treaty with the Cherokees, held under the authority from the government of the last mentioned province, a boundary was established to run from the White Top Mountain in a west direction to Holston River, on a parallel of latitude of about 36 1/2 degrees. The inhabitants of Watauga were, consequently, left on Indian ground, in no better condition than that of trespassers. And it was not long before they were ordered by Alexander Cameron to move off. Cameron was deputy agent for the government of England, resident among the Cherokees. But part of the Cherokees, notwithstanding his zeal, expressed a desire that the trespassers might be permitted to remain, provided they would make no further encroachments.This favorable symptom was not long neglected. But Robertson and John Bean we re deputed by these tenants at will, in 1771, to treat with their landlords, and agree upon articles of accommodation and friendship. The attempt succeeded. For, though the Indians refused to give up the lands gratuitously, they consented, for a stipulated amount of merchandise, muskets, and other articles of convenience, the value of the whole estimated at five or six thousand dollars, to lease for eight years all the country on the waters of the Watauga. After this the settlement increased with still greater rapidity than before.  The property paid to the Indians in fulfillment of these covenants was compensated for, in both cases, by sales of the lands. Those who advanced it reimbursed themselves from the settlers.Thus a nursery of population was planted in East Tennessee never to be eradicated.But, far removed from the parent provinces, separated not only by trackless forests, but by numerous ranges of mountains, they were as little protected, controlled, or recollected, by any government whatever, as their co-tenants, the bears. What people ever approached nearer to the imaginary state of nature? Yet they lived in extraordinary harmony among themselves, and in perfect amity with the Cherokees, the only power by which they were recognized.The political history of Tennessee begins with a convention of the settlers on the Watauga River, 1772, which organized the Watauga Association, and appointed a court consisting of five members, which was entrusted with the entire administration of its laws. And, accordingly, a code of laws was drawn up to be signed by every individual. If any one should refuse he was to be debarred from its benefits. But there was no recusant. This became known as the Watauga Association. Its military history commences some three years later, when a joint convention of the Watauga and Nollichucky settlements met in 1775, and unanimously declared for the American cause, and appointed a committee of safety of thirteen members, authorized to pledge the settlements for their part of the continental expenses, to cooperate with the United Colonies, and to direct and control the military affairs of the settlements. The members of the committee of thirteen were:

John Carter, chairman

William Been

Charles Robertson

John Jones

James Robertson                 

George Russell 

Zach. Isbell

Jacob Womack

John  Sevier

Robert Lucas

James  Smith

William Tatham

Jacob Brown

Thus organized, their affairs continued prosperous, till the commencement of the Revolutionary war. And so great had been the augmentation, that, in 1776, they could have raised seven or eight hundred riflemen.But , when it appeared that this great conflict would inevitably become universal, Cameron sent very enticing letters to them, endeavoring with many fine promises of protection in case of their loyalty, to attach them to the British interest. The peril of their situation was too obvious; but they unanimously resolved, whatever the issue should be, to participate in the struggle for independence. As soon as Cameron had ascertained this determination, a project was devised to spread desolation over the whole settlement at once, by making a sudden incursion, and attacking it on all sides by surprise. But the barbarous design was happily frustrated. The electrical flame of liberty, so spontaneous, so efficacious, was not confined to the atmosphere of civilization. Four white men, having long sojourned among the Cherokees, were entrusted with the bloody secret. But, true to the cause of humanity and freedom, they made escape, and gave seasonable notice of the meditated invasion.These tidings produced no inconsiderable terror. A large proportion of the people recrossed the Allegheny, and fled back for shelter to the several places of their nativity.But the panic was not universal. Enough remained to man and maintain a garrison, situated on the Holston, near the Sycamore Shoals. Yet so sensible were they of their comparative weakness, that they delegated John Carter and Geo rge Russell, to repair to North Carolina, make a representation of matters, and solicit the interposition of that state, and the necessary assistance. The application was attended to, and measures adopted preparatory to their relief. All this country was erected into a county by the name of Washington. And the little republic, which originated not in opposition, but convenience, now became an integral part of the great commonwealth, within the chartered limits of which it was situated.The Act of Assembly for this purpose bears date in December, 1777. But the settlers at the suggestion of Robertson, had called their territory Washington District several years before.In the fall of the same year, troops arrived from North Carolina and Virginia, who were joined by Robertson and seventy men from the garrison; the whole amounting to about eighteen hundred. They marched rapidly, struck home upon the Cherokees, vanquished wherever they came, ruined many towns, and destroyed stocks and provisions, and so crippled those savage enemies that they were obliged to submit to terms. A treaty was agreed upon; and poor Cameron hurried himself to Pensacola.Th e treaty was held in the spring following, at a place in the Holston called Long Island, under joint authority of Virginia and North Carolina. Peace was mutually promised and Robertson was appointed agent, to reside at some central place in the Cherokee Nation, in behalf of the two associated states.A powerful Cherokee chief had refused to join in the treaty, persisting in his attachment to the British; and, with a few adherents, went down the Tennessee River, dissatisfied, and commenced a new settlement at a place called Chickamauga. Numbers followed him, prompted by a disposition to plunder and carnage. Discord ensued; and injuries to the whites, perpetrated by this mischievous party, became so frequent, following almost in contact with each other, that chastisement could no longer be delayed. Accordingly, in 1779, an expedition for that purpose was undertaken commanded by Isaac Shelby, the late governor of Kentucky, then a resident of Washington County. It was directed especially against Chickamauga. Peaceable Indians were not to be molested. It proved effectual. Chickamauga fell; and the hostile wretches, partly disabled and partly intimidated, were for the present innocuous.Th e Watauga Association was semi-autonomous government established in 1772 by pioneer settlers in what is now northeastern Tennessee. The settlers, having leased their lands from the Cherokee, were beyond the bounds of an organized government. They organized a homespun authority under what was called the Watauga Compact; it is believed to be the first written constitution adopted by native-born Americans. The document was not preserved but seems to have provided for a court of five judges, a clerk, and a sheriff. In 1775 the Wataugans were able to transform the lease of their lands into an outright purchase. With the beginning of the American Revolution that year, they supported the patriot cause and created a 13-member committee of public safety. Faced with the threat of attack by Native Americans in 1776, the Wataugans asked for and obtained annexation by North Carolina. They were thus included in Washington County, which was created the next year for all of the state’s western claim.  Washington County was erected by the General Assembly of North Carolina, in November, 1777. It was formed from Washington District which had been detached from Wilkes and Burke counties and included all the present State of Tennessee, although a part of it, as we have seen, was thought at the time to belong to Virginia. This county has the distinction of being the first political division in the United States which was named in honor of George Washington. From it all the other counties in Tennessee have been carved. It is, therefore, the oldest county in the state and was the theatre of the important events which occurred in its early history.At this session of the Legislature, provision was also made for opening a land office in Washington County, permission being given that each head of a family might take up six hundred and forty acres, his wife and his children one hundred acres each, all at the rate of forty shillings per hundred acres. The facility with which settlers might obtain lands caused a large influx of pioneers immediately, although no wagon road had been opened across the mountains.John Carter, who had been chairman of the court of the Watauga Association, appointed colonel of Washington County.The county was organized on February 23, 1778, with the following named magistrates in attendance: John Carter, chairman, John Sevier, Jacob Womack, Robert Lucas, Andrew Greer, John Shelby,  George Russell, Wm. Been, Zachariah Isbell, John McNabb, Thomas Houghton, William Clark, John McMahan, Benjamin Gist, John Chisholm, Joseph Willson, Wm. Cobb, Jas. Stuart, Michael Woods, Richard White, Benjamin Wilson, James Robertson, and Valentine Sevier. On the next day the officers were elected as follows: John Sevier, clerk; Valentine Sevier, sheriff; James Stuart, surveyor; John Carter, entrytaker; John McMahan, register; Jacob Womack, stray-master; and John McNabb, coroner.When that claim was ceded and then taken back in 1784, the Wataugans took the lead in organizing the short-lived state of Franklin.The State of Franklin was an autonomous state, now included in the eastern part of Tennessee, formed in 1784 and dissolved in 1788. In 1784 North Carolina ceded to the U.S. government the western lands, a portion of which had originally been governed by the self-constituted Watauga Association. The cession was to be accepted within one year, but North Carolina repealed the cession before the year expired. Before learning of the repeal, however, the settlers in the eastern counties had organized the state of Franklin, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, and elected John Sevier as governor. North Carolina attempted to conciliate the westerners by creating a Washington District with Sevier as brigadier general and David Campbell as judge, thus removing the necessity of taking court cases across the mountains for trial; the settlers, however, decided to continue the separate-state movement. The U.S. Congress failed by two votes to gain the two-thirds majority necessary for passage of a resolution to accept the North Carolina cession. North Carolina refused, until 1789, to remake the cession and encouraged opponents of Sevier, led by John Tipton, to maintain North Carolina government in the Franklin area. For three years the governments of North Carolina and Franklin attempted to govern the same people and region. The government of Franklin had a constitution providing for the payment of taxes and salaries in the produce of the country. An even more democratic constitution, which would have renamed the state Frankland, was rejected through the influence of Sevier. The feud between Sevier and Tipton reached the point of hostilities, and Sevier was arrested by North Carolina on a charge of high treason. The charge was later dropped, and Sevier was seated in the North Carolina legislature and in Congress. The legislature ceded the Tennessee country a second time; Congress accepted the cession in 1790 and created The Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio (commonly known as the Southwest Territory), which became the state of Tennessee in 1796.

During the spring of 1835 William M Isbell enlisted in Captain Robert M Williamson’s company of Colonel John H Moore’s regiment at Gonzales, Texas. Captain Williamson was referred to as “Three-legged Willie”. The enlistment was for a two month campaign against the Indians on the upper Brazos River. In October of the same year he joined Captain Thomas Alley’s company and was engaged in December in the Siege of Bexar.

He then went about his business and planted a crop of corn on Mill Creek in Guadalupe County, Texas. He then joined Captain Moseley Baker’s regiment as a soldier in Company D. That was part of Colonel Edward Burleson’s First Regiment of Texas Volunteers. He participated in the battle of San Jacinto as a private. His older brother, James H Isbell, served in the same unit as a private. James H Isbell enlisted in Nacogdoches on the 14th of January 1836. There is documentation located to prove James H Isbell’s service. It follows:

      Soldiers of the Battle of San Jacinto

ISBELL, JAMES H. — Born in Tennessee. He was a son of James R. Isbell who died in Austin County, September 6, 1840. In the Headright Certificate issued to him February 3, 1838 by the Harrisburg County Board for one-third of a league of land, it is stated that he come to Texas in January, 1836. He subscribed to the oath of allegiance to Texas at Nacogdoches, January 14, 1836. He was issued Bounty Certificate No. 1380 for 320 acres of land June 23, 1840 for having served in the army from March 1 to June 1, 1836. He was a member of Captain Moseley Baker’s “San Felipe Company” at San Jacinto. On August 20, 1838 he received Donation Certificate No. 516 for 640 acres for having participated in the battle. On January 31, 1838 he received a Bounty Certificate, unnumbered, for 320 acres of land for having served in the army from July 20 to November 20, 1836. The Deed Records of Fayette and Harris Counties show Mr. Isbell as living in Fayette County in 1845 and Harris County in 1853. Isbell died in Bell County in 1858. Mr. James H. Isbell left a widow, Mrs. Amanda Isbell, and three minor children, Ann, Kate, and James Isbell.

According to Johnnie Belle MacDonald in her book, The Soldiers of San Jacinto published in 2008, this is recorded: At four o’clock one April afternoon 172 years ago, 934 men, unwashed, underfed, caked with mud and dressed in rags, began a slow walk through knee-high grass. A half hour later they crested a low hill. What they did in the next eighteen minutes made our world possible. These were the Soldiers of San Jacinto.

James H Isbell is buried at South Belton Cemetery in Belton which is in Bell County, Texas. William M Isbell is buried at Tehuacana Cemetery in Mexia which is in Limestone County, Texas, USA

Having left the army, William Isbell, went back home to Mill Creek and dutifully harvested his crop. During the winter of 1836 he worked at Jan Long’s tavern in Brazoria. There he tended bar. During the period of time he lived in Houston, Texas (1837-1840) he “wagoned” west for Major Bennett” and in 1841 William Isbell campaigned against Indians under Mark B. Lewis and Thomas Green. After returning to San Antonio he served for six months as a Texas Ranger under John Coffee Hays.

William Isbell removed to Washington County, Texas sometime during the winter of 1842; and then removed to Caldwell, Burleson County, Texas. In Caldwell by 1860 he owned a farm valued at $600 and $2,700 in personal property.

Isbell married Olivia Elvira Jackson on January 13, 1843. They had eight children, three of whom died at an early age. Olivia died in 1865, and in 1867 William married Mary Jane Woods Franklin, a widow. They had six children, three of whom died young. Isbell was blinded in an accident in 1856. “I have never seen my present wife and younger children,” he ended his personal narrative, published in the 1872 Texas Almanac, “as I have been entirely blind for fourteen years.” He died at the Burleson County community of Prairie Mound on December 11, 1877.

The known children by his wife Olivia Elvira Jackson Isbell are: Martha Jane Isbell 1846-1900; Emily Cemantha Isbell 1848-1848; James Reed Isbell 1850-1865; Euphemia Catherine Isbell born 1852; William Douglas Isbell 1855-1866?; John Isaac Isbell 1857-1928; Alexander Marens Isbell born 1861; Julia Isbell born 1864. The known children by his wife Mary Jane Wood Franklin (widow who was half his age) are: William Isbell born 1867;  James Isbell 1869-1880; Greenville Tennessee Isbell 1870-1951; Simon M Isbell 1873-1886; Kittie Isbell 1875-1886; Lucinda H Isbell 1877-1888.

San Jacinto Memorial plagueWilliam and James H Isbell names on Soldier of San Jacinto plague

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

William Banta and J. W. Caldwell, Jr.., Twenty-seven Years on the Texas Frontier (1893; rev. by L. G. Parks, Council Hill, Oklahoma, 1933).

Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986).

Sam Houston Dixon and Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto(Houston: Anson Jones, 1932).

Homer S. Thrall, People’s Illustrated Almanac: Texas Handbook and Immigrants Guide for 1880 (St. Louis: Thompson, 1880). Homer S. Thrall, A Pictorial History of Texas(St. Louis: Thompson, 1879).

CITATION

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “ISBELL, WILLIAM,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fis03), accessed July 05, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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