1750 to 1826
About 1,100 British
troops led by Major Patrick Ferguson were camped atop the mountain, and the
commander declared that " even the almighty can not drive me from it.
So it was on October 7, 1780 when Isaac Shelby helped lead buckskin-clad
American sharpshooters to victory, driving the British from Kings Mountain,
which paved the way for the defeat of the British troops under Lord Cornwallis.
This was his most noteworthy wartime accomplishment.
Born on December 11,1750, Isaac Shelby seemed destined to become a soldier. His
father served with distinction in the French and Indian War. In 1774 Isaac
served as lieutenant in his fathers company at the battle of Point Pleasant.
Moving to Travelers Rest, Shelby completed his stone house in 1786. In 1783 he
was appointed a trustee of Transylvania Seminary. He also worked as a surveyor
and was High Sheriff of Lincoln County. He belonged to the war board appointed
by Congress to provide defense of the frontier, and participated actively in the
ten conventions that led to Kentucky's statehood in 1792.
After his victory at King's Mountain, Shelby returned to Kentucky and married
his childhood sweetheart Susannah Hart on April 19,1783. On his wedding day a
historian described Shelby as " a heavy rugged fellow, with a ruddy face,
firm lips, and a resolute eye.
Isaac Shelby was equally at home on the fields of battle or in the halls of
government. Shelby was known for his common sense, diplomacy, and self-control,
making him a likely choice to lead the transformation of Kentucky from primitive
wilderness into American statehood.
A member of the 1792 convention that drew up Kentucky's first constitution,
Shelby was elected governor and took office on June 4th. During this term he
pushed for improvement of the Wilderness Road making it safer and more
navigable. After serving four years he declined re-election and retired to his
Lincoln County farm, known as Traveler's Rest, to farm and raise cattle.
For sixteen years Shelby prospered from the sale of horses and mules to southern
cotton planters. When the war of 1812 broke out, Kentucky called on its 61 year
old hero to serve a second term as governor. Shelby responded by organizing and
leading an army of Kentuckians that defeated the British at Thames, Canada in
His efforts earned him a resolution of thanks and a gold medal from the United
States Congress. He refused because of age, an offer from President James Monroe
in 1817, to serve as Secretary of War. His last public service came in 1818 when
he joined Andrew Jackson to draw up a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians for
4,600 square miles of land in western Kentucky and Tennessee, known as the
After his second term as governor, Shelby returned to his beloved Travelers Rest
to farm, and his home was open to any soldier who passed by it. He died of
Apoplexy on July 18,1826, while sitting with his wife on his front porch and was
buried at Travelers Rest on a spot he marked for his grave.
There are no fewer then nine counties in the country named after Shelby.
Isaac Shelby's actions in 1813 at the battle of Thames occurred at a time when
the nation was in a crisis. The whole western frontier was menaced by a savage
foe, aided and supported by British intrigue, our first army captured, and the
Michigan territory in possession of the enemy.
He became the rallying point of patriotism. It was his unauthorized though
judicious step which he assumed upon his own responsibility, of calling out
mounted volunteers that produced the memorable victory on the Thames.