Isaac Shelby Cemetery State Historic Site
In 1792, Kentucky became an independent state, separate from Virginia, and Isaac Shelby was sworn in as its first governor.
Shelby’s Early Years
Isaac Shelby, was born December 11, 1750, in Maryland. He and his family later moved to Fincastle County, VA (present day Bristol, Tennessee).
Around 1773, Shelby began his military career in Virginia’s militia. He quickly moved up in ranks from lieutenant to captain as he fought in many frontier battles against Native Americans and British forces.
In 1779, Shelby began his political career as he served in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His military career continued as he surveyed lands for military purposes in Kentucky and led militiamen in many battles of the Revolutionary War.
Arriving in Kentucky County
In 1783, he moved west into Kentucky County where he had been granted land as payment for his military and surveying services years before. He settled on his land near Boonesborough (Lincoln County), married Susannah Hart, and turned his attention to the building of his limestone home and expansion of his plantation he called, “Traveler’s Rest.” (He and Susannah went on to have 11 children together.)
A few years later, Shelby served as the sheriff of Lincoln County, and he attended several conventions held to discuss the independent statehood for Kentucky. Isaac Shelby served as Kentucky’s 1st governor from 1792 to 1796, and 5th governor from 1812 to 1816. After his second term, Shelby retired to his plantation and focused on farming.
The Family Cemetery
Isaac Shelby died on July 18, 1826. He was buried in the family cemetery on the property.
His Limestone Home
The limestone home was lost in 1905 to a tragic fire that burned it to its foundation. In 1906, a member of the Shelby family began to rebuild the home on the remaining foundation. The home and its stone slave quarters still stand on the property today, but are privately owned and can not be toured.
State Historic Site
Today, you can visit the property to see the Shelby family cemetery that is now a state historic site. When we visited last year, as a third stop on our Stanford, KY tour, we found the cemetery tucked away, off the main road, among fields of corn. The stone home, that is also a historic site, is further down the drive, clearly marked as private. I suspect that in the winter, when the cornfields have been plowed, you can get a glimpse of the home from the cemetery. The day we visited, we could see just the top of a chimney peaking over the cornstalks. It was a very quick stop, but extremely picturesque. The cemetery gate is locked, so you must view the headstones from a distance. I wouldn’t make this a destination in and of itself. Our 3 stops of the William Whitley home, Logan’s Station, and the Isaac Shelby cemetery worked out very well and was easily done in a day.
I hope that you are inspired to make a trip and spend a day in Stanford, KY.