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Isaac Shelby papers, 1784-1816

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Processed by: Archives Staff ; machine-readable finding aid created by:Eric Weig


Isaac Shelby papers




University of Kentucky Special CollectionsLexington, Kentucky 40506


Organized by accession number. Accessions 1VF50W35 and 1VF50W36 arranged in two parts; incoming and outgoing Shelby correspondence.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation Note

[Identification of item], Isaac Shelby papers, 1784-1816, 1VF50W30, 1VF50W32, 1VF50W35, 1VF50W36, 1VF51W1, 1VF51W6, 1VF54W8, 1VF71W1, AAP2249LM, Special Collections, University of Kentucky.


188 pieces.


Governor of Kentucky, soldier. Isaac Shelby was a militia officer, surveyor, Indian fighter, member of the Virginia legislature and member of the North Carolina legislature before removing to Kentucky in 1783, where, after participating in military affairs and in politics, including the first Kentucky Constitutional Convention, he was elected the newly-formed state's governor in 1792. During his administration some of Shelby's most important acts included stabilizing the government of the new state and lending support to General Anthony Wayne's campaigns in the Northwest Territory. Shelby declined to serve a second consecutive term, but was called from retirement in 1812 because of the war with Great Britain and was again elected governor.

In his second term Shelby aided the federal government in its prosecution of the war and personally led the Kentucky Volunteers in General William Henry Harrison's invasion of Canada, which resulted in a victory for the United States in the Battle of the Thames in 1813. After his second term as governor, Shelby continued to serve on various boards and committees, including those of Transylvania Seminary (now University) in Lexington and Centre College in Danville. In 1817 Shelby declined President James Monroe's offer serving as Secretary of War. The following year he served with General Andrew Jackson on a commission to negotiate with the Chickasaw Indians concerning their lands west of the Tennessee River. Shelby died and was buried at his home, "Traveller's Rest," near Danville, in 1826.

Scope and Content

See other Wilson accessions for additional Shelby material.

These are some of the papers of Isaac Shelby, first governor of Kentucky, compiled by Judge Samuel M. Wilson. Most accessions consist of only one item. Included in these holdings are letters from Shelby to William Blount, governor of Tennessee, and Green Clay. In a letter of 1784 to his mother-in-law, Sarah Hart, Shelby mentions Daniel Boone in connection with surveying. Certificates include the appointment of Thomas Barbee, et al. as justices of the peace for Mercer County and Harry Innes as chief justice of Kentucky in 1792. Judge Wilson's typed copies of Shelby letters include correspondence from Andrew Jackson, Harry Innes, Levi Todd, Robert B. McAfee, Matthew Jouett, James Monroe, James Madison and John Crittenden. Judge Wilson also made copies of Shelby's official correspondence during his second term as governor. Correspondents include William Henry Harrison, several of the individuals listed above and many others.


  • Barbee, Thomas, 1749-1818.
  • Blount, William, 1749-1800.
  • Boone, Daniel, 1734-1820.
  • Clay, Green, 1757-1828.
  • Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863.
  • Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841.
  • Innes, Harry, 1752-1816.
  • Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845.
  • Jouett, Matthew Harris, 1788-1827.
  • Madison, James, 1751-1836.
  • Monroe, James, 1758-1831.
  • Shelby, Isaac, 1750-1826.
  • Todd, Levi, 1756-1807.
  • Governors.
  • Kentucky--Politics and government--18th century.
  • Kentucky--Politics and government--19th century

User Restrictions

Copyright has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky.