An American Family History


The Shelby Family


The French and Indian War lasted from 1754 to 1763 and was the North American phase of the Seven Years' War.

Fincastle County, Virginia was created in 1772 from Botetourt County and abolished in 1776. It was divided into Montgomery, Washington and Kentucky Counties.

Colonel Evan Shelby was born about 1723 in Wales and was the son of Evan Shelby and Catherine Davis.

He married Leticia Cox. She was the daughter of Isaac Cox and Abigail Rose.

Isaac Shelby (1750, married Susannah Hart),
James Shelby (1752),
Evan Shelby (1754), and
Moses Shelby (1760).

Evan served He under Captain Moses Chapline during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) in Maryland.

Evan built a fort in what is now eastern Tennessee in 1771.

In 1771 Shelby brought his family to the Holston country, settling at Sapling Grove, or what is now Bristol, Tennessee.

Here he built a fort which was known as "Shelby's Station." It was quite commodious, many hundreds being forted there at times during Indian raids...

The Shelbys kept a store at their fort. On the facsimile of a leaf from the store ledger will be seen the names of some of their distinguished customers—the Seviers, James Robertson and Daniel Boone.... (from Historic Sullivan by Oliver Taylor)

In 1774, Isaac, James, and Evan served in the Fincastle County Militia during Lord Dunmore's War.

In 1775 Isaac and Evan were members of the Fincastle County Committee of Safety.

In 1776, Evan Shelby was a major in the Cherokee Expedition. Isaac and James Shelby were calptain.

Moses, James, Isaac, Evan Jr., John and David Shelby, signed the 1777 petition of men living on the north Holston River complaining about the division of Fincastle County. They felt the line was not equitable and the court house was too far away.

General Evan Shelby, high in the confidence of his countrymen everywhere, remarkable for his probity, candour, good sense and patriotism, was requested by Gov. Caswell to take charge of this delicate negotiation; and, in conjunction with others, whose assistance he solicited, met a Commission from the State of Franklin, on the 20th day of March, 1787, at the house of Samuel Smith. At this conference Gov. Sevier represented his own government, aided by such of its friends as he chose to invite. (from The Annals of Tennessee by James Gettys McGready Ramsey)

In 1784, David received a warrant for land in Sullivan County, Tennessee. At that time it was in North Carolina.

Evan died in 1794.

The Cherokee were indigenous people who lived in the southern Appalachian mountains. European Americans called their towns in eastern Tennessee, the Overhill Towns. The towns included Chota, Tellico and Tanasi.

In 1776, the Cherokee planned to drive settlers out of the Washington District. The settlers were warned and stopped the first attack at Heaton's Station. The second attack was stopped at Fort Watauga. In response to these attacks, the militia burned Tuskegee and Citico.

In 1780, while the militia was away at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the Cherokee raided the setttlements. When the militia returned, Colonel John Sevier's men defeated the Cherokee at Boyd's Creek and destroyed most of the remaining towns.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive battle of the American Revoluton. It took place on October 7, 1780, nine miles south of the present-day town of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The Patriot militia defeated the Loyalist militia commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson.

The Battle of Point Pleasant (Battle of Kanawha) was on October 10, 1774. It was between the Virginia militia and the Shawnee and Mingo. The Shawnee unsuccesfully  attempted to halt the militia's advance into the Ohio Valley.

Colonel Isaac Shelby was born about 1750 in what is now Washington County. He was son of Evan Shelby and Laetitia Cox,

He he married Susannah Hart in Boonesborough, Kentucky. Susannah was the daughter of Nathaniel Hart and Sarah Simpson.

Sarah Shelby McDowell (1785, married Ephraim McDowell)
Evan Shelby (1787, married Nancy Wilcox Warren)
Thomas Shelby (1789, married Mary Bullock)
Susan Shelby Fishback (1791, married James Fishback)
Nancy Shelby Nelson (1792, married Samuel Nelson)
Isaac Shelby (1795, married Mary Boswell)
John Shelby (1797)
Letitia Shelby Todd (1799, married Charles Todd)
Cathrine Shelby (1801)
Alfred Shelby (1804).

About 1770, a portion of the tract (973 acres) was purchased by Evan Shelby and Isaac Baker. In 1771 Col. Shelby, a noted Indian fighter, erected a fort on a hill overlooking what is now downtown Bristol. It was an important stopping-off place for notables such as Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark, as well as hundreds of pioneers enroute to the interior of the developing nation. Shelby's Fort is best known as one place where the Battle of King's Mountain was planned. 

He served as a lieutenant in his father's Fincastle Company, at the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore's War.

He was appointed Captain by the Virginia Committee of Safety in July, 1776, and in 1779, became a member of the Virginia House of Burgess for Washington County.

In 1780, he was appointed to be a justice of the peace in Sullivan County, Tennessee.

At the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, he led his regiment which was the left interior column. During the battle the middle two columns exchanging fire with the English for fifteen minutes while the flanking columns moved into position. The English drove back Colonels Shelby and Campbell with a bayonet charge.

He was appointed by Virginia Governor Jefferson as a Major in the escort of guards for the commissioners appointed to run the western boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina.

In 1782, he was a member of the legislature of North Carolina and later served as commissioner to settle claims on the Cumberland River and to lay off solders' lands near the site of Nashville. He attended the convention that framed the first constitution of Kentucky, and was elected that state's first Governor, was re-elected in 1812, serving until 1816.

In the War of 1812, he commanded 4,000 troops under General Harrison and marched into Canada in 1813.

He died July 18, 1826.

Fincastle County, Virginia, was created in 1772 from Botetourt County. In 1776 it was divided into three counties; Montgomery, Washington, and Kentucky (which the state of Kentucky).

In 1774 Governor Dunmore declared war against the indignious Americans. The war ended after Virginia's victory in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774.



John Shelby was born about 1723 in Wales and was the son of Evan Shelby and Catherine Davis. children included:

His children included:

John Shelby, Jr. (married Elizabeth Brigham),
David Shelby (1763 married Sarah Bledsoe),
Evan Shelby,
Thomas Shelby,
Isaac Shelby,
Louisa Shelby (married William McCrab), and
Catherine Shelby (married her cousin Evan Shelby III).

In 1777 the Washington County Court

ordered that Capt. Robert Craig and Capt. John Shelby be added to the Commissioners appointed to receive and destribute the Flour contributed in Augusta or elsewhere for the distressed inhabitants of this County.

In 1778 the Washington County, Virginia Court heard

the complaint of Mary Daily against her Mistress Katherine Shelby for misusage this day the said Mary Daily in her proper person and the complaint aforesaid bieng fully heard on consideration whereof it is the opinion of the Court the complaint is groundless & it is ordered that she seve her Master one year after the time of her indenture is expired for having a Bastard Child.

In 1788 John received a land warrant in Sullivan County. At that time it was in North Carolina.




from The Bristol Herald Courier
Sunday November 3 1963

The Story of John Shelby The Younger Brother
By Gordon Aronhime

The quirk of fate that kept John Shelby from fame is one that many have experienced over the centuries. He had an older brother in this case the famous General Shelby. In most such instances the younger brother is known as so and so’s younger brother. Even this meager dosage of fame was withheld from John Shelby. Almost no one has ever heard of him. This is most unfortunate for he was a man of considerable distinction and he had children who although they did not reach the peaks of prominence their first cousins achieved were certainly brilliant additions to the frontier.

It is thought that John Shelby was born in 1724. He was not the second, but may have been the fourth child born to Evan and Catharine Shelby who lived near the market town of Tregaron in Cardiganshire, Wales. The Shelby family were staunch members of the Anglican church and attended St. Caron’s church in Tregaron. John was but ten or eleven when his parents gathered up their seven children and brought them to America.

They settled in what is now Franklin County, Pa. Soon after they moved to what is today Maryland’s 'Washington County. The elder Evan Shelby died on 19 May 1750. His son John had already married Sarah daughter of other Welsh settlers David and Katherine (Davis) Davis. Some persons confusing the marriage of John Shelby, Jr. with the daughter of David and Louisa (Looney) Brigham have insisted that the elder John Shelby’s wife was Louisa Looney, but this was the mother-in-law of his eldest son.

John Shelby, the General’s brother, joined his brother Evan’s militia company and they served Evan as Captain and John as a soldier under General Forbes in the French and Indian War in 1758. Later perhaps in 1759 John Shelby was commissioned a Lieutenant of the militia.

John and Sarah Shelby and their children continued to live on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border until the decade of 1770-80. In December, 1770 the elder brother Evan Shelby moved to the Holston. No one knows where General Shelby lived first when he came out to our section. He did not buy the Sapling Grove Tract (Bristol) until-two full years later.

John Shelby came out to our region in November or December of 1772 traveling along the route in a caravan as was done then for protection with Isaac Baker. It is a curious thing that when General Shelby bought the land on which Bristol now stands he shared it with Isaac Baker each taking 973 acres of this 1946 acre tract. Evan Shelby likewise bought one fourth of the tract of land some four or five miles away called The Hazel Lands on which John Shelby who bought three-fourths of' it lived the balance of his life. It is impossible not to wonder why the brothers Shelby did not buy the tract of land on which Bristol stands and live there as neighbors.

The Hazel Lands is a beautiful name for a tract and the land itself is equally beautiful. It is the land that is partly owned today by the Morton family on Holston River a few miles above the mouth of Paddle Creek and below Beidlemans. The price paid for the land was 350 pounds or about $1,750. The property covered almost two square miles. When John Shelby came to this tract of land which he and everyone else in those days supposed to be in Virginia he found three men living on it. One was John Cox ,Sr. (ancestor of the late Governor John Isaacs Cox and of Mrs Homer A. Jones, Sr.), Valentine Little and one William Blevins. The Shelbys bought the rights to the tract of land from all these people, but the Blevins family refused to move. Twenty-five years later John Shelby was still trying to eject Blevins from the land.

It should be remembered that prior to running the line between Carolina (Tennessee) and Virginia in 1779 everything on the north side of Holston River-was thought to be in Virginia and all south of the river in North Carolina (later Tennessee). This was seldom disputed When the land was found later on to actually be in Tennessee the government of Tennessee honored the grant that had been made by the colonial government of Virginia for the land.

This same situation prevailed on the great 3,500 acre tract from which 4,500 acres was sold that stretches along Reedy Creek north of Kingsport— the so-called Pendleton Tract. As late as 1796, John Shelby wrote a letter to the Preston family at Christiansburg complaining rather bitterly that he had been 25 years trying to get peaceful possession of his land from the Blevins family. This was brought about how-ever before the year 1800 though exactly when we cannot say since the records at Blountville were burned during the Civil War.

John Shelby served during the Revolution as a Captain in the Washington County Virginia militia of which his elder brother Evan was the full Colonel and commander (under -the County Lieutenant or military commander who was Arthur Campbell). Before that he had been offered a position as Lieutenant in the Fincastle militia Washington County being struck off from Fincastle in 1776. We do not know whether or not he accepted the offer of the commission of lieutenant m the Fincastle militia in 1774, but it is probable that he did.

The military career of John Shelby during the Revolution was limited. The only expedition that he commanded of which we have positive proof came in the Spring of 1778 when he headed an expedition to the Clinch River. This is attested to by the pension statements of three men who served under him.

There is bound to be much confusion over the records concerning John Shelby’s military career since he had a son named John and so did General Shelby. Also the records sometimes merely say "Captain Shelby" and General Shelby himself-prior to 1776 was a Captain and-subsequent to that date or of that date four of his sons Isaac Moses, Evan, and James Shelby were captains!

Naturally when the home of John Shelby was found to be in Tennessee (North Carolina) by the running of the line of 1779 he resigned his commission. There is not any real proof that he held any military commission under the Sullivan County militia command.

The known children of John and Sarah Shelby, though not necessarily in order of birth are as follows: John Jr., David, Thomas, Isaac (not to be confused with his very distinguished cousin Isaac first Governor of Kentucky) Evan, Catherine, and Louis Levisa.

Catherine Shelby married her first cousin Evan Shelby- (son of General Evan) - and after being widowed by the Indians in 1793 again married this time to one Samuel May.

David born in 1763 married Sarah daughter of the celebrated Colonel Anthony Bledsoe. It was David who became first clerk of the court of Sumner County Tennessee.

Thomas and Isaac Shelby were both Sheriffs of Sullivan County. Thomas in 1800 or 1802 and Isaac in 1796.

John Shelby, Jr. married the daughter of David and Louisa (Looney) Brigham. It was David Brigham who gave the land to the county for the building of Blountville. John Jr. was a man of distinction, but just how much is difficult to say since it is not always possible to separate the achievements of himself son of the General. We do know that this John Shelby, Jr. was one of the first trustees of the Town of Blountville.

Those wonderful ladies in Washington who wear shiny ribbons across their bosoms the Daughters of the American Revolution polished off John Shelby Senior in 1794, but in spite of their assertion of the date of his death the good Welsh stock of the Shelby family was able to withstand such an onslaught for John Shelby did not die the same year is his brother General Evan. Unfortunately we do not know the date of death of either John Shelby Senior or of his wife Sarah. We only know that Sarah was living as late'as 1787 and that John Shelby though well past 80 at the time was living in 1806. We do not know where, much less when, John Shelby died, but there is very likelihood that he died in 1808 or 1809. It was then that the children began to sell off parcels of the Hazel Land Tract and move away. It is very likely indeed that John Shelby lies buried in that overgrown tangle of honeysuckle above Blevins Branch known as the Blevins Cemetery, his grave unmarked except for a huge limestone field rock.

Less than six miles due north of this overgrown cemetery is East Hill Cemetery. There under an iron slab and in a carefully tended grave, lies the dust of General Evan Shelby. The role of John Shelby as the obscure brother extends even to the grave.


from Notable Southern Families, Volume 2

John Shelby, son of Evan Dhu Shelby and Catherine Davis Shelby, served with his brother, Brig-Gen. Shelby, at the Battle of King's Mountain. He and Louisa Looney Shelby had issue:
(1) John Shelby, junior, married Elizabeth Brigham;
(2) David Shelby born about 1763 in Virginia, married Sarah Bledsoe;
(3) Evan Shelby;
(4)Thomas Shelby;
(5) Isaac Shelby;
(6) Louisa Shelby, married William McCrab;
(7) Catherine Shelby, married Evan Shelby III; her cousin.


from Sullivan County, Tennessee Deed Book 1
Land Grant 338
November 10, 1784
State of North Carolina
to David Shelby
50 shillings for every 100 acres
200 acres in Sullivan Co., NC
between Stephen Rentfroe's & John Crocket's line
Adj to George Hymes, Alexander Martin, Esq.


The Battle of Point Pleasant (Battle of Kanawha) was on October 10, 1774. It was between the Virginia militia and the Shawnee and Mingo. The Shawnee unsuccesfully  attempted to halt the militia's advance into the Ohio Valley.

from Notable Southern Families, Volume 2

David Shelby, son of John Shelby and Louisa Looney, was born about 1763 in Virginia. He was the ancestor of a family which has been prominent in America and England.. David Shelby was also a King's Mountain hero though he was only a lad of seventeen. He served in Isaac Shelby's Regiment. He moved to Sumner County, Tennessee, and was Clerk of the Court untill his death in 1822.

He married Sarah Bledsoe, daughter of Anthony Bledsoe...

Sarah Bledsoe was born in Virginia in 1763. came to Sumner County, Tennessee, in 1781. the same year she married David Shelby, and died March 11, 1852. They had issue :
1 John Shelbv, born May 24, 1785.
2 Anthony Bledsoe Shelby, born Jan. 15. 1789.
3 Philip Davies Shelby, born March 7, 1791, died May 27, 1799.
4 Priscilla Shelby, born March 8. 1793.
5 Lucillia Shelby, born March 24, 1795.
6 James Shelby, born July 13, 1797; died Aug. 28, 1797.
7 Nellie Shelby, born Jan. 14. 1799.
8 David Davies Shelby, born July 15. 1801, died Aug. 2, 1805.
9 Orville Shelby born Jan. 21. 1803.
10 Sarah Bledsoe Shelby, born Jan. 21. 1806.
11 Albert Shelby, born May 25, 1808.


from The Militia of Washington County, Virginia, by Gerald H. Clark

About 1770, a portion of the tract (973 acres) was purchased by Evan Shelby and Issac Baker. In 1771 Col. Shelby, a noted Indian fighter, erected a fort on a hill overlooking what is now downtown Bristol. It was an important stopping-off place for notables such as Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark, as well as hundreds of pioneers enroute to the interior of the developing nation. Shelby's Fort is best known as one place where the Battle of King's Mountain was planned.

The Holston River flows from Kingsport to Knoxville.
map by Kmusser

from Goodspeed's History of Sullivan County, Tennessee

Gen. Evan Shelby located on Beaver Creek, at what was known as the Beaver Dam Bottoms, in 1771, where he erected a fort on an eminence overlooking the site of Bristol.

He was born in Wales in 1720, and before coming to Tennessee had taken an active part in the French and Indian war on the borders of Maryland and Pennsylvania. He commanded a company of militia from Sullivan County at the battle of Point Pleasant, and was the leader of the famous Chickamauga expedition. Afterward he was appointed by Virginia a general of her militia.

He died in 1794, and was buried in the old family burial ground at Bristol, which was removed a few years ago.

His son, Isaac [Shelby], was made a lieutenant of militia in 1774, and as such participated in the battle of Point Pleasant. In 1776 he was appointed commissary, which position he held at the battle of Long Island Flats. Prior to the extension of the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia, he served a term in the Legislature of the latter State. His last public service in Tennessee was as commander of the regiments at King's Mountain.

Evan Shelby, Jr., was a major in his brother's regiment at King's Mountain. In 1790 he went to Kentucky, where he was killed by the Indians about three years later...

The Bledsoes and Beelers located on land adjoining the Shelbys. The Beelers owned the tract of land on Cedar Creek known as Sapling Grove.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive battle of the American Revoluton. It took place on October 7, 1780, nine miles south of the present-day town of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The Patriot militia defeated the Loyalist militia commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson.

Colonel Evan Shelby was one of the great men produced by the conditions existing upon the frontiers in those days. He was well educated, patriotic and a very wise counsellor, and many times did he command expeditions against the Indian tribes living south of the Tennessee.

The Virginia Government greatly appreciated his worth, and prior to 1781 conferred upon him numerous (very valuable) tracts of land within her territory, and subsequent to 1781 the Government of North Carolina showered upon him every honor that could be thought of.

Colonel Shelby departed this life in the year 1794, leaving Isaac Shelby, Moses Shelby, Evan Shelby and James Shelby, sons, and several daughters.

His remains were interred in a grove of very fine trees and within view of his former residence, and remained there until the growth of Bristol required their removal to the present cemetery. The location of his grave previous to this removal is now pointed out as being on Fifth street immediately in front of the First Presbyterian church, Bristol, Tennessee.


Alcohol played a significant role in the daily lives of colonists; even children. They feared polluted water and believed in alcohol's nourishing and medicinal properties.

The second mercantile establishment in the settlements was actually a combination trading post, way station, and stockade erected north of the Watauga by hard-drinking Evan Shelby, a Marylander originally from Wales. This fort, known as Shelby's Station, covering over an acre and a half, was built on a hill above Beaver Creek (above the corner of present-day seventh and Anderson streets in Bristol, Tennessee) as a bastion against the Indians.

During the French and Indian War Shelby was a scout with Braddock and commanded a company with Forbes. Afterward, he became a fur trader amont the Indians. During his travels in and out of the western wildrness, he heard about a tradesman named William Bean and a farmer, James Robertson, who had settled on the Watauga and the Sycamore Shoals, respectively...

He first appeared in what is now the East Tennessee country about the close of the year 1770 and was excited by all he saw. He wrote his sons of his satisfaction with the territory, telling them that the soldiers and officers of the French and Indian War would undoubtedly receive grants of land there, and for them to purchase as many of the grants as possible. They did as he suggested.

The following year, at the age of 51, Shelby moved his family to the Holston Country and settled at a place called "Big Camp Meet" (now Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia). The place was a prehistoric Indian village named, according to legend, because numerous deer and buffalo met here to feast in the canebreaks. An Indian trail, which the early settlers would traverse, followed an old Buffalo path from what is now Bristol to present-day Blountville. Shelby renamed the site Sapling Grove (which would later be changed to King's Meadows and still later to Bristol). Here, the Shelby family engaged in merchandising, farming and cattle raising.

Deery Inn
The Deery Inn
Blountville, Tennessee

There were two Beaver Creeks in early Washington County, Virginia. One (also called Shallow Creek) flowed through Bristol and emptied into the South Fork of the Holston River in Tennessee. The other was a south branch of the North Fork of the Holston River in current Smyth County.

East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.
Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2020
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