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BIOGRAPHY: Barnabas Wallace Isbell born ca. 1809 Lawrence County, Alabama

Barnabas Wallace Isbell of Lawrence County

SUBMITTED BY RAY ISBELL [email protected]

Barnabas Wallace Isbell was born 1809/10 in TN (or Ky?) and died Nov 8, 1853 in Tyler Co., TX.  He served Lawrence County, Alabama, as county clerk, sheriff and probate judge. He married Susannah Smyth in Lawrence County Sept. 26, 1833 (she was Susan Tolar, some say, but the record says Smyth).

A May 1835 letter from George W. Smyth to B.W. Isbell preserved in the Smyth Papers, is cited in Stephen Austin, Empresario p.452 (footnote 4) regarding Texas population estimates of 1835. He apparently made several trips between Texas and Alabama and probably bought land in Texas for speculation several years before he moved there.

The Texas Presbyterian, November 19, 1853, p.3:

“Obituary – On the 24th Sept., 1853, at Woodvile [sic], Tyler County, Texas, Barnebas [sic] W. Isbell, departed this life, in the full assurance of a blessed immortality.

The deceased was born in the State of Kentucky. At the age of about six years his parents removed to Alabama, where he lived until he emigrated to Texas, in the winter 1848..

He professed faith in the Saviour of sinners at a Cumberland Presbyterian camp meeting near Moulton, Alabama in his 22d year, but did not untie with the church till some 5 years afterwards, when he united with the church of his choice, in which communion he died.

He married Miss Susan Smythe, sister of the Hon. G. W. Smythe, well known in Texas, and for 20 years, wanting two days, they lived together, living and being loved, when the hand of death seperated [sic] them. She is now in her mourning weeds, he a saint in glory. She is now in sorrow clad, which he is filled with inexpressible joy – while she is sadly weeping with seven dear pledges of their love on these low grounds of sorrow – he is now at rest, safe in his Father’s house, where the flowing tears are all wiped from his eyes by the soft hands of Immanuel.

His pious and affectionate widow, and his fatherless children may well mourn their loss, for he was to her a husband, such as husbands ought be, faithful., affectionate and true, and to his children, tender and indulgent almost to a fault.

This community too, has in his death sustained a loss. As chief Justice of the county, which was his place will be hard to fill. In his social intercourse, kindness marked his steps. To him the needy never applied in vain, and scarcely did he know how to refuse a favor.

As a Christian he was always at his post: he never sought to make a show or boast of his religion – ‘he had no religion to talk about’, his was the active kind. Although a Cumberland Presbyterian, his charity and piety was of that universal kind as scarce distinguished or was distinguishable between the . . . It was of the highest order and had a nobler aim than to devour others, that his own might prosper.

The first time, I suppose it was, that he distinguished himself as a seeker of religion I went up to the altar with him we were both young men together. I was alone with him in his last sickness, the day before he died at night, he exhorted several of his friends to seek salvation. I visited his room in the evening and found him very low; he said to me, ‘Today I thought my race was well nigh run.’ I directed him to look up in his affliction; he replied, “O yes my great Redeemer’s praises I well sing through vast eternity.’ O happy faith – soul cheering, soul sustained confidence!!

He died, no slept, to wake anew
With heaven and glory full in view,
Without a groan, without a sigh,
We seen our friend in triumph die.

Oh, who would not a Christian be,
Who such a death as this could see.
A feeble worm, all wrecked with pain,
Yet counting death itself a gain!

In death to have our prospects bright
Presented to our failing sight,
That while we sink, our soul may rise
To God and glory in the skies!

Sure ’tis enough, poor souls to win,
From unbelief, that dawning sin,
That like the christian we may die,
Like him, may have a home on high.”

This obituary republished in: Old Lawrence Reminiscences (Moulton, AL: Jun 2003), Vol. 17 Issue 2.


1 William Isbell

+ wife unknown

2 Henry Isbell

+ daughter of James & Elizabeth Cox

3 Henry Isbell Jr.
+ Hannah (Borton?)
4 Capt.  Godfrey Isbell, Revolutionary soldier
+ Hannah Clark
5 James Milton Isbell
+ Sarah Jane Wallace
6 Hon. Barnabas W Isbell, sheriff & probate judge of Lawrence Co., Ala.


Record May 27, 1844




PERSONALLY BEFORE ME  Barnabas  W Isbell, Clerk of the County Court of said appeared Thomas Sparks who took and subscribed the following oath to wit:  I do solemnly swear that I have neither directly nor indirectly given accepted or knowingly carried a challenge in writing, or otherwise to any person or persons (being a citizen of the state of Alabama) to fight in single combat or otherwise, with any deadly weapon either in or out of this state, or aided or abetted in the same since the year 1826 and that I will neither directly or indirectly give accept or knowingly carry a challenge in any manner whatsoever to any person or persons ( being a citizen of the State of Alabama)  to fight in single combat or otherwise with any deadly weapon in or out of the state or in any manner whatsoever aid or abet the same during my continuance in the discharge of any public function so help me God.

Sworn to and subscribed before me the 27th day of April 1844

Thomas Sparks

B. W. Isbell Clerk


Record: Nov. 16, 1846

Land Record

1842 Doc: Land Sale by Tuscumbia, Courtland & Dec. RR

This document measures about 8 inches wide and 9.5 inches tall.  It is a single page that has been folded to form two.  It is written completely by hand.  There are some modest rips and some fraying along the perimeter.  It is also gently soiled.

I have done my best to transcribe the document below:

Whereas, on the 4th March 1840, the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Rail Road Company by its then president Benjamin Sherrod made a deed in trust to me as Trustee for certain purposes therein expressed, which deed was duly executed and in which owing other property conveyed was that hereinafter described and sold, and whereas wafer the maturity of said deed to wit in the after May 1842 in the Town of Decatur I proceeded to sell for cash to the highest bidder at public auction after having given sixty days notice of the time and place of such sale, he following property to wit:

The E 1/2 NE Qr. Section 5 T 4 R 6 W  80 Acres

The E 1/2 SE Qr. Section 7 ” 5″6 ” 80 “

The W 1/2 NE Qr. Section 24 ” 5″6 ” 80 “

The W 1/2 SW Qr. Section 19 ” 5″5 ” 80 “

The E 1/2 NW Qr. Section 7 ” 5″6 ” 80 “

The W 1/2 NE Qr. Section 7 ” 5″8 ” 80 “

The S 1/2 , W 1/2 NW Qr Section 18 ” 5″6 ” 40 “

and whereas at said sale the Branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama at Decatur, purchased the said property or real estate for the sum of fifty three  74/100 dollars.  Now these presents witnesseth, that I Stephen O Nelson, in trustee named in the said deed for an in consideration of the sum of fifty three 74/100 dollars, to me in hand paid the estate whereof is hereby admitted, have granted bargained and sold and by these presents do grant bargain and sell unto the said Branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama, at Decatur, the above described real estate, with all and singular the appurtenances there unto belonging is in anywise appertaining witness the rail road itself showed pass through  ? of it neither any part of  ? or its ? intended to be conveyed to have and to hold unto the said Branch of the Bank of the state of Alabama at Decatur, forever, and I the said Stephen O. Nelson hereby expressly convey unto the said Branch of the Bank of the state of Alabama at Decatur as such estate title intent and claim in and to the said premises hereby bargained and sold as is vested in me by said deed and no more.

In evidence whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this the 11th day of August 1842

Stephen O. Nelson Trustee (seal)

(there are some notations, totalling the amount paid for each tract of land)

The State of Alabama

Morgan County SS

Before me Horace Grime’s a notary public in and for said county and state personally appeared Stephen O Nelson who acknowledges that he made the foregoing and annexed deed to he Branch of the Bank of the State of Alabama at Decatur on the day of its date for the purposes therein contained and delivered the same to said Bank this day.

Given under my hand and seal of office at Decatur Alabama  This 12th day of August 1842

H. Grimes

Notary Public

(on the back)

The State of Alabama

Lawrence County SS

I Barnabas W. Isbell clerk of the County court of said county certify that the forgoing deed was deposited in my office for registration September 22nd 1846 and was duly recorded in the Deed Book D pages 391 and 291

In Testimony whereof I hereunto set my name and affix the seal of said court at office at Moulton Nov 16th 1846 and of American Independence the 71 year.

B. W. Isbell Clerk


Record: March 19, 1847

Promissory Note (Loan from the State Bank to Lawrence County government)

$314.71 On or before the 15th March next

we or either of us promise to pay Francis S. Lyon William Cooper and C. C. Clay …(sum or order / … or other) Commissioners for the State Bank of Alabama & Branches under the late Act of 1845&6 the sum of three hundred and fourteen dollars & seventy one cents for Value Recd bearing six per cent interest from date

March 19th  1847
C. C. Lewis
A. P. Galloway,
B. W. Isbell  (Judge Barnabas W. Isbell)

Now in paperback and hardback — Books make great gifts!  FIRST FAMILIES OF LAWRENCE COUNTY, ALABAMA VOLUME I



  1. My great grandmother was a wallace

  2. Delighted to find your website! My gg-grandfather was Barnabas Wallace Isbell!