Samuel  J. Isaacs "Mystery Sam"

Samuel J. Isaacs was born about 1795, in North Carolina.  He was the son of Samuel Isaacs and Nancy Baldridge.  He probably married his wife Sarah sometime around 1818.  I didn't find him in the 1820 census, but he was listed in the minutes of the Elk Lick Baptist church, (in Clay County at that time), along with his parents in August 1826. 

1st Saturday in August, 1826:

Samuel and Nancy Isaacs were received into the Elk Lick Baptist Church "by letter."

Samuel Isaacs was received "by recantation." 

An individual usually joined the Baptist Church either "by experience" or "by letter."  If a person wanted to join the Baptist Church for the first time, that person needed to "give evidence that he acknowledged sin in his life, had confessed this sin, had sought forgiveness of God for this sin and had truly committed himself to God and the church."  He would thus be received "by experience" into the church. A person who had previously belonged to a Baptist Church, but had moved and wanted to join the church in her new community, would submit a letter of dismissal from her former church stating that she was a member in good standing. She would then be received "by letter" into the new church.  Samuel Jr. was received "by recantation."  Since being received "by experience" already allowed for confession and forgiveness of sin, I would imagine that Samuel Jr. was not a new member but, like his parents, had also been a member of an existing Baptist congregation.  Most likely he wasn't in good enough standing to qualify for a letter of dismissal from his previous congregation, but the new congregation found him to be repentant, so he was received "by recantation." 

Although Samuel Jr. recanted his earlier sins, he didn't seem able to stay out of trouble:

June, 1826: The church required Samuel Isaacs to come forward and let them know why he had blasphemed the name of God. The church getting no satisfaction after due labors, excluded him for the church.

February 1827: Brother Reynolds laid a report against Sam Isaacs saying, "he had been drinking too much spirituous liquor and using profane language.  

July 1828: S. Isaacs received by recantation.

Samuel Jr. was listed on the 1830 census of Estill County as Samuel J. Isaacs.  But he must have maintained his membership in the Elk Lick Baptist church because his name continued to show up in the minutes.

March 1832: The church takes up the matter concerning Brother Samuel Isaacs from last meeting "laid in by Brother Reynolds. Brother Moore "says that Brother Isaacs told him that he had acted wickedly and wishes the church to wait with him." The church concludes to "exclude Brother Samuel Isaacs from her fellowship."

July 1837: Samuel Isaac came forward and "let the church know he had acted in disorder." The church took up the matter and "say they are satisfied with the brother's acknowledgment."

April 1839: Samuel Isaacs let the church know he had "done wrong pertaining to his family. The church took up the matter and laid it over to the next meeting."

According to the 1839 Madison County Court Records, August term, Samuel Isaacs had a dispute with Elisha W. Bowman:

To the Sheriff of Madison County, Greeting: You are hereby commanded to take Samuel Isaacs if he is found within your bailiwick, and him safely keep, so that you have his body before the judge of Madison Circuit Court, at the Court House thereof, on the first day of our next Sept Term to answer Elisha W. Bowman of a plea of trespass viet arming damage $500.00 and that you have there this writ. Witness, David Irvine, Clerk of our said Court, at the Court House this 4th August 1839, and in the 48th year of the Commonwealth.

[It is charged that the] defendant [Samuel] with force...made an assault upon the plaintiff [Elisha], and the...deft did then and there ___ beat bruise and ill treat striking plaintiff with rocks, sticks and other wrong, then and there did against the peace ....

Samuel was listed in the 1840 Madison County census  and consented to the marriages of several of his children throughout the 1850's. But I cannot find him in the 1850 census of Madison or any other county in Kentucky.  However, there was a land record in Jackson County, October 1858 that listed Samuel and his wife Sarah, selling land to their son Andrew J. Isaacs.  

The death of Samuel Isaacs was listed in  Rockcastle County Death Records, 1858-1900 pg. 256, "Samuel Isaacs died August 1859, age 65 of fever, having been sick for 35 days."  He was also listed in the mortality schedule for the 1860 census year, as having died in Rockcastle County, in August 1859.  His nativity was listed as North Carolina.  We fondly call this Samuel, "Mystery Sam" because there are so many things we don't know about him.  It also helps distinguish him from his father, Samuel who married Nancy Baldridge.  

Sarah Isaacs appeared on the 1860 census of Rockcastle, listed as a widow, age 64, living with her son Godfrey and his wife Malinda Wilder.  In 1870 Sarah was still living with Godfrey and and his wife Malinda, but they were in Scott County.  On that census Godfrey was listed as Isiac Godfree.   In 1880 Sarah (Sallie) was living with her grandson, Samuel Isaacs, son of George W. Isaacs and Mary Baker, in Owen County.  She was 85 years old.  She listed her parents as both being born in Kentucky.

Children of Mystery Sam and Sarah

We can't find Mystery Sam on the 1820 census as the head of a household.  He would have been about 24  in 1820 and it seems likely he would be married.  However there was a male living with Samuel Isaacs and Nancy Baldridge in the 16-26 category, and both of his brothers, Godfrey and William, who would also fit into that category were married and accounted for in their own households.  So it is possible that Samuel married for the first time after 1820 or that he and his wife were living with his or her parents in 1820.  Samuel J. Isaacs appeared on the 1830 census of Estill County.  In 1830, there was a female in Samuel's home listed in the 10 to 15 category.  Assuming this was his daughter would support the idea of a marriage date of about 1818.

1. The 1830 census indicated that the oldest child of Samuel and Sarah was female, born between 1815 and 1820.  I am not sure who this child might have been.

2. George Washington Isaacs was born about 1824.  He married Mary Baker in Madison County, 17 January 1843.  The marriage bond, dated 16 January 1843, listed Ambrose Brockman as the bondsman, Greenberry Baker as the father of the bride and Samuel Isaacs as the father of the groom.  Mary Baker was born about 1823 in Kentucky.  In several land records in Madison County, George was referred to as Washington.  George W. was listed in Grant County in 1860.  There was a marriage of a G. W. Isaacs and Martha A. Smith listed in the Grant County Court records dated 11 June 1863.  Ben Abner was the bondsman and the marriage was performed by T. Morris at the residence of G. W. Isaacs. It might have been a 2nd marriage for this George Washington, as it appears that Mary Baker died during this period.  But if it were this GW, than the marriage didn't last very long because George Washington Isaacs was living in Scott County in 1870 without a spouse. I could find George Washington Isaacs on the 1880 census.

3. Rebecca Isaacs was born about 1825.  She married Peter Mays in Madison County, 24 April 1842.  The bond was dated 23 April 1842, with Samuel J. Isaacs listed as the bondsman and the father of the bride and William Mays listed as the father of the groom.  Rebecca and Peter were in Madison County in 1850 and Owlsey County in 1860.  Peter and Rebecca were in Lawrence Co. Indiana in 1870 with their sons David (19), Isham (15) and Henry (14).  They were still in Lawrence Co., Indiana in 1880 living with  Johnie (8) listed as their son.  

4. Nancy Isaacs was born about 1830.  She married Andrew Johnson on 7 June 1851 (bond and return) in Madison County.  Samuel Isaacs was listed as the bondsman and the father of the bride.  An Andrew Johnson married a 2nd time on 6 May 1862 to Annie Arzenia Woodson in Madison County.  This might be the same Andrew.

5. Joseph A. Isaacs was listed as 21 on the bond when he married Lewatty Isaacs on 17 July 1854.  Lewatty was listed as 20.  We know from the census data that this age was not correct for Lewatty who was the daughter of James Isaacs.  She was 19 on the 1850 census, 29 on the 1860 census, 39 on the 1870 census and 48 on the 1880 census.  Those four records seem to indicate that she was more likely about 23 at the time of her marriage to Joseph.  It seems logical to also assume that Joseph might be a little older than his listed age, perhaps as old as 24?  That would make his birth range somewhere between 1830 and 1833.  Since we cannot find Mystery Sam's family in 1850, and Joseph was deceased by 1860 we can only estimate his age.  Joseph A. Isaacs and Lewatty Isaacs were married in  Madison County with Samuel J. Isaacs as bondsman, Samuel J. Isaacs was listed as the father of the groom and James Isaacs was listed as the father of the bride. Since James and Samuel were brothers, Joseph and Lewatty were first cousins. Lewatty married Isaac Harrison (another 1st cousin) on 28 June 1863 in Jackson County.  

6. Andrew J. Isaacs was born about 1835 in Perry County.  He married Martha Miller 7 July 1855 in Madison County. The bondsman was Sidney W. Harris and consent was given by Samuel Isaacs, father of the groom and Sally Miller, mother of the bride. Andrew was 20 years old and reported his birth in Perry County, Martha was16 years old.  Andrew and Martha were in Madison County in 1860, but I haven't been able to find them in 1870.

7. Thomas Isaacs's birth date is also a mystery.  We know his name appeared in the vital records of  Madison County on birth records for two of his children i.e. Susan Isaacs, daughter of Thomas Isaacs and Mary Ann Cates born in Madison in 1852, and John Isaacs born 19 April 1855 in Madison but recorded in Owsley.  Thomas Isaacs also appeared on the Madison County Land Records with his brother George Washington Isaacs in 1855, but again no clue to his actual birth date was given in the record.

8-440 9 Mar 1855 Washington and Thomas Isaacs hereby convey to G. W. Rogers a horse, cow and calf, and land on the waters of Horse Lick, the 50 acres of land he bought from John Adams. This is the land where Thomas Isaacs now lives. 

I have been told by an Isaacs' descendent that Mary Ann Cates married an Isaacs and had four children, Nancy Jane born about 1851, Susan born about 1853, John born about 1855 and Sarah M. born about 1858.  She said she didn't know what happened to the parents but both the younger girls ended up in a Shaker orphanage.  The evidence indicates that she was mostly correct:   

In 1850 in Rockcastle I found on pg 193, 129/129:


David Cates 43 M KY

Mary Cates 40 F KY

Nancy Jane Cates 18 F KY

Elizabeth Cates 16 F KY

Susan Cates 14 F KY

John Cates Jr. 12 M KY

Sally Ann Cates 10 F KY

Lucy Cates 8 F KY

William Cates 6 M KY

Ailsey Cates 4 F KY

Fanny Cates 3 F KY

Charles Cates 1 M KY


The above Nancy Jane Cates was most likely the sister of Mary Ann and the same Nancy J. Bishop who appeared in the 1860 Laurel County census below.  Mary Ann probably married Thomas Isaacs in about 1849, but I can't find them on the 1850 census.  


I found this entry in the 1860 Laurel County census, page 388, 360/342. Nancy J. Isaacs was listed as a male but I assume that was enumerator error.  Mary Ann (Cates) Isaacs and her four children were living with her sister Nancy J. (Cates) Bishop.  Thomas Isaacs was no longer living with his family.  Perhaps he was deceased.  Sarah A. Cates was another sister of Nancy J.'s and Mary A.'s.  According to the Vockery book on Madison County Marriages, Nancy Jane Cates who was 23 and "of"  Estill County, married Richard W. Bishop who was 34 and of  Bershire[sic], Massachusetts. They were married in Madison County on 18 June 1855.   


Nancy J. Bishop 28M KY

David Bishop 4 M KY

Mary A. Isaacs 30 F KY

Nancy J. Isaacs 9 M KY

Susan Isaacs 7 F KY

John Isaacs 5 M KY

[cannot read] M. Isaacs 2 F KY

Sarah A. Cates 18 F KY


Susan Isaacs, daughter of Thomas Isaacs and Mary A. Cates was living in Fayette County, KY, pg 311 in 1870.  Jane (Nancy Jane Cates) Bishop, Susan's aunt, and her son David Bishop were living in the same household.


Nancy Mayfield 19 F TN

Lucy Atters 21 F KY

Jane Bishop 33 F KY

Susan Isaacs 18 F KY

James Creek 39 M KY 

David Bishop 13 M KY


Nancy Jane Isaacs, daughter of Thomas Isaacs and Mary A. Cates married Welcome Mullins 29 December 1867 in Laurel County.  Her brother John Isaacs was living with her in Laurel County, p. 175, 121/122 in 1870.  William Cates was John and Nancy Isaacs' uncle.


Welcomb Mullens 29 M KY

Nancy J. Mullens    21 F KY

Mary A. Mullens  2 F KY

William Kates 24 M KY

John Isaac 15 M KY


Sallie Isaacs, the youngest child of Thomas Isaacs and Mary A. Cates was living in Pleasant Hill, a Shaker community in Mercer County  p.526/7, 10/10, in 1870.  She was one of about 350 individuals between the ages of about 4 to 80+ who were living together in what seemed to be a series of group homes.  

8. Godfrey Isaacs was born about 1839 in Madison County. He married Malinda Wilder 3 March 1859 (bond) in Jackson County.  Woodson Wilder was the bondsman and Samuel Isaacs and William Wilder were the witnesses.  The marriage took place at William Wilder's house.  On the 1850 census of Owlsey County Malinda, her brother Woodson and several other siblings were living with their parents, William and Sally Wilder.  Godfrey's mother Sarah, a widow, was living with Godfrey and Malinda in 1860 in Rockcastle County.  Godfrey served in the Civil War in Company B, 4th KY Volunteer (Mounted) Infantry.  At the time of his enlistment (1863) he listed his occupation as a farmer, his age as 27, his height as 6 feet 2 inches, his complexion as sallow/light his hair as light, and his eyes as blue. 

Godfrey was living in Scott County in 1870, listed as Godfee Isiac.  Along with him was Malaine Isiac 20.  I don't know if this is Malinda, with a wrong birth year and spelling of her name, or maybe a second wife.  His nephew Samuel, son of his brother George Washington Isaacs was also listed in the household. His mother, "Sallie"  72, was living with them. Godfrey has two children a son John 3 and a daughter Sarah 1 month, (born in April).

In 1880, Godfrey was living in Owen County, Kentucky and was listed as Godfrey J. Isaacs.  He was suffering with rheumatism.  This time his wife was listed as Melvina, 39.  They had three children, Sarah E. 10, Silas M. 8 and John H. 1.

He applied for an invalid pension claiming to have been shot in the knee during the war.  But apparently he could never prove  the wound was a result of his service.  He made a final appeal in in 1887, shortly before his death.

Madison County Poor House
Union City, Kentucky
May the 18th, 1887

Mr. George E. Lemon [attorney] Washington D.C. yours of May the 10th at hand and contents noted  And in reply will say that with Regret that i am still at the county poor House and my health so bad and has bin for the past year that i cannot get round to see after my claim[.] i have bin confined to my bed for the past six months and no prospect for the better at this writing[.] as to my officers if there is one living i have bin unable to hear of him and i am sadisfyed they are all dead[.] i have some comrades living in Laurall county, Ky but unable to see them[.] i have written to them and they Requested that i should come to see them before they made an affidavid for me as it had bin a long time since the war they would Rather see me before making an affidavit[.] and i am not able to go to see them[.] and with out a verry unexpected great change shall never be able to go[.] and i have not even money to by stamps & paper to write to them any more[.] i had to beg the one to answer you[.] i know that i have a just claim and fully entitled to my pension but i recon i shall never be able to attend to it[.] but should  i ever get able i will furnish evry thing as requiered so you will please do the best you can for me and oblige yours.    --Godfrey Isaacs

On 30 April 1888, Godfrey Isaacs' attorney notified the Bureau of Pensions of Godfrey's death with the statement, "Above claimant is dead, but I am not informed of the date of death."  

The Kentucky Explorer (March 2003, p. 40) had an article about Godfrey Isaacs.  I have copied it here:


Rockcastle County Victim Killed for Supporting Jefferson Davis

Mt. Vernon, Kentucky - June 29, 1889

The ending of the trial of J. Logan Sigman, after 28 years, was consummated this morning by the jury saying not guilty. Sigman killed William Higginbotham, a 15 year old boy of Rockcastle County, on November 13, 1861, as he was riding along the road, hallooing for Jeff Davis. Sigman was, at the time, a citizen and not a soldier, as it was afterward tried to be shown by the defendant.

Sigman escaped and was gone 25 years, but was captured in Missouri and returned to Mt. Vernon for trial, which resulted in a hung jury. He was released on bond, and the trial was postponed from time to time until last Monday, when the case was called with Judge Morton of the Lexington district on the bench.

The jury held out for two days, 11 for acquittal and one for conviction. This is the case in which the G.A.R. took such a prominent part, when Sigman was arrested.

Sigman leaves tomorrow for Missouri.

The only living witness to the tragedy, now (1889), is Godfrey Isaacs, a Union soldier. His story is as follows:

I lived in Rockcastle County when the war broke out, and enlisted with Captain Hiatt. I went to Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County.

The first furlough I had was when I came back for my wife. We had no children, and my colonel wanted her to cook for the officers.

The second furlough was when I took my wife home, and we went to Roundstone, where my brother in law lived. I had a furlough this time for 15 days, and I knocked around in the country.

One day I went to a house of ill fame, kept by a woman named Sarah Powell, and while I was there met a young fellow named William Higginbotham; another party, I think, was named Maupin. They appeared to be angry, and I went out of the house to the fence, accompanied by Sarah Powell.

While we were talking, another woman, Hannah Ballenger, came out where we were and said, "Mr. Isaacs, if I were you, I would leave as those gentlemen threaten to kill a Yankee and go to the Rebel army."

"I replied that I had a habit of not leaving a place, until I got ready, and I had nothing to do with those gentleman.

"I then started. The young gentlemen were a little in advance of me, and I went across the hill to keep an engagement. I went from there down to the main road, and as I went by a house occupied by a man named Jim Lambert, I saw those young men standing there with their horses hitched to the fence.

"One of them remarked, 'Yonder goes that fellow now.'

"I went down the road to where Mr. Logan Sigman was at his brother-in-law's (Mr. John Peyton) house. I rode up to the fence and called Mr. Sigman out. He came out with his gun in his hand, and I told him about these gentlemen and the language they had used.

"While we were standing there talking, those gentlemen came down the road hallooing for Jeff Davis. Margaret Signam, Logan's sister, came out saying they were hallooing for Jeff Davis, now.

"I said, 'Yes, I think he has hallooed a dozen times.'

"The other man checked his horse up the road, and young Higginbotham came down in a gallop to where we were. When he got within a few steps of us, he checked his horse to a walk. He had a stick about two feel long in his right hand. He changed it to his left and dropped his right hand down toward his pocket. Just as he did so, Sigman fired. The horse made a few jumps, wheeled, and threw Higginbotham to the ground.

"Mr. Jack Mobley came up the road to where this boy lay. I went to them and said, 'It's a pity for the boy to be in that fix. He ought to be taken care of."

"I told Mobley that I would go across home; that my wife was in a delicate condition, and I was afraid the gunshot would alarm her. I also told him I would come back, but he advised me not to: that Dr. Chase would be out there with his crowd, and it would be dangerous for me, as I was a Union soldier.

"He offered me a pistol to defend myself, which he took out of Higginbotham's pocket, and he told me I could return it to him in the morning. I told him I didn't want he pistol, as I did not carry anything of that sort. I did not go back, and I remained at home.

"I was at the first trial of Mr. Sigman, and I testified to the same as I give now. I never heard of any threats made against Higginbotham, but did hear of threats made against Logan Sigman and myself. John Higginhotham, brother of the deceased, and now prosecuting Sigman, made threats and told my brother in law that I had not better show myself around where he was.

"I was present only at the examining trial of Sigman, and I was advised, only a few days ago by some of my friends not to attend this trial, as it would not be safe."

9. Susan . --On the 1860 census of Rockcastle, the recently widowed Sarah was living with her son Godfrey and his wife Malinda.  Also living with them was a 31 year old widow, Susan Moore and her four children, Louisa, Joseph, Mildred and Jane. It would probably be a pretty good guess that Susan was the daughter of Samuel and Sarah.