Van Zandt County Genealogical Society

The Story of Isaac Van Zandt

Van Zandt County Genealogical Society

Isaac Van Zandt

A series of articles written and researched by Elvis Allen (author of Daddy Said). Elvis has completed his book "Building of a County" and submitted these as exerpts from that volume which is now available for purchase through the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society. See Publication Page. And for something extra, please read Jeanene Van Zandt's "Grave Hunting for Van Zandts" on the Old Family Tales page on this website. It is an amazing tale of finding an almost lost cemetery in Franklin County, Tennessee.

Who Was Isaac Van Zandt?

The Van Zandt family came from Holland before the American Revolution, first to new York, and then to North Carolina.

Isaac's parents, Jacob Van Zandt and Mary Wallace Isaacs, moved from the Winston-Salem area to Franklin County, Tennessee, near the town of Winchester around 1800 where Isaac was born in 1813.

In 1826, William Lipscomb and his wife Ann Day Cooke Lipscomb moved from South Carolina to Lincoln County Tennessee. their daughter, Fannie Cooke Lipscomb became Isaac's bride on December 18, 1833.

In 1834 Louisa was born to this couple and soon after Isaac moved his family to Coffeeville, Mississippi where Isaac became engaged in the mercantile business with John Brown, his wife's brother-in-law.

Two years later Fannie became pregnant again and Isaac sent her back to her parent's home in Tennessee until after the baby was born which occurred on November 7, 1836.

This one, a boy, was named Khebler Miller and was destined to become a great leader among men. He was a major in the Confederate army, land agent for the T&P Railroad. Later on he became one of Fort Worth, Texas' most progressive promoters and builders. K. M., as he was called, was also commander of the Confederate Civil War Veterans' Organization for many years.

The financial panic of 1837 was a national disaster and put many business' (sic) under. Brown and Van Zandt Mercantile was one. Because of uncollectable accounts, Van Zandt and his partner were forced to close their doors and their personal possessions were sold and they were left with nothing.

Isaac became despondent over the failure. At a debating society meeting one day at which Van Zandt spoke, he was encouraged to become a lawyer by a guest of the society, General T. N. Waul.

Gone to Texas

In 1838, Isaac Van Zandt obtained his law license. "Gone to Texas" was the cry in those days and Van Zandt, like his forefathers who had first settled in new York and through the generations had pushed westward to Tennessee and Mississippi, also caught the westward fever. The Van Zandt family with their meager possessions, started down the Mississippi river and up the Red River to Natchitoches, Louisiana, then over land to Camp Sabine which was established during the Texian (sic) revolution but at this time had been abandoned by the army.

While staying in one of the barracks at the camp, Isaac became very ill and his wife traded one of her dresses for a bottle of medicine and another dress for five bushels of corn.

After regaining his health, Van Zandt began making trips into the woods of East Texas looking for a suitable place on which to settle. He eventually decided on Elysian Fields, which at that time was in the Red River district of the Republic and after Texas became a state, the town was in Harrison County.

The house on this place was a one-room cabin but had an unusual feature. This house had a glass window. Very few country houses had glass of any kind in those days.

At Elysion Fields, the third child was born January 5, 1840. He was named Isaac Lycurgus and was the first Van Zandt child to be born in Texas (he was called "Curgie") and he became a prominent physician.

Isaac built us a respectable law practice in the Elysian Fields-Marshall area and soon moved his family to Marshall. Van Zandt helped survey the town site of Marshall in 1839 and it is said the name was suggested by him in honor of Chief Justice John Marshall.

Van Zandt's Introduction Into Politics

Bailey Anderson was a friend and neighbor of the Van Zandt family and because he and many others did not care for the congressional candidate for the seat from that district, Anderson persuaded Isaac to run against him. When Van Zandt pointed out to Anderson that he had not been in Texas long enough to be eligible to run, Anderson had an answer for him. He said that before election time, Van Zandt would have been in Texas long enough to qualify.

Van Zandt did run and he won the election. He served from 1840 to 1842 and served on several committees. In 1842, a fourth child was born. Her name was Francis Cooke, after his mother. She died in 1935.

Van Zandt was appointed Charge d'Affairs in July 1842, to the United States by Texas President Sam Houston. A job he worked at tirelessly, night and day, promoting the annexation of Texas into the Union and trying to get Washington to put pressure on Mexico to stop sending military forces into Texas.

Through his influence, Texas had almost enough support in 1843 to get the annexation legislation passed when a catastrophe struck. While taking a pleasure excursion down the Potomac River on a war steamer, The Princeton, one of the guns firing a volley salute, exploded killing Mr. Upshur, Secretary of State and Mr. Gilmer, Secretary of War, two of Texas' most ardent supporters and lobbyist.

Van Zandt wrote to Anson Jones, Secretary of State for the Texas Republic telling him of the news and the new setback.

That year, 1844, Van Zandt and Francis had their fifth child, Ida. She lived until 1937, and was married to J. J. Jarvis.

On Independence Day, 1845, Congress approved the annexation of Texas into the Union and it was ratified December 29 of that year. Van Zandt was a delegate to the Constitution Convention, and served on many of the committees.

Texas' "Homestead Law" and the "The Community Property Law" are included in the Constitution of 1845 due largely to Van Zandt. Because of the losses sustained by the Van Zandt 's during the panic of 1837 when the family lost everything, he wanted to save others from that experience.

The Mexican War of 1846

When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846, the Marshall area raised a unit called the 2nd Texas Mounted Volunteers and was commanded by George T. Wood, future governor of Texas. Isaac wanted to serve but his health was too bad. He had been sickly all his life and suffered from bouts of Malaria, so J. M. Clough, his law partner told him if he would keep the firm going, he would do the fighting for both. Jeremiah Morrell Clough was elected 1st Lieutenant of the unit and later married Louisa, Isaac's daughter.

In September of that year, child number six was born. They named him Isaac. He only lived one year, but he was the only child the Van Zandt's lost in childhood.

In 1847 friends persuaded Van Zandt to run for governor of Texas against George T. Wood. Van Zandt was campaigning in Palestine when word came of little Isaac's death and he rushed back to Marshall to be with his family.

Van Zandt continued to campaign throughout the state and had become quite popular and recognizable wherever he went. He was expected to win the race. In September he was scheduled to campaign in Galveston along with the other candidates who were traveling the same circuit. During his stay in Galveston he contracted yellow fever and was quite ill for several weeks. When he reached Houston he suffered a relapse and died October 11, 1847, at the age of 34.

Texas had lost a great statesman. Texas and the city of Marshall wasted little time honoring this much loved man. Years before, Van Zandt had convinced the people of Marshall that Hirrison county needed a school of higher learning. he persuaded the Republic of Texas to set aside some public land for this purpose and Marshall College was estalbished. soon after Van Zandt's death the name was changed to Van Zandt College.

In 1846 the state had passed legislation for the creation of more counties because of the population increase. This was especially true in East Texas. In 1848, one year after Van Zandt's death, the state cut off the north portion of Henderson County and honored him by naming it Van Zandt County.


History of Van Zandt, Texas, Wentworth Manning; Force Without Fanfare, K. M. Van Zandt; Van Zandt, Texas, History Book I; "Building a County" by Elvis Allen; Van Zandt Commissioner' Court Records Texas State Archives-The Van Zandt Papers.

"Oct. 11th, Isaac Van Zandt - Obituaries from The Texas Telegraph (Houston), 1848. Funeral of the Hon. Isaac Van Zandt:

Hon. Isaac Van Zandt's Body Removed From Houston

"It is well known to our readers, that the remains of the Hon. Isaac Van Zandt, were recently removed from the city of Houston to Marshall, by an association of gentlemen, as a tribute of respect to his memory. The body arrived in Marshall on Monday, 28th ult (sic). the funeral and re-interment took place on Thursday, the 2nd inst (sic). A large respectable concourse of citizens was in attendance, notwithstanding the rain which fell during the day. Rev. Mr. Bryce, of Shreveport, delivered an appropriate sermon, from Prov. 14 chap. 32nd verse. The remains of the distinguished dead, were then committed to their final resting place, with the usual Masonic Honors. The occasion was rendered more solemnly interesting, from the fact, that the body of the infant son of the deceased, Isaac Van Zandt, Jr., was reinterred in the same grave...Date: March 30, 1848."

Life-Size Statues of Isaac Van Zandt and His Wife

Placed on Courthouse Square in Canton

story from the Grand Saline Sun, January 6, 1938

Isaac Van Zandt, a prominent figure in the annexation of Texas to the Union, and his wife, Frances Cooke Lipscomb Van Zandt, typical of Texas pioneer women, are subjects of a Texas Centennial memorial for which the full-size model has been completed at San Antonio.

The couple, forbears of a prominent Fort worth family, the Van Zandts, whose history is almost synonymous with that of the city, will be memorialized in a life-sized bas-relief in stone to be fashioned by Waldine Amanda Tauch, talented San Antonio Sculptor, associated with the Coppini Studios there. It will be placed on the courthouse square at Canton, county seat of Van Zandt County, which was named for the pioneer Texan.

A native of North carolina, Isaac Van Zandt brought his wife and a 3-year-old son to Texas in 1839, making the trip in a wagon. They settled in Harrison County. The son was the late Khleber Miller Van Zandt, who later was to have al large part in the rise of Fort Worth from a village of 200 frontier families.

Young Isaac Van Zandt soon stepped into prominence as a citizen of the Texas Republic. An able lawyer and talented orator, he was chosen Minister of the Republic of Texas to the United Sates and represented Texas at Washington, D.C. in negotiations for annexation to the Union.

A member of the Texas Constitutional Convention in 1845, Van Zandt drew the bill that placed into the State Constitution the homestead law, the first of its kind adopted anywhere, exempting a man's home from lawsuits, foreclosure and mortgages.

Isaac Van Zandt died in Houston at the age of 34, a victim of yellow fever. At that time he was in the midst of a campaign for the Governorship of Texas, a post for which he was a popular favorite.

Mrs. Van Zandt later moved to Fort Worth. She died there in 1909. Their children were Mrs. Louisa B. Clough, Maj. K.M. Van Vandt, Dr. I.L. Van Zandt, Mrs. E.J. Beall and Mrs. Ida V. Jarvis, all of whom were prominent citizens of Fort Worth until their deaths.

Descendants of Isaac Van Zandt still live in the Fort Worth area and in other parts of Texas.

Jeanene Van Zandt of Tennessee has written her story of finding Isaac Van Zandt's family cemetery in Old Salem, Franklin County, Tennessee. This wonderful story and photos of Van Zandt gravestones have been posted on the Old Family Tales page. We thank Jeanene very much for sharing. "Grave Hunting for Van Zandts"

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