Isaac Shelby, soldier, statesman, and surveyor, was Kentucky's first governor. He served from 1792 to 1796 and was re-elected in 1812.
Shelby came to Kentucky in 1774 when he was hired by the Transylvania Company to survey the new Kentucky territory. In exchange for his services as a surveyor, Shelby was given his choice of land in the new territory and chose the surrounding land, which he called Traveller's Rest.
In 1783, Shelby married Suzanna Hart, daughter of Capt. Nathaniel Hart, one of the first settlers in Kentucky and one of the owners of the Transylvania Company. After their marriage, Isaac and Suzanna began building their new home on the land which Shelby had claimed several years before.
Traveller's Rest was designed by Isaac Shelby and is thought to have been one of the first stone houses in Kentucky. The main wing was two stories high with single story wings extending from either end, one containing the master bedroom and the other the kitchen.
Traveller's Rest was accidentally burned in 1905 when the current owner tried to smoke out a wasp's nest in the attic. An engineer on a passing train saw the blaze and blew his whistle to alert the neighbors. However, the lack of water and a shortage of people to fight the fire resulted in the destruction of the house.
Shelby was a prominent member of early Kentucky
society. He was a member of the constitutional conventions which led to Kentucky's statehood. Shelby was a trustee of Transylvania Seminary, Kentucky's first college, and chairman of the board of trustees of Centre College in Danville. He was one of the founders of the Kentucky Society for Promoting Useful Arts, which supported agricultural education and promoted the distribution of materials on the most innovative farming techniques.
Shelby's military record was well known. He fought in the Revolutionary War at the famous Battle of King's Mountain and in the War of 1812 where he led a regiment to the rescue of Kentucky troops during the Battle of the Thames near Detroit. He achieved such fame for his performance during this battle that people from Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky stood along the roadside to catch sight of the hero upon his return to Kentucky.
Even after his official retirement from politics in 1816, Shelby was asked to serve as Secretary of war by President Monroe; however, he declined. In 1817, he was commissioned by Andrew Jackson to negotiate with the Chickasaw Indians for purchase of lands west of the Tennessee River.
Shelby remained active in political affairs until his death at Traveller's Rest in 1826 at the age of 76. Shelby, his wife Suzanna, several of their children, and close family relatives are buried here.