The Vanbibber Dilemma III: Isaac Vanbibber

Isaac Vanbibber has quite a bit of history written about him and its due to these writings that I am bothered:

  1.  The middle name “Michael” was applied to him on the plaque at the monument (battle memorial) erected at Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I can’t find any documentation for the middle name “Michael” and apparently, the folks writing about him didn’t have any, either. They simply chose to perpetuate this myth without any source. For sure, Isaac Vanbibber fought in this battle, deemed the first in the Revolutionary War by many, received mortal wounds on the 10th day of October 1774, and died the following day. Editor’s note: Isaac was approximately 50 years old at the time of his death.
  2. That Isaac Vanbibber was a minister, Baptist or otherwise, I’ve yet to find documentation. That’s not to say he wasn’t but ministers quite often got their names in church histories as well as local and county histories. I consider his role as Reverend a myth until I can prove otherwise or until someone shares definitive proof with me. And if people understood just how much Baptist preachers loathe the title “Reverend” and the reasons for it, they would have applied the preferred title of “Elder” instead. Editor’s note: David C. R. Vanbibber, grandson of Matthias “Tice” Vanbibber, states in one of his own writings that Isaac was a blacksmith and made awesome butcher knives.
  3. Was Isaac Vanbibber really living in the Carolinas when he “came to visit his brothers on the Greenbrier River” before accompanying them to war at Point Pleasant? I don’t think so. I honestly believe he lived in the Greenbrier region same as they and here are my reasons why: (be sure to check out the updated info near the bottom of this post)
    1. The Vanbibber boys (Isaac, Peter II, and John) are in the Lunenburg County, Virginia tax lists as early as 1748 along with their father Peter Vanbibber I (husband of Ann Honriette Gooding). Eventually, the part of Lunenburg in which they were living became part of Halifax County which in turn a few years later became Pittsylvania County where you find them in the tax list for Pittsylvania in 1767: Peter, Peter Jr (dubbed Peter II, husband of Marjorie/Marguery Bounds), Isaac, and John. They didn’t move: the new counties formed around them which makes it appear that they moved.
      Because I have not yet laid my eyes on subsequent years’ tax lists for Pittsylvania or Botetourt counties (1767 – 1781) I cannot say definitely what year the brothers moved to what is now Greenbrier County. I can say for certain that Peter (II), Peter (III), and John are accounted for in the tax list of the newly formed Greenbrier County for the year 1782. Isaac, of course, was dead eight years by this time.
    2. Isaac Vanbibber (brother John received honorable mention) is extolled in Otis K. Rice’s 1986 “A History of Greenbrier County” on page 102 in regards to his frequent visits to the Mathews’ brother’s trading post in the Greenbrier Region. The Trading Post Ledgers dated 1771 to 1779 are in the possession of the Greenbrier Historical Society at Lewisburg, WV. The trading post, according to Rice, was located “at or near the shallows known as Mathews Ford on the Greenbrier River, near the mouth of Howard Creek.” By my calculations – and any map you choose to consult – this is near the present town of Caldwell, WV, just a few miles east of Lewisburg. Among the many customers who paid for provisions in deerskins was Isaac Vanbibber who, Rice states, paid with (sold to them) “at least 230” deerskins. Whoa! Why is Isaac Vanbibber doing business in the Greenbrier region (between 1771 and 1774) if he lived down in the Carolina’s? Even if Isaac still lived in Pittsylvania County, the Mathew’s Trading Post was a “fur piece” from that neck of the woods. At the very least, that’s about 120 miles (calculated distance from Caldwell, WV to Pittsville, VA). The distance from Caldwell, WV to Danville, VA (on the VA-NC border) is 156 miles. You can take me to task on this point but I can’t believe that IF he lived in the Carolinas or farther south in Virginia that he wasn’t doing his “shopping” closer to home. Editor’s note: This isn’t to say that our forefathers didn’t walk/ride horseback long distances. 100 miles would have taken several days but it was done.
    3. Finally, note that after Isaac’s demise at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774, we find references to his widow Sarah (Davis) and seven children in the Greenbrier County Court Orders, (transcribed by Helen S. Stinson and available online through viz:
      “Court of Friday 21 June 1785… Ordered to be certified to auditors that Sarah Vanbebber now wife of William Griffy made sufficient proof to court that she was 2 years the widow of Isaac Vanbebber and that she had 7 children during her widowhood…” and
      “Court of Tuesday 29 July 1788… Ordered that it be certified that Sarah Vanbebber, widow of Isaac Vanbebber deceased, a pensioner who was allowed by the commissioners of the southern district in the year 1775, raised and maintained her family at her own expense, having no estate of her husband’s, and that she is an object in need of the allowance made her.”
      Please note that Sarah was on the roll in GREENBRIER COUNTY, WV as a pensioner in 1785, certified in 1775 in what was no doubt Botetourt County at the time Isaac’s death, and continued to need that pension in order to sustain the needs of herself and her children. Oh, well, you say, the family moved her and the kids to the area after Isaac died. Perhaps. I don’t think so. When the records – the Trading Post Ledgers and the court orders – are taken as a whole, the obvious conclusion is that Sarah and the kids AND husband William “Griffy” were already living in the vicinity of the other Vanbibbers in Greenbrier County.

What is my point? I firmly believe that Isaac Vanbibber moved to the Greenbrier region about the same time as his brothers, Peter II and John, and nephew Peter III, prior to 1771. And with him came his wife Sarah Davis and children. This is where he was living and no doubt served in the militia. Why 1771? Roy Bird Cook in his “Virginia Frontier Defenses 1719-1795” published 1940, credits Peter Vanbibber (II) with building Fort Greenbrier: “Erected about 1771 by Captain Peter VanBibber, situated on Wolf Creek near site of Lowell, Summers County. Scene of attack on Graham family in 1777. Possibly also known as Jarrett’s Fort.”  The historical highway marker nearby credits the command of this fort to “Captain John Vanbibber” in 1777. That’s before Greenbrier County had been created.

I think the biggest conundrum of all are the names of the seven children of Isaac Vanbibber and Sarah Davis. I’ve established, for myself at least, that there were seven children, no more, no less (see the Greenbrier County Court Orders above) born to the couple. The eldest son was no doubt Peter (not necessarily the eldest child), dubbed Peter Vanbibber Sr because he had a son named Peter (dubbed Jr). Peter Sr married his first cousin “Ellinor” Vanbibber, daughter of Peter Vanbibber II (brother of the deceased Isaac, subject of this post). This couple was married 29 June 1785 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia by none other than John Alderson, founder, and pastor of the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church (Alderson, WV). The marriage record is on file with the state archives. Here’s a snapshot of how I identify these individuals:

I assume that John Vanbibber who died in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1818 was Isaac and Sarah’s son and Peter Sr.’s brother. The consensus is that the family moved into the Powell Valley area of Virginia that eventually became Tennessee. I have read that another brother, James, died there as well.

Isaac and Sarah’s younger son, Major Isaac Vanbibber, reportedly died in 1840 Montgomery County, Missouri. One story that others love to perpetuate is that Major Isaac was adopted by Daniel Boone. Whether that is true or not it’s important to note here that Isaac married Boone’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Hays, so there is definitely a connection.

As for the names of the other four children, I honestly at this time do not have the knowledge to speculate: Nancy, Martha or Patsy/Patty, Matthew, and probably James; maybe Margaret, maybe not. Maybe Rebecca. Only time and further personal research will tell.


I have proven, at least to myself, that Isaac Vanbibber moved into the Greenbrier region (Botetourt > Greenbrier County) along with his brothers, Peter II and John. Although I’m unable to obtain or view the actual Tax Records for all of the counties in which they lived prior to moving to the vicinity of the Greenbrier River, I was able to view the index of names via transcriptions available ($$) through the Iberian Publishing company website for Halifax and Botetourt counties. The Tax Lists for Lunenburg and the 1767 Tax List for Pittsylvania County are available online via the USGenWeb archives.

I am satisfied that Isaac did NOT reside on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, nor apparently, did he live within the Carolinas prior to his death. It appears that he is the oldest child and may have married Sarah Davis prior to moving to Lunenburg County.

Below is the snapshot of the progression of county formations as well as actual MOVES to new counties. The tax lists for those counties show who was there. If a transcription is available, I provided the pages on which the individuals appear. Note that in the Botetourt County tax list, all three brothers appear on identical page numbers in the index. My hope is that the tax list is in order of visitation dates and not alphabetical order. Nevertheless, it stands that Isaac, wife, and children were also residents of Botetourt prior to his death at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. (Click image to enlarge).

The names of Isaac and Sarah Davis Vanbibber’s seven children are recorded here: GREENBRIER COUNTY RECORDS, Volume 1: Early Survey Records, 1780-1799; Early Court Minutes, 1780-1801 [1811]; Magistrate’s Memoranda, 1817-1819; Court Record Books, 1828-1835; District Court Records, 1792-1797; Deeds, Sweet Springs Courthouse, 1789-1808. Larry G. Shuck. 1988. Iberian Publishing Company.

The transcription reads: “Court of 22 March 1786:…Peter Vanbebber is appointed guardian to Mathew, John, Nancy, James, and Isaac Vanbebber, with John Stuart, surety.” If the dates of birth are remotely correct, Mathew Vanbibber would have been 26 years old when this occurred so I am wondering why Mathew, at that age, would have required a guardian. This leads me to suspect he may have been a sickly child, especially since this is the only record of him that I’ve discovered to date.

That is all I have on Isaac Vanbibber for now.

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