Isaac Hayes was one of the early settlers of Bigelow. Mr. Hayes was born to John and Mary Hayes on July 28, 1778, in Greenbriar County, Virginia. When he was two years old,
his family, including three uncles and his grandfather, moved to Kentucky. They were contemporaries of Daniel Boone, joining him in the fort where Boonsboro was eventually built, and
Hayes enjoyed telling stories of his adventures with Boone. Shortly after the move, his father was killed in a fight with the Indians on Brier Creek, leaving his wife with young Isaac
and an infant daughter to care for.
Hayes later moved with his mother and sister to Garrard County, Kentucky, where in 1812, he married Miss Anna Hohimer from North Carolina. In 1813 he took the place of a man
named Samuel Davis, who had been drafted to join General William Henry Harrison at Fort Meigs in northwestern Ohio, and received 155 silver dollars for doing so. He was involved in
this disastrous engagement with the British and Indians at the River Raisin. Here he was captured and turned over to the Indians for slaughter by Colonel Proctor; he was one of the
few to escape this massacre with his life. During this battle, 379 Americans under the Colonels Allen, Lewis and Wells fought desperately against 3000 British and Allies under General
Proctor. Forced to surrender, though promised British protection, the prisoners left unguarded were attacked and killed by the Indians. Hayes and his fellow captives were taken to
Maldren, Canada, where they were later paroled. They were given two days rations and tramped through the wilderness, arriving home in May. On August 14, 1814, another draft was held,
and he “drew the black bean.” He was then enrolled in Capt. William Woods, Col. Stoughton’s regiment and General Adair’s brigade, which was ordered to join General Andrew Jackson at
New Orleans. At this point he decided to join the M. E. Church, so if he was killed he would not “die in his sin.”
The expedition embarked by flatboat from Portland, Kentucky, bound for New Orleans. They finally arrived in January 4, 1815, only a month after Jackson arrived himself.
The battle fought on January 8 resulted in an American victory over the British and made Jackson a household name. The British suffered an estimated 300 killed and 1200 wounded;
the Americans suffered only 13 dead and about 52 wounded or missing. Isaac Hayes was one of those American wounded; he carried the scar on his left arm. When asked about his war
experiences, Hayes would say that a ball passed through the crown of his hat, just grazing his hair, and another ball cut off part of the rim of his hat and went through the cape
of his hunting shirt. He also reminisced that a light rain fell continuously throughout the morning, but that the sun shone beautifully during the afternoon. Hayes started for home
on March 18 with $21 loaned to him by a deserter. When he arrived on April 27, he found his home in ashes and its contents destroyed. Thankfully his wife and child had escaped.
They remained in Kentucky until 1827, where he presided as major over his home militia regiment, having been voted in over three competitors.
The family next moved to McLean County, Illinois, and became personally acquainted with a man named Abe Lincoln, giving him the rare distinction of having known three U.S.
presidents. While living in Illinois his wife died. He then returned to Kentucky and married a widow, Mary Renfrow, in the same house where he had married his first wife. In 1854
Major Hays moved to Holt County, settling near the mouth of the Big Tarkio, where he lived until his death. In March 1861 his second wife died, leaving him alone, as his two sons had
joined the army and his daughters had married and moved away. An uncompromising Union man, he defied a gang of robbers who called themselves Confederate soldiers and plundered his house
during the rebellion. During the Civil War, he married again, this time to Mrs. Lusetta Walker, a widow from Hiawatha, Kansas. This wife brought to the marriage four children ranging
in age from 12 to 19 years old. With his three wives, Isaac had a total of 13 children, the youngest being born when he was 90 years old.
Affectionately called “Father Hayes,” he was listed as the “Oldest inhabitant in county” on the 1875 federal census. His 100th birthday was celebrated by a meal attended by 500
people, all at his expense. As he was poor and received a government pension of $96 per year, it was decided that when his 102nd birthday was celebrated, it would be at the expense of
his friends. Thus, on July 28, 1880, several hundred people again dined with him in John C. Hinkle’s grove, but this time at their own expense, with additional donations being made.
Isaac Hayes passed away October 18, 1880, having outlived several of his children. He remained a faithful parishioner in the Methodist Church his entire life, and was buried at Tarkio
Chapel. He lived a life full of adventure and left behind a multitude of friends.
Information for this article were compiled from information found in internet searches, History of Holt County 1882, Gone Home I, newspaper articles, pictures and
personal research archived in the Holt County Historical Society’s Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City, and submitted by Helen Morris Smith.