Isabella Gordon, pioneer northeast Texas settler and promoter of Clarksville, the fifth of eight children of Francis and Catherine (Elliott) Hopkins, was born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, on August 10, 1805. Her father was a wealthy Kentucky planter who moved the family to Gibson County, Indiana, in 1811 but returned to Kentucky after the death of his wife. He then moved the family to Texas in December 1823. He intended to join Stephen F. Austin's colony but settled instead at the mouth of Mill Creek on Red River in what is now Bowie County. On April 18, 1824, Isabella married John Hanks, a native of Kentucky, who had preceded the Hopkins family to the Red River area. John and Isabella Hanks made their home on the north side of Red River near the site of present Idabel, Oklahoma, but later moved to the south side of the river after the United States government forced the removal of settlers following the 1820 and 1825 Choctaw treaties. John Hanks died on October 8, 1827. One surviving child, Minerva Ann, was born to this marriage. On July 15, 1829, Isabella married James Clark, a salt manufacturer, Indian trader, and public servant. James and Isabella Clark lived in what is now Sevier County, Arkansas, before moving in 1831 to Jonesboro on the Red River, in the area that later became Red River County, Texas. At that time Jonesboro was claimed by Mexico and Arkansas Territory. On December 31, 1830, the Clarks registered for a Mexican land title as colonists in Arthur Wavell's colony, but titles were never issued. In December 1832 Sam Houston passed his first night and took his first meal on Texas soil at the Clark home.
In 1834 the Clarks moved to Sulphur Fork Prairie, twenty-five miles south of Jonesboro, where they founded a settlement that later became known as Clarksville, the present seat of Red River County. During the Texas Revolution James Clark and the second of Isabella's brothers served in the Texas army. She reputedly outfitted a company of volunteers at her own expense. Isabella and her neighbors, Jane and Betsy Latimer, intercepted David Crockett after he crossed Red River on his way to Nacogdoches and San Antonio and helped guide him through the Red River country. James Clark died on May 2, 1838. He and Isabella had five children. In July 1838 Isabella acquired ownership of Henry Stout's headright claim, which included the site of Clarksville. She then began donating town lots to settlers, merchants, and churches to promote development. She soon became a leading political, financial, and social leader in the community. On June 10, 1839, she married Dr. George Gordon, a Clarksville physician. George and Isabella Gordon had four children. During the Civil War Isabella was an ardent supporter of the Confederate cause. She sent her husband and three of her sons into the Confederate army. Their oldest son, John Gordon, died from sickness in 1862 while serving as a Confederate army private. Isabella was not affiliated with any organized religion until 1864, when she became Catholic. After Dr. Gordon's death in December 1872, she maintained her interest in politics and Clarksville. Popularly known as "Aunt Ibbie," Isabella Gordon became a widely respected eyewitness of the early history of Northeast Texas. Her biography and reminiscences appeared in several contemporary publications, including the Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (1889), John Henry Brown's Indians and Pioneers of Texas (published in the 1890s), and Elizabeth Brooks's Prominent Women of Texas (1896). On January 6, 1894, the Dallas Morning News published her life story in a feature article. She died on May 31, 1895, and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Clarksville.
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Founders and Pioneers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Gordon, Isabella Haddon Hopkins,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: