Van Zandt, Isaac (1813–1847)

By: John B. Wilder

Revised by: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 17, 2021

Isaac Van Zandt, lawyer, legislator, and diplomat, son of Jacob and Mary (Isaacs) Van Zandt, was born in Franklin County, Tennessee, on July 10, 1813. He obtained his early education from country schools and often missed school due to ill health. He was a lifelong member of the Primitive Baptist Church. He married Frances Cooke Lipscomb on December 18, 1833, and was the father of six children, including Khleber Miller Van Zandt. That same year, he and his father established a store at Salem, Tennessee. He moved to Coffeeville, Mississippi, and established another store but lost heavily in the depression of 1837. He had become interested in a debating society and discovered his ability for effective public speaking, so he began the study of law and in less than a year was admitted to the Mississippi bar. He moved to Camp Sabine in Texas in late 1838 and settled in Elysian Fields, Harrison County; then in 1839 he moved to the site of Marshall, where he began to practice law. He persuaded Peter Whetstone to donate land for the town site and a college. He named the town after Chief Justice Marshall and is considered by many to be the founder of Marshall. He represented Harrison County in the House of the Fifth and Sixth congresses, 1840–42, and in 1842 Sam Houston appointed him chargé d'affairs to the United States. During his tenure in Washington, Van Zandt worked for the annexation of Texas to the Union. Having achieved his goal, in 1845 he returned to Texas and attended the Convention of 1845. He was campaigning for the office of governor in 1847, when he was stricken with yellow fever at Houston and died on October 11. He was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery at Marshall. Van Zandt County was named in his honor in 1848. In 1936 the state of Texas erected a memorial to him at Canton.

Lucy Cawlfield, The Public Career of Isaac Van Zandt (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937). William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). Z. T. Fulmore, The History and Geography of Texas (Austin: E. L. Steck, 1915). Mavis P. Kelsey Sr. and Robin Brandt Hutchison, Engraved Prints of Texas, 1554-1900 (College Station: A&M University Press, 2005). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Texas Presbyterian, October 16, 1847. Isaac Van Zandt Papers, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University. Khleber M. Van Zandt, Force Without Fanfare; The Autobiography of K. M. Van Zandt, ed. Sandra L. Myres (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1968?). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Ralph A. Wooster, "Early Texas Politics: The Henderson Administration," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 73 (October 1969).

Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

John B. Wilder Revised by Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell and Brett J. Derbes, “Van Zandt, Isaac,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

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November 17, 2021