SIDNEY — On behalf of the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee, Sidney Mayor and Shelby County Bicentennial Co-chair Mike Barhorst presented to the Shelby County Commissioners a framed grouping of artifacts chosen to celebrate the life of Shelby County’s namesake, Gen. Isaac Shelby. The items include replicas of the gold medal presented to Shelby by Congress, a land grant signed by Shelby, and an engraved portrait of Shelby that is thought to be his best likeness.
Nearly every Shelby County office holder was present for the presentation, which took place in the lobby of the Shelby County Annex. Commissioner Julie Ehemann, who is this year’s Commission president, unveiled the framed display.
“When we began planning the bicentennial,” Barhorst said, “I thought that there should be some permanent memorial to Gen. Isaac Shelby. He was a remarkable man, whose love of country was only surpassed by his love of his family.”
“The items in the display came from four different antique dealers in four different states,” Barhorst said. “The items include bronze replicas of the Congressional gold medal Shelby was awarded on Oct. 4, 1818, for the important role he played in the Battle of the Thames (Oct. 5, 1813) in the War of 1812. Fortunately, I was able to find two copies, and thus in this display you can see both sides of the medal.
“The display also includes a partly-printed document signed by Isaac Shelby as Governor of Kentucky that grants 70 acres of land in Mason County to Nathaniel Massie. The deed has a fully intact seal and was created in Lexington on March 8, 1793. Massie was a well-known frontier surveyor who founded fourteen early towns in Ohio including Chillicothe, the state’s first capital. Because the government had no money, they gave Massie land for his services as a surveyor. He was once the largest private land owner in Ohio.
“Finally, the display includes the engraving we all recognize as the image of Shelby from the cans of Shelby 1819 Limited, the beer brewed for Shelby County’s Bicentennial,” Barhorst continued. “Asher Brown Durand, the country’s leading engraver, created this lithograph of Isaac Shelby. It was taken from Volume I of The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans.
“Volume I was published in 1834, and contained the engraved portraits of 35 distinguished Americans along with biographical sketches,” Barhorst explained. “Volume II was published the following year, Volume III the year after that, and Volume IIII in 1837. Similar to Audubon’s Birds of America and Catlan’s Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, the individual books are almost always cut apart as the individual engravings are worth more individually than the books are as a whole.
“Shelby was first and foremost a Virginian,” Barhorst said. “When he first moved to Kentucky, the entire state was Kentucky County, Virginia. Indeed, much of the land that Massie eventually owned in Ohio was land that was originally part of the State of Virginia.”
The audience applauded as Ehemann unveiled the display. Her first remark was “Oh! Wow!”
“I thought that when the bicentennial celebration was concluded, there should be something that General Shelby actually touched here in Shelby County,” Barhorst told Ehemann, “Certainly the land grant with his signature attached is something he touched. Hopefully it will still be here when Shelby County celebrates her tricentennial.”