William Isaac was born 8 March 1827 in Cocke County,
Tennessee, to Smith Isaac (or Isaacs) and his wife Mary
Ballard. The Isaac family's travels took them from Tennessee to
Ohio, Indiana, and eventually Platte County, Missouri. There,
William married Jane "Jennie" Netherton on 11 July 1848. Five
years later, on 21 June 1853, William’s younger brother Richard
married Jennie’s sister Ruth in Daviess County, Missouri.
While in Missouri, William engaged in farming and served as
Daviess County Superintendent of Schools.
William and Jennie’s first child, a son named Eli Egbert, was
born in Platte County in 1849. The Isaacs would eventually have
eleven children, eight of whom lived to adulthood.
Between 1858 and 1860, the Isaacs moved to California, where
they were recorded on the federal census of 1860 for Contra
Costa County. William was a farmer, with real estate valued at
$150. William's mother Mary, apparently a widow by this time,
was also in the household, as were several of William's younger
By the 1870 federal census, the Isaacs were living in Gilroy
Township, Santa Clara County. The household consisted of
William, a surveyor; his wife Jane, son Eli, daughter Alice and
her husband William B. Steele, daughter Mary, son John H.,
daughter Clara, son William Oliver , daughter Edna, and
William's mother Mary, born 1806 in North Carolina. While
in Gilroy, William supplemented his income by serving as a
Baptist minister. He was also a member of the San Jose
Board of Education.
The William Isaac family left Salinas, California, in the spring of 1875, bound for the Arizona Territory. They traveled for almost two months in two wagons pulled by four horses each. On 1 July 1875, they crossed the Colorado River into Arizona. Arriving in Prescott about a week later, they stayed there for the summer. In the fall, William Isaac and his grown sons rode south to the Salt River Valley, where they staked out a homestead west of Phoenix.
In the spring of 1876, the Isaacs moved to Phoenix, where they resided in an adobe structure at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Jackson Street. Meanwhile, the men constructed a house on the homestead near what is now 35th Avenue and McDowell Road. It consisted of nine rooms and was built of lumber hauled down from Prescott (unfortunately, it burned to the ground in 1886). The Isaacs raised crops on their new farm.
Since the railroad would not reach Maricopa south of Phoenix until 1879, the Isaacs hauled freight from the Southern Pacific railroad terminus at Yuma via Oatman Flats and Maricopa during the spring and fall months. With two wagons coupled together and pulled by ten horses, they could haul six tons of freight. Each round trip took 25 days.
Among the household items the Isaacs had brought with them from California was a four-octave melodeon. On Sundays, the legs were removed and it was conveyed by buggy to the South Methodist (now Central Methodist) Church in Phoenix, where it provided music during the worship services. At least two of the Isaac children played the melodeon and offered musical entertainment.
To ensure that his younger children got an education, William Isaac founded the Isaac school, which is still at its original location in west Phoenix. He served as road overseer of District #1 in 1878 and as county surveyor from 1881 to 1882. He assisted Captain Hancock in surveying the Grand Canal, and was active in the local Masonic lodge.
The senior Mr. Isaac retired from active farming around 1890. He died 23 March 1900 of 'dilatation of the heart' and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery.
When the 1900 census was taken on 29 June 1900, William's widow Jennie was living alone in a house in Maricopa County, Township 2 North, Range 2 East. She died in died in 1902 of the grippe.
Several descendants of William and Jennie Isaac are also
buried in what is now known as the Pioneer & Military
Memorial Park (PMMP) near downtown Phoenix. They include Mary
Awilda Smith, Alice Annettie Kile, Claude Trimble Steele, David
Elton Kile and Katie Ethel Kile.
Dean Isaac, a direct descendant of William and Jennie Isaac, is
a member of The First Families of Arizona.
i. Eli Egbert, born 2 July 1849 in Missouri. Married first
Althea J. Byers, and second, Flora LaMar.
ii. Alice Annettie, born 1851 in Missouri. Married first William B. Steele, and second, David Kile on 25 December 1883.
iii. Mary Awilda, born 1853 in Missouri. Married William Henry Smith.
iv. John Henry, born 4 July 1856 in Missouri. Married Agnes
V. Clara Jane, born 1858 in Missouri. Married Francis Shaw.
vi. James Albert, born 1860 in California. Died young.
vii. Hannah Altha, born 1860 in California. Died young.
viii. William Oliver, born 1862 in California. Married
ix. Rachel Louisa, born 1862 in California. Died young.
x. Edna Luella, born 1868 in California. Married Tira H.
xi. Alfred Elton, born 29 June 1870 in California.
Married Ellen Gilbert.
Article copyright © 2008 by Dean Isaac and Donna L. Carr. Used by permission; all rights reserved. Last revised 16 September 2014.
© Copyright 2014, The First Families of Arizona. Last revised 13 September 2021.