Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Isabella Barber Ferguson of Ireland and South Carolina (1754–1823)



She was a Revolutionary heroine, whose story is featured in the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia.

A Presbyterian Covenanter, born to Samuel Barber and Isabella Starett, she had emigrated to America around 1773. She “sat under the preaching of a learned minister and had been regularly catechised and indoctrinated both in the Scriptures and the political creed of her people”. She married a Samuel Ferguson but Samuel’s sympathies were with the Crown and his brother, Colonel James Ferguson, led a troop of 150 men. The Colonel led his men past the Barber homestead, hoping to impress his brother into joining the British army. It failed. Isabella declared:

I am a rebel, glorying in the name. My brothers are rebels, and the dog Trip is a rebel too. Now, James, I would rather see you with a sheep on your back, than tricked out in all those fine clothes. Rebel and be free, that is my creed!

Samuel listened to his wife and then confirmed to his uniformed brother:

Could Isabella be convinced she might be able to turn the whole lot of Covenanters, for she is never afraid to speak her mind.

Samuel didn’t join up, and James was killed not long after. There are numerous heroines in popular Ulster-Scots history, such as Betsy Gray and Margaret Wilson. You can read more about Isabella Barber Ferguson in this reprinted edition which was originally published in 1848.

Take the Museum online quiz and see which Revolutionary era character is most like you. 

• Her gravestone can be seen here on