Christian Isely


Christian Isely
Marie Elizabeth “Eliza” Dubach Isely

Christian Isely
Image courtesy of John Mattox

Christian H. Isely was born in Switzerland in 1828, and immigrated to America with his family at age three.1 In 1849, Christian headed West, leaving his family, consisting of his parents; Barbara Otzenberger Isely and Christian Isely, Sr., brothers; Frederick and Henry, and sisters; Elizabeth and Anna Barbara. He spent a great deal of time exploring the Kansas and Nebraska prairies in pursuit of the richest soil possible. Eventually settling in Nebraska, Christian left because he disagreed with the majority of the small German colony who sought to exclude English-speaking settlers from their community.2

He then ventured to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he worked as a carpenter. It was there he met his future wife, Marie Elizabeth “Eliza” Dubach. The couple married in the First Presbyterian Church on May 31, 1861.3 After being married only four months, Christian enlisted in Company F, 2nd Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He believed it was his duty as a God-fearing American to serve and protect his country.

I thought it was also my duty to remain here, because our formerly so prosperous state, which was counted as the Eighth in the Union, was in great danger. I would afterwards have had to be ashamed of myself as an unworthy coward for the rest of my life, who was not worthy that the beloved sun should shine on him. I would never have been able to call myself a son of [William or Wilhelm] Tell and an adoptive son of [George] Washington.

Christian H. Isely Letter to Barbara Otzenberger Isely and Anna Barbara Isely Kendel – Sept. 17, 1861

Christian’s zealous faith also influenced his political stance and he never shied away from expressing his opinions. He often wrote letters to the editors of newspapers and articles to Christian periodicals quoting scripture to support his fervent convictions. He voiced his opinion in an article on why slavery should be abolished in early 1863.

let the Union be perpetuated, wipe out foul treason, put slavery and the black Race away from our borders, remember that the Union is worth more to us, then even hundred such institutions: remember too that our Forfathers secured for us freedom of speech and press, and such religious and political liberties as never were known before; Let us assist, like men, the President in all honest endeavors, to make the nation free from every scheme of bondage; The following texts are sufficient to prove that the Bible forbids one class of men, to use the labor of another class, without paying them for thier work, and in forbidding this is forbids slavery: Deut. 24,14.15. Per. 22,13. Mal. 3,5. Luke 10,7. And here are a dozen passages of Scripture, taken from different parts of the Bible, which plainly, unequivocally denounce oppression. Therefore as slavery is oppression it is a sin against God, and denounced by the Bible.

Christian H. Isely Editorial to the Archivist Newspaper – Feb. 24, 1863

Christian and the 2nd Kansas Cavalry were in the 1864 Battles of Prairie D’Ane, Jenkins’ Ferry, and Fort Smith. They also participated in large engagements at Perryville, Oklahoma, and Dover, Clarksville, and Backbone Mountain, Arkansas, not to mention numerous minor skirmishes. Christian often wrote Eliza regarding his hardships in the military and about his many narrow escapes from capture and death.

During the war, Eliza traveled to Ohio to live with Christian’s parents in Winesburg. He often wrote her regarding politics and the conditions in Missouri; “women and children are the only inhabitance through the country many farms and houses are deserted and forsaken, others are burned down and distroyed and the fields are full of weeds and desolution. such are affairs in Rebeldom!”4 The danger and violence in the area of St. Joseph, Missouri, may have led Eliza to choose to live with her in-laws in Ohio rather than her family in Kansas.

Christian and his parents held completely opposing views when it came to President Abraham Lincoln. As early as May 1861, Christian so ardently supported Lincoln that he wrote the newly elected President.

With every comming day the danger seems to in crease; the rebels are getting more numberous and active, and the traitors more bold and despert. And I think duty requires every true hearted citizen to cluster closely around the head of our Nation _ around the head of our worthy and honorable President _, and show to the world, and especialy should it be made known to all those whose hearts are filled with treachery againts our Dear_ dear _ belovede Land that we are friends of the “Union” are Unanimous!

Christian H. Isely Letter to President Abraham Lincoln – May 6, 1861

Eliza made Christian’s parents opinion of Lincoln quite clear in letter in July 1862.

…some expressions in your dear letter which surely I would not have dared to read to your folks for a high price, for only speak of Pres [Abraham] Lincoln and that in his favor and then you might see their anger aroused to overflowing for in their eyes there is nothing more vile and black then Abraham Lincoln. Mother [Barbara Otzenberger Isely] told me quite lately that she hoped to God none of her boys would vote for him

Marie Elizabeth Dubach Isely Letter to Christian H. Isely – July 14, 1862

Christian’s politically charged letters were rarely received well by his parents. Eliza, who read her husband’s letters to his family, was put in an awkward position by their content. Eliza often wrote requesting Christian reserve his letters for non-controversial topics, but he seemed incapable of complying, so passionate were his beliefs. In June 1863, she wrote,

Brother Fred thought he had written you a good Union letter now dearest if you write to him again dont say anything about Pres Abraham Lincoln they all dislike him very much here and if you should say anything about the negroes express yourself in a manner to show that you are not an Abolitionist now my love I dont wish to dictate what you should do or write do as you think proper anyhow, but it is my ardent wish that you should be on good terms with your relatives especially because I am here I would not like to hear anything against you.

Marie Elizabeth Dubach Isely Letter to Christian H. Isely – June 15, 1863

Christian became concerned about the possible negative influence his family could be having on his wife. He often wrote expressing his concern. “But it makes me very sorry that you have to endure so much from the unworthy, cowerdly, sneaking copperheads; it makes my blood boil when I hear of their treachery.”5 In another letter he wrote, “And if it should get to hot for you in that hotbed of copperheads then just let me know and I will try to send you enough money to bring you back to Missouri.”6

After serving three years, Christian was discharged November 16, 1864, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Following the war, Christian and Eliza returned to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they remained until 1872, when they relocated to Fairview, Kansas, with Christian’s brothers, Frederick and Henry Isely, to start a farm. Christian and Eliza had eleven children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. Christian died August 8, 1919, and was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas.7 Eliza lived in Kansas until her death on October 26, 1936, and was buried next to her husband.

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  1. John Mattox, The Isely Information Project: Of-By-For-Ourselves, “Christian Isely”,
  2. Elise Dubach Isely, Sunbonnet Days, (Coldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printer, Ltd, 1935)
  3. John Mattox, The Isely Information Project: Of-By-For-Ourselves, “Elise Dubach Isely”,
  4. Christian H. Isely.  Letter to Marie Elizabeth Dubach Isely.  08 July 1864.  MS 88-31, Wichita State University Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita, Kansas.
  5. Christian H. Isely.  Letter to Marie Elizabeth Dubach Isely.  08 August 1863.  MS 88-31, Wichita State University Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita, Kansas.
  6. Christian H. Isely.  Letter to Marie Elizabeth Dubach Isely.  01 July 1863.  MS 88-31, Wichita State University Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita, Kansas.
  7. John Mattox, The Isely Information Project: Of-By-For-Ourselves, “Index of Descendents of Christian H. Isely,”