From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Isbell, Louis [Pompey]

(born: March 17, 1819) 

Louis Isbell may have been enslaved in Kentucky,  but some sources say that he was free-born. At the age of 20, he moved to Chicago, IL. In Chicago's first recorded sports event, Isbell, a Native American named White Foot, and a man on a horse competed in a race; Isbell won.

According to author Perry Duis, who cited articles in the Chicago Post and the Chicago Democrat, Isbell was the fastest and most popular runner in the Chicago area for ten years. He retired and became a full-time barber after coming in second in a race in 1847 that took place before more than 1,000 spectators.

For more see Challenging Chicago: coping with everyday life, 1837-1920, by P. R. Duis, pp. 171-172.

The following comes from Steve Isbell, a relative of Louis Isbell: I’m pretty sure Louis was originally known as “Pompey.”  Specifically, I’ve found some evidence that he was emancipated when he was very young (age 5 or 6) along with his younger sister Caroline and his mother Nancy.

The Isbell family was owned by William James Mayo of Floyd County, KY. Mayo freed his slaves in 1825.

Additional information and documentation about the Isbell family owned by William James Mayo is available in Kentucky's Last Frontierby Henry P. Scalf. William James Mayo had received land in Floyd County, KY through a Kentucky Land Grant.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Floyd County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Chicago post (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Chicago democrat (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Challenging Chicago: coping with everyday life, 1837-1920
NKAA Source: Kentucky's last frontier

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Isbell, Louis [Pompey],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-08-20 18:29:28