Isabella Dinsmore Flandrau (1830-1867)
Isabella was the oldest child of James and Martha Dinsmore. She was born in a home in the Mill Creek Valley of Cincinnati in March, 1830. Removing with her mother and father to the family plantation on Bayou Black in Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana, Isabella became very attached to the unique landscape. The neighboring Gibson family had a daughter, Sarah, who was the same age as Isabella and the girls became great lifelong friends.
When James moved his wife and daughters to Lexington for health and education reasons, Isabella was sad to leave and wrote her father, “The longer I stay up here the more I want to go home for I can feel at home nowhere but at Bayou Black with the frogs and alligators though when I say so every body thinks I have strange taste.” However, when the family moved to their new home in the hills and woods of northern Kentucky, she found much to enjoy in the new landscape, particularly having the Ohio River so close.
At the age of sixteen, Isabella was sent to study with Margaret Coxe, an acquaintance of Martha Dinsmore who had established a seminary for young women in Cincinnati. The education she and her sister, Julia, received under Miss Coxe was rather rare for a female – they studied algebra, geometry, mental philosophy, and rhetoric, among other subjects.
Upon the completion of her education in Cincinnati, she returned home and tutored her younger sisters and cousin. As a young woman, she had a good deal of free time to fill and was fond of visiting relatives in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. She also kept in close contact with Sarah Gibson who had married and was living in nearby Woodford County, Kentucky. It was not until 1859 when, at the age of twenty-nine, she was married to her first cousin, Charles Flandrau. The wedding ceremony was held in the Dinsmore parlor and was probably followed by a large dinner for family and friends.
She and Charles moved to Minnesota where he was a well-known lawyer. Because the area was still a frontier, his occupation forced him to travel from town to town while Isabella spent a good deal of her time alone. When she found she was pregnant in 1861, she returned to her father’s home in Kentucky and gave birth to her daughter, Martha Macomb (“Patty”) there. Towards the end of the Civil War, she followed her husband out to Virginia City, Nevada where he was hoping to find a lucrative job. When nothing panned out, the couple returned to Kentucky where Isabella was more hopeful her husband would find work. Instead, he returned to Minnesota where he eventually became a well-respected lawyer and member of the Democratic Party. In 1866, Isabella was again pregnant and was in Kentucky when she gave birth to her second daughter, Sarah Gibson. When “Sally” was six months old, Isabella, who had gone back to Minnesota but never fully recovered from childbirth, died. She was buried in Kentucky and Patty and Sally were brought to the farm to be raised by their Aunt Julia.