Cemetery Deep Dives

Isabella Chadbourn (1808-1830)

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, I’ve been to visit Isabella’s grave in Colonial Park Cemetery a few times. I was drawn to it the first time because it was broken and it made me sad to think about how there probably hasn’t been anyone to visit her in a long time.

The more I visited her, the more I wanted to know about her story. Her story is heartbreaking and the more I dug into it, the more I wanted to share her family’s story as well. I figured the easiest way to share their stories was in a timeline format, starting with Isabella’s parents. A few notes before we get into it…

I used the “Family Tree” App for most of my research. There’s no way to really tag it as a reference, but it’s a free app you can use to look up any name and see trees that have been built around them with dates as well as collected stories. If I have any other references I’ll share the links.

Anything that I include in italics are just my thoughts, they are in no way verified, they are purely conjecture.

February 16, 1773

Charles Gildon, Isabella’s father, was born in Norwichtown, CT to parents Richard & Isabella; he was the oldest of 4 children.

Fun fact: Richard served in the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 as a minuteman. If you need a refresher on American history, this was the start of the American Revolution. This means Isabella’s grandfather fought for American independence.

Based on the census records, it’s noted in the family tree app that Richard died around 1778, meaning during the Revolution (though no cause of death is given). Isabella never remarried, meaning she raised three small children (one of them died in 1773 at just a few months old) on her own.

I wonder if seeing how strong his mother needed to be is what caused Charles to name his daughter after her. I’m only assuming that’s where her name came from.

January 4, 1783

Sophia Selleck, Isabella’s mother, was born in New Canaan, CT to Frederick & Ester; she was the oldest of 5 children.

I couldn’t find any stories for Sophia’s family like I did for Charles, but the Sellecks had been in Connecticut since the mid 1600s which I found interesting.

June 2, 1786

Jacob Chadbourn, Isabella’s second husband, was born in Parsonfield, ME to Levi & Martha. Levi was noted on family tree app as being a reverend and Jacob was the 5th of 12 children.

According to family tree: “Jacob was addressed as Capt. Jacob Chadbourn(e). This must have happened before he moved to Savannah, GA in about 1810.” I couldn’t find anything else about military service for him at this time. When he came to Savannah he was a medical officer and eventual justice of the peace.

November 4, 1795

Henry Champion, Isabella’s first husband, was born in West Springfield, MA to Reuben & Silence. He was the 8th of 13 children.

Of Henry’s siblings, the one to remember for later is his older brother Aaron. Just like Henry, he was born in Massachusetts but would later settle in Savannah where he would live out his days.

Aaron was directly older than Henry, making me wonder if they were closer than perhaps some of the other siblings.


Sophia married her first husband, Richard Griggs, at age 17 in Connecticut. Not much seems to be known about Richard other than the approximate year they married and the year he died.


Mary Jane Griggs, Isabella’s older half sister, was born. This was also the year Richard passed away.

I’ll share more on Mary Jane later on.

There were no exact dates for her birth or his death but I hope that he at least got to meet his daughter. This broke my heart thinking of Sophia as a new, young mother alone as she was only 19.


Charles and Sophia were married; their exact date of marriage is not available but they appear in Savannah court records about this time. Charles was 30, Sophia was 20.

The family tree app has 1803-1805 listed as the approximate dates but I’m going with 1803 because they had a baby the following year.


Elizabeth Gildon, Isabella’s older sister, was born in Stamford, CT. She would go on to marry Hanford Knapp in 1823; they would have 8 children (I’ll be mentioning one of their children later).

She lived until 1875 in Savannah; I could not find her burial records.


Richard Gildon, Isabella’s older brother, was born in Connecticut. He was married to a woman named Mary in 1830 in Savannah; they had no known children.

His date of death is not known.

When I saw his wedding was in 1830, I had to know if it was before or after Isabella passed away. Unfortunately, it was nearly 6 months after.

November 26, 1808

Isabella Gildon was born in Savannah, GA.

Remember, her paternal grandmother’s name was Isabella, so I’m sure they had her in mind when they named her.

1812 – a few things happen this year

Charles served in the Georgia militia during the War of 1812. There were no dates of service available.

In February of this year, Isabella’s younger sister Frances was born in Savannah.

Unfortunately, Frances passed away on October 7th. She’s noted as being buried in Colonial Park cemetery but from what I’ve read her grave is unmarked.

I would imagine this has to do with the age of the cemetery as well as the cemetery being used as a camp for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Many graves were damaged/destroyed during this time.

Frances Gildon Find a Grave

Unmarked Graves in Colonial Park

1820 – This was a big year in Savannah.

And by a big year, I mean a bad year. There was a yellow fever outbreak that year as well as the Great Savannah Fire.

“In 1820 Savannah experienced its second devastating fire. This one destroyed almost everything between Broughton and Bay streets, from Jefferson Street down to Abercorn. The fire burned for eight hours and destroyed 463 buildings. At the time, it was the largest fire on record in the United States.” Reference

I’ve provided a map of Savannah so you can see the area that was destroyed colored in red:

Charles was a well known merchant and his store was destroyed in the fire; the family moved back up north to Connecticut for awhile.

One silver lining this year is that on January 17 Isabella’s younger brother Charles was born in Norwalk, CT.

I will have more on Charles Jr. later as well.

Charles was a merchant and an alderman, which essentially means he was part of a city council. He is listed on his wife’s grave as being “Charles Gildon Esq” which confused me because Esquire is typically used by lawyers. Perhaps this was part of him being an alderman, or he was somehow both a lawyer and a merchant? One of those curious things I haven’t quite figured out yet but wanted to note.

1824 was a joyous year for the family, full of weddings!

On May 8th, Aaron Champion married Mary Jane Griggs; Aaron was 32 and Mary Jane was 22.

Yes, Henry’s older brother married Isabella’s older half sister.

On November 13th, Isabella married Henry in Effingham, GA (just northwest of Savannah). She was just shy of her 16th birthday; Henry was 29.

I wonder how the families knew each other, if Aaron introduced Henry to Isabella? Or if Isabella introduced Mary Jane to Aaron during her courtship with Henry? Either way, this connection continues to be important.

November 1825

Isabella Sophia wass born to parents Isabella and Henry in West Springfield, MA.

I’m sure we can assume the Sophia portion is for her maternal grandmother. I’m also just assuming that, this being the South where many people go by their middle names, they called her Sophia.

1826 was both a joyous and tragic year for the Champion family.

Henry Jr. was born on July 5th in Savannah, GA. July is only 8 months after November, so Henry Jr. was conceived fairly quickly and also born early.

Isabella Sophia died on September 16th. She is buried in Meeting House Hill Cemetery in West Springfield, MA.

This is where she and her father were born. I’m not sure if they were visiting family since her brother had just been born in Savannah or why else she was buried there. I’ve seen that the family seems to bounce back and forth between Georgia and the Northeast, though it doesn’t seem to be related to seasons as Henry was born in Savannah in the summer. Perhaps it’s related to work or just extended family visits. The only reason for moving I could find was when they went back to Connecticut after the fire in Savannah in 1820.

September 1827 was a horrible month for the entire family, but Isabella especially suffered.

Henry Sr. passed away in Savannah, GA on the 3rd. This is less than a year after Isabella Sophia died. Now it was just Isabella and one year old Henry Jr. He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

Three days later her mother, Sophia, died “after a short but painful illness.” The family tree app says, “Sophia died of secondary causes to Yellow Fever.”

The following was printed in the Savannah Republican newspaper:

Sophia was buried in Colonial Park cemetery, but her stone is not in the original place. It is hanging on the back wall among the other misplaced stones. Many were moved here as the cemetery transitioned into being a park as well as being moved when they became too damaged.

I had once heard on a tour that the stones back here were from other cemeteries as well but was not able to verify that, only that they were misplaced from around Colonial Park. You can read more about that here if you are interested.

Jacob had been elected as a justice of the peace the previous year and helped Isabella with Henry’s estate after his passing.

The reference I read on the family tree app says this is likely when they “became close.” Imagine what it must have been like to lose your young child, to lose your husband less than a year later and then your mother just three days after that.

September 22, 1828

Jacob and Isabella were married in Norwalk, CT. She was 20 and he was 42. They had no children together.

From the Savannah Georgian
From the Georgia Courier

January 31, 1830

Isabella passed away after what’s noted on her Find a Grave page as being “poisoned by oil.”

Further investigation lead to the Department of Health records from 1830 that lists her death as being caused by “taking an overdose of oil of tansy.”

Oil of tansy is currently used for skincare. In the 1800s though it was used to “ease menstrual pains & end pregnancies.” The same reference , however, admits that due to “inconstant reasoning of early medicine, they also used it to increase fertility.”

She very easily could have taken too much pain medication due to menstruation. I read somewhere that it can take as little as 10 drops to kill someone; meaning that it would be very easy to accidentally overdose with.

This lead me to this sad revelation though: what if she and Jacob were trying to get pregnant? They had been married a little over a year. A year after she married Henry she had Isabella Sophia; not long after that she had Henry Jr. What if she was trying to have a baby and took too much in her efforts?

Her grave says “She was the most affectionate and” then it’s broken off.

At this point, Henry Jr. was just 3 years old as he wouldn’t be 4 until July. He had already lost both of his parents as well as his older sister. I started to wonder about what was customary at the time in terms of who would take care of him. Would his stepfather Jacob keep him? Would he go to his mother’s family or his father’s family if not?

Turns out, it was both.

According to his find a grave page, he was raised by his Uncle Aaron. Remember, Aaron was not only Henry Sr’s older brother but he was also married to Isabella’s older half sister, Mary Jane.

On Jacob’s family tree page it notes: “When she died in 1830 he was very sad.”

I’m not sure why, but I like to think Jacob was a very sweet, adoring husband. Just something I get a feeling for.

October 17, 1835

Five years after her death, Isabella’s older sister Elizabeth had a little girl that she named Isabella.

December 1841

Isabella’s younger brother, Charles Jr, goes missing and is presumed to be murdered.

November 26, 1842

Charles Gildon died in Savannah at age 69 . This would have been Isabella’s 34th birthday. His death is noted on family tree as being from “fever.” He was also buried in Colonial Park Cemetery, but like Frances and Sophia, his grave is no longer marked; like Frances, there’s not a marker for him on the back wall either.

September 20, 1843

Mary Jane Griggs Champion passed away. She is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery. Aaron remarried in 1846 to a woman named Elizabeth Maxwell; they had no children together. Aaron lived until 1880 and is also buried in Laurel Grove.

September 21, 1844

Henry Jr. passed away at just 18 years old. I could find no cause of death at this time. He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery where his father, uncle and aunt all are.

January 3, 1892

Remember Isabella’s younger brother, Charles Jr? This is when he passed away in Freestone, TX, just shy of his 72nd birthday.

This is where this family’s story takes a wild turn.

I first saw on their father, Charles Sr’s, family tree page that, “He saw the death of Isabella and Frances and most likely never knew what happened to his namesake who secretly left for Texas, leaving all to think it was foul play.”

Then, on Charles Jr’s page it notes: “Newspaper article for Macon, GA says for a while Charles was thought to have been murdered when he went to Macon to pay a bill, drew a large amount of money from his account and went to the creditor, checked into a hotel and was not seen again.”

I found the article here:

The Georgia Constitutionalist

It would seem that he pulled out his money and disappeared. Why? I couldn’t say.

Here’s what I do know about him from the family tree app:

He married a woman named Frances Massey in Georgia in 1840. They had a son, Francis, who lived from 1841-1842. Per the article from February 1842, Charles Jr. disappeared around Christmas, so December 1841. This means he left when his son, who was born September 27, was barely three months old and his wife had to face the infant’s death in June of 1842 alone, all while thinking he was murdered. She passed away a few months later in September on what would have been little Francis’s first birthday.

When, really, he married a woman named Deborah in Texas in 1843; they had 11 children together.

I’ll continue to update this post with photos as I visit other family members’ graves and with any other information I’m able to find.

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