Isaac Brock of Buncombe County: Oldest Man in American History

by Bruce Whitaker

Isaac Brock was born in Rutherford (now Buncombe) County, North Carolina, on March 1, 1787. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and moved to Texas in 1820. He first settled near Nacogdoches. He made a living hunting and supplying meat for settlers. Brock married Lucinda Caroline Hill (1817-1849) around 1833. He would have been 46 years old. He fought in the Texas War of Independence in 1835. He was said to be a friend of Sam Houston.

Brock also fought in the War with Mexico, even though he was 58 years old. Brock was said to have also been a Texas Ranger and fought in many battles against the Comanches. He was said to have killed one Comanche in hand-to-hand combat.

Brock’s first wife died in 1849. Two of their children lived to adulthood. He married for the second time around 1851. Brock, at 64, married 18-year-old Sarah Jane Sparks (1833-1907). This second marriage produced seven children who lived to adulthood.

In 1861 the Civil War broke out and Isaac Brock tried to enlist. He was 74 at the time and was turned down. A short time later a man who was drafted to fight in the war paid Brock to fight for him. This practice was legal in both the North and the South at the beginning of the war. Brock served the Confederacy as a blacksmith, which was his normal occupation.

Roger Conger, a former mayor of Waco, Texas, and a historian, took an interest in Brock. Brock had moved to a farm on the Bosque River near China Spring in McLennan County, Texas. Waco is the county seat of McLennan County. Mayor Conger’s parents were buried near Brock in China Spring Cemetery. Conger looked up Isaac’s daughter, Sallie Brock Ballard, who was in her mid 90s at the time. She said her father could not read or write and did not know the exact date of his birth. He had her write back to his relatives in Buncombe County to get the exact date of birth. They wrote back and said the family Bible listed his birth as March 1, 1787. Sallie Brock Ballard lived to be 97 years old.

Conger was the author of “A Pictorial History of Waco.” He found an article from the Waco Times-Herald dated December 4, 1898. It contained an article about Brock, who had come Waco to testify in a court case involving a land dispute. He was asked his place of birth and age. Isaac Brock swore he was born in Buncombe County and that he was 110 years old. He had retired as a blacksmith at age 99.

The newspaper story with his age got Brock a job advertising for a cure-all called “Peruna.” It was supposed to be a cure for coughs, colds, diarrhea and almost anything else. Brock claimed he took it for almost any ailment and that it contributed to his good health and long life. He was still appearing in newspaper adds at what he claimed with 120 years old.

Isaac Brock’s second wife died in 1907. Shortly after, Brock walked from his farm on the Bosque River to Waco and back. This was a 35-mile round trip. Two years later Brock died suddenly at his home of an apparent heart attack. He was 122 years, 6 months, and two days old. He was survived by eight of his nine children who reached adulthood. Brock’s oldest son, John Murphy Brock, died in 1937 just short of his 101st birthday. Brock’s daughters, Sallie and Henrietta, lived to be 97 and 95, respectively, and several more children lived into their 70s and 80s. Isaac Brock was buried in China Spring Cemetery in McLennan County, Texas.

Mayor Conger had a State of Texas Historical Marker placed near Isaac Brock’s grave.

The information for this article came from an article written by Kent Biffle for the Dallas Morning News, which was reprinted on October 31, 1985 in the Tulsa World newspaper.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. He can be reached at 628-1089 or brucewhitaker@

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