Isaac Snow: Revolutionary Pirate & Incorrigible Prisoner

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2022 /

Writer: Chris White

Photo courtesy of Orleans Historical Society. Until Isaac Snow died at age 98 on March 12, 1855, he was the oldest Revolutionary War veteran alive in Barnstable County. He was an ordinary Cape Codder, with an extraordinary life story that also included training a local militia to repel the British from the shores of Rock Harbor in 1814, during the War of 1812. According to amateur historians Carol and Jeff Jenkins of Maryland, key chapters in Snow’s time privateering were “like episodes of Hogan’s Heroes,” the long running sitcom about a zany group of American prisoners during WWII. “His story is too much fun to lay buried,” says Carol Jenkins. Although Isaac Snow was well known locally during his lifetime, he largely disappeared from history, and the Jenkinses happened upon accounts of his adventures almost by accident. The couple had taken up the investigation of family genealogy and discovered that Jeff is a direct descendent of John Jenkins, who arrived on the Cape in 1635. “He came from Kent, in England, during the Great Migration,” says Jenkins. “John was the first of five generations of the family to live in Barnstable.” When the couple uncovered their Cape Cod roots, they decided to widen their investigations. “We’ve done a lot of research into all branches of the Jenkins family,” says Jeff. “Carol is a tenacious researcher.” Along one of the family branches, the Jenkinses discovered Lemuel Snow Jr., whose mother was Mary Howland Jenkins. “We began working on a history of Lieutenant Lemuel Snow,” says Carol Jenkins. “A lot has been written about him—we know that he fought in the American Revolution and served under General George Washington at Valley Forge. After the war, he returned to Barnstable, then moved out to Indiana with a group in covered wagons.” During their research, the…

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Chris White

Chris White is a frequent writer for Cape Cod Life Publications and has written on topics ranging from the history of Smith’s Tavern on Wellfleet Island to the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria off Nantucket. Chris also teaches English at Tabor Academy in Marion.