The Gentrys who appeared in a variety of East Tennessee records from 1778 to 1820 have been organized by proposed family relationship and tied to a chronological listing of those records by county. Some of these families have been discussed in some detail earlier, most of the others are expected to be included in upcoming issues of the Gentry Journal.
Scattered references to a dozen or more Gentry families can be found in a variety of references in the early years of Eastern Tennessee. Census records for almost all of this area are not available until 1830 because of the loss of 1810 and 1820 records (see more below). The records that do survive are a relatively few land records (deeds and grants), scattered tax lists, a rather surprising number of records of marriages and a few other miscellaneous records. These records are complicated by the fairly rapid formation of new counties during the period from 1790 to say 1820 which requires one to watch for changes in county organization in the frequent case where one family may have remained in one location and lived under two or three different county administrations.
The Gentrys that came to Tennessee in the early days were a widely diverse group, coming from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The purpose of the present article is to organize most of the available documentary evidence by family groups and by geographical location. This is with the hope that this summary will make it easier for those researching Gentry family histories to keep track of which families relate to the various references. To keep the project within manageable bounds, the time period covered is from the beginning of Tennessee settlement up until 1820, and we will define Eastern Tennessee for this purpose as being east of a line joining Jackson County in the north and Franklin County in the south.
The first permanent settler in Tennessee was William Bean, in 1769, in defiance of the Line of Demarkation established by the British Crown in 1765. This line, roughly along the ridges of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains, established a boundary west of which settlement was banned In spite of this, by 1772, there were enough settlers, that they banded together to organize an autonomous government called the Watauga Association. This was superceded in 1775, prompted by the American Rebellion, by the formation of Washington District which was claimed by North Carolina. In 1777 when North Carolina established its own state government separate from the Crown, Washington District became Washington County, a part of North Carolina, with boundaries co-extensive with the present State of Tennessee. In 1784, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the Federal government, but almost immediately rescinded the act. In spite of this, the Tennesseans, under the leadership of John Sevier, banded together to form the State of Franklin, meeting in Greenville to adopt a new constitution. During the period from 1784 to 1788, when the new state collapsed, both North Carolina and Franklin claimed jurisdiction. Finally, in 1790, Congress passed an act for government of the "Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio," including Tennessee. In 1796, Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the sixteenth state. The maps displayed below show the manner in which new counties were formed, sometimes by splitting existing counties, sometimes by the additional of new territory, for the period from 1780 to 1830. In addition we show the major rivers of Tennessee. These plus the intervening mountains played a very great part in the manner in which Tennessee developed and was settled.
This is a good point at which to discuss the problems associated with census returns in Tennessee. Naturally there was no Federal census in 1790, but all of the 1800 census is missing and all of 1810 with the exception of one county, Rutherford. For 1820, the returns from the eastern half of the state have been lost – Morgan, Bledsoe, and Marion and all counties east of them. This means that for most of the Gentry families we will be discussing in this article there is census information only from 1830 onward. Fortunately, we can retrieve some data from tax lists. Many of the earliest lists represent a form of census, when a county was newly formed, often an enumeration of taxable males in the county was ordered. In addition, in some districts, a list of males subject to service in the militia is available. To counterbalance these deficiencies, the record of marriages in Tennessee is far better than in some states, and provides valuable information. Other records such as deeds and court records are very spotty and for the most part depend upon the history of the particular courthouse in which they were stored – many of these were destroyed at some point in their history by fire.
We may digress a moment also on the process of acquiring land. All land in North Carolina, and later Tennessee, like all of the early states in the Union, originally belonged to the state in contrast to later years in newer states where the land was originally of Federal ownership. North Carolina had a procedure for making land available to settlers by means of a pre-emption grant. An applicant would file a land "entry" at designated entry-taker sites, requesting title to a specific piece of land that was not occupied or claimed by someone else. After an initial check, the land was surveyed by an official surveyor and crew. Then at some time one to two years later, upon payment of a fee, a grant was made by the state. The fee for this during the early days of Tennessee was 40 shillings per 100 acres with a limit of 640 acres at that price. For a much greater cost, additional land could be included. For Tennessee, the grant process resulted in early records being located in North Carolina, then later in Tennessee. After the land was granted, further records were all at the county level.
Summary of Gentrys According to Family
A. Robert3 Gentry (Nicholas2, Nicholas1) and Family
Robert Gentry, born in what was then Hanover County, Virginia in about 1726, left Albemarle County, Virginia, in about 1776 with younger members of his family. His older sons Charles and Jesse left at about the same time. Robert and Charles appear in the earliest references to Gentrys in Washington County in a tax list of 1778. Robert settled on the French Broad River near the community of Dandridge which became part of Greene County in 1783 and then part of Jefferson County in 1792. He appears in land grants and deeds, tax lists, and marriage records in each of these counties in turn (see Chronology below). Married first to Judith Joyner of Albemarle County, Virginia, Robert married a second time in Jefferson County, to Rachel West. Robert remained in Jefferson County for the rest of his life; his will was signed in 1811, naming his sons Charles, Jesse, Bartlett, and Martin and the children of his daughters Elizabeth, Sarah and Mary as heirs<1>.
A1. Charles4 Gentry (Robert3)
The oldest of Robert's sons, Charles was born in about 1750 in Virginia and was married there to Elizabeth Joyner, his first cousin. He appears to have moved from Virginia to Tennessee at the same time as his father, and he is in the same Washington County 1778 tax list. He made entry for a land grant in 1778 for 250 acres of land on Big Limestone Creek (a tributary of the Nolichucky River) in Washington County (adjoining Joseph Gentry) and in 1779 for 510 acres on a branch of Kendricks Creek in Sullivan County. He sold the latter in 1787 at which time he was identified in the deed as being of Greene County. In 1791 he was taxed for 400 acres of land in Greene County on the north side of the French Broad River and was cited as an adjoining land owner in 1793. Beginning in 1794 and continuing to 1800, Charles was taxed in Clarke County, Kentucky. Charles and wife Elizabeth sold 138 acres of land in Clarke County in 1801. He then moved to Jackson County, Tennessee where he was included in the 1802 census of taxables. There is no record of when he died, but the fact that he was inclluded in his father's will of 1811 suggests that his death was some time later than that.
Little is known for certain of Charles' family aside from his wife Elizabeth Joyner (his first cousin). His oldest son may have been Jesse who is said to have lived next to Charles along Wolf Creek in Jackson County from 1803 to 1807. He purchased land on Lick Creek, a tributary of Wolf Creek in 1807. This was just a couple miles from the Kentucky border in an area for which Cumberland County, Kentucky and Jackson County, Tennessee, both claimed ownership. The fact that he was listed in the 1810 census for Cumberland County, Kentucky may have been due to a zealous Kentucky census enumerator rather than that he was actually living in that county instead of in Jackson County. Jesse may also have been the Jesse Gentry of Todd County, Kentucky, who sold land in Overton County, Tennessee in 1820 (although he was not in the census that year). His presumed widow Elizabeth was in the 1830 Todd County census.
Another son almost surely was William who like his brother Jesse, may also have been living close to the Kentucky border in Jackson County, Tennessee, in 1810. William was listed in the census for Wayne County, Kentucky (next door to Cumberland County) in the 1810 census but was probably actually living in Tennessee. William was listed in Overton County, Tennessee for the 1820 census. By the time of the 1830 census, his land had become part of Fentress County. William died before 1840, but his widow and family were listed under his name in the 1840 Fentress census.
Another son of Charles Sr., Charles, is probably the Charles Gentry who married Susannah Ware in Madison County, Kentucky in 1803. He has not been found in any census for 1810 but was in the Overton County census in 1820. Later references to him have not been found.
A2. Jesse4 Gentry (Robert3)
Jesse was Robert's second son, born in about 1757. He is known to have been in Washington County by 1781, but did not sell the land which he had inherited from his grandfather, Philip Joyner, in Albemarle County, Virginia, until 1783. Consequently he may have arrived in Tennessee a few years after his father and his brother Charles. He lived along the French Broad River near his father until 1797 when he bought land in Knox County. Thereafter, he spent the rest of his life in that county, dying some time in the interval between 1830 and 1833. We are handicapped in trying to follow the movements of Jesse's family, as well as those of his brothers because of the loss of census records for 1820 for all of the eastern counties of Tennessee. Jesse appears in minor references in Washington County in 1781, 1782, and 1783, then briefly between 1794 and 1797 in Greene County. Jesse bought land in Knox County in 1797 and spent the rest of his life there, appearing in many references there between 1797 and 1830. A widow, Sarah, who survived him, was probably a second wife, based upon the ages of his older children. Presumed members of his family, namely William, Silas, Martin, Isaac and Rachel appear in a variety of Knox County references as well. Jesse is believed to have died between 1830 (when he appeared in the Knox County census) and 1833 (when his widow Sarah, daughter Rachel, and son Isaac and wife transferred membership from the Hines Creek Church to Mt. Hebron Church. While Silas died early, Jesse's sons Martin and Isaac continued to live with their families in Knox and neighboring Anderson County long after their father's death. William dropped from sight after 1815. A John Gentry who married Elizabeth Newman in 1807 in Knox County was probably also a part of Jesse's family. There is no further record of John in Knox County but we speculate that he may have been the same individual as an Anderson Gentry who appeared in the 1830 census for Anderson County with family members of an appropriate age. Supporting this hypothesis is the fact the Jesse's son, Martin and Isaac moved to Anderson County some time later.
A3. Bartlett4 Gentry (Robert3)
Robert's third son was Bartlett, born in about 1761. The first reference to Bartlett was in 1790 in Greene County when he married Elizabeth Whitman (his father served as bondsman for the marriage bond). We can assume from this that he was living with his father during the years previous to that, and presumably he came to Tennessee in 1778 with the rest of the family. He is mentioned in one tax list in 1800 in Jefferson County with his father and brother Martin. Although direct references are lacking, Bartlett is believed to have moved west to White County (organized 1806) where several of his children are said to have been born. From there, Bartlett moved to Jackson County, Tennessee, (organized 1801) and then to Jackson County, Alabama (just south of the Tennessee border, along the middle Tennessee River). There are several references in Jackson County, Tennessee, in the period between 1811 and 1817, involving land ownership. Bartlett's children included Robert, Joyner (or Joiner), John, Bartlett Jr., and Jesse. There are brief references to Robert and to Joiner in Jackson County, Tennessee. Bartlett's son, Jesse, can be distinguished from his uncle by the fact that the elder Jesse spent all of the later years of his life in Knox County, while the younger Jesse lived in Jackson County, then in Smith County, Tennessee. John and Bartlett Jr. moved on eventually to Missouri.
A4. Martin4 Gentry (Robert3)
The youngest of Robert's sons, Martin was born about 1764. He must have been living with his father at the time of the latter's death as he was given the Gentry homestead near Dandridge as well as other property in Robert's will, and his descendants still owned the property in 1908, when "The Gentry Family in America" book was published. His sons were John, Charles and another Martin. They all continued to live in Jefferson County, which allows one to distinguish this Martin Jr. from his cousin Martin Jr who lived in Knox County. Martin's son, Charles, can be distinguished from his uncle, Charles, both by his age and by the fact that Martin's Charles also continued to live in Jefferson County. Aside from his listing in his father's will, the only early reference to Martin Sr. was in an 1800 tax list in Jefferson County. His son, John, married Priscilla Graham in Jefferson County in 1812; Charles married Rhoda Carson in 1824, Martin Jr married Betsey Rinehart in 1834.
Joseph Gentry of 1778 and 1787 Washington County
A Joseph Gentry was listed in the same 1778 Washington County tax list as Robert and Charles Gentry, sharing with them honors (if it can be called that) for first mention of Gentrys in Tennessee records. A Joseph was listed again in 1787, still in Washington County. The next mention of a Joseph in eastern Tennessee was in 1794 in Carter County. We will discuss possible identifications of this (or these) Joseph(s) shortly.
B. Nicholas4 Gentry (Nicholas3,
We can only infer from supplementary clues that Nicholas' family was the next to arrive in Tennessee, coming in an unlikely (for that period in time) direction from South Carolina. Nicholas was part of a group of South Carolinians (and other prospective settlers) who left Sullivan County in 1779 and 1780 to boat down the Tennessee River (and back upstream along the Cumberland River) or go overland to Fort Nashboro (which became Nashborough, then later Nashville), in Davidson County. Most of the story of Nicholas' family does not concern us here because they spent their early years farther west than the focus of this article. Suffice it to say that Nicholas was killed in about 1782 by Indians as was also a son Randal in 1787. Nicholas was among a group of early settlers who were given land grants by the North Carolina Legislature in gratitude for their establishment and defense of Fort Nashboro. [This family has been discussed in detail in a later Gentry Journal article, issue F, July 2004, published after the original appearance of this present article.]
Where Nicholas comes into our present study of Eastern Tennessee Gentrys is the fact that he apparently possessed land in Sullivan County before heading west. A grant by the State of North Carolina to Nicholas' son John in Sullivan County makes reference to "land adjoining that where Nicholas Gentry, dec'd, formerly lived". Another state grant was made to Nicholas' son, Nicholas Jr. in the same area. Neither of these sons remained in eastern Tennessee. John sold his property in 1796, and Nicholas Jr. sold his property in 1803. Both continued to live in Davidson County, then Williamson County, during this time. John was killed by Indians along the Cumberland River in 1797. His sale of property in 1796 appears to have required legal ratification, for his surviving brothers, George, Samuel and Nicholas signed a document in Sullivan County in 1804 relinquishing claim to John's former property.
Joseph Gentry of 1778 and 1787 Washington County (continued)
We return now to the question of identifying the Joseph who appeared in Washington County tax lists in 1778 and in 1787. He was the first of two Joseph's who were major players in the settlement of Tennessee by Gentrys. Our first observation is that he must have been born before 1757 for him to have been liable for a poll tax. We can conclude also that he must have come from Virginia, since the only non-Virginia Joseph Gentry at that time in history was Samuel-II's son Joseph who lived in Surry County, North Carolina, long before and long after this 1778-1787 period. By far the most logical candidate was Joseph, son of Joseph-III, grandson of Joseph-II, all of Hanover County, Virginia. The second Joseph to settle in Tennessee did so later, along with a brother, Hugh. They both came from Botetourt County, Virginia. We will describe the two Josephs in chronological order, starting with the Joseph from Hanover County.
C. Joseph4 Gentry (Joseph3, Joseph2,
This Joseph is believed to have been born about 1748 in Hanover County, Virginia. He appeared in a number of tax lists for the county that survive for the period from 1782 onward and signed a petition there in 1784 (see earlier Gentry Journal article, vol 1, #12, December 2001). Joseph was also listed in the 1782 Hanover County, "Head-of-Household" list with a family of 5 members. The Hanover tax lists are ambiguous, not distinguishing clearly between this Joseph and his father, Joseph Sr, nor from the estate of his deceased father beginning in 1789. There is also a possibility that some of the later tax lists refer to a third Joseph who may have been living in the county at the time. The last reference to any Joseph in those records was in 1795. We have then a possible conflict between records in Virginia and in Tennessee.
Although the Tennessee tax record for 1778 was only for tithable individuals, not for land, Joseph was identified as an adjoining neighbor of Charles Gentry that same year in Charles' entry for a land grant. This clearly indicates Joseph must have been at least a semi-permanent resident of Washington County at that time. The next tax record, in 1787, involves taxation for 100 acres of land. We know of other cases, for example Jesse Gentry in section A above, who settled on land in Tennessee while still owning land for a brief period in Virginia. There is also the precedent of Samuel-II Gentry owning land in Louisa County which was occupied presumably by members of his family for a number of years while Samuel himself moved to Lunenburg County. Any lengthy ownership in two states so widely separated is unusual, so the later tax obligations in Virginia may be for a different Joseph.
After the 1787 reference in Washington County, Joseph was listed as liable for tax for the same 100 acres of land by Carter County in 1796 after the creation of the county from Washington County in that year. This list was probably a census of taxable individuals ordered by the new county government. Joseph appeared a number of times between 1794 and 1811 in references in Carter County. (The 1794 reference was as a witness to a will which physically took place in 1794, but then was recorded in Carter County records after the latter county was organized). Joseph owned several neighboring plots of land in Carter County along Roans Creek and Rogers Creek, tributaries of the Holston River. He is said to have been buried in an unmarked grave near the present community of Laurel Bloomery, now a part of Johnson County. His wife, Winifred Oliver, was also buried there. Joseph's descendants estimate his date of death as approximately 1835. His one appearance in a census record was in 1830 in Carter County.
Three of Joseph's sons appeared briefly in early Carter County records. In 1811, Joseph sold land to William and Benjamin. Another son, John, is mentioned briefly in 1811, 1813, and 1815. William left Carter County between 1818 (when he sold his land) and 1819 (when he is cited as being "late of Carter County"). There is disagreement as to what might have happened to William (he may have moved to Kentucky like his brother Joseph Oliver, settling in Pulaski County), but his brothers Benjamin, and a fourth son of Joseph, David, remained in Carter and its successor county, Johnson.
Proposals for the family of Joseph posted on the internet, for example in Ancestry.Com Worldtree, have discrepancies that are hard to reconcile with facts consistent with what is known about Joseph-IV of Hanover County, Virginia. This article is more concerned with the antecedents of Joseph than the descendants and will not attempt to resolve them. He is said to have married Winifred Oliver, but if we can believe the Virginia records, this marriage must have taken place in Virginia, not in Tennessee. His son, John, gives his place and date of birth in the 1850 Johnson County, Tennessee census as 1777, Tennessee. Either the date or the place may have been reported wrong. A proposed son, Richard, in one family group report, has been confused with a Richard Gentry who lived in Ashe County, North Carolina (a son of Nicholas-IV Gentry of Surry and Ashe County, North Carolina). Given his name, a Joseph Oliver Gentry would appear to be a son of this Joseph even though all of his references are in Green County, Kentucky rather then Tennessee. [This family has been discussed in detail in a later Gentry Journal article, issue D, May 2004, published after the original appearance of this present article.]
D. William3 Gentry (??James2,
Nicholas1) and Family
We come now to a series of proposals that are highly speculative. We know that there was a William Gentry and wife who were buried in Crumley Cemetery in Sullivan County. This is a cemetery that was founded in 1791 and is still in existence. There is a tombstone there for William and his wife on which the date is not legible except for the first two digits "17--". The stone must refer to a time of burial somewhere between 1791 and 1799. Nothing is known in any Tennessee history of this William. We must go back to Virginia and North Carolina to hazard a guess as to his identity. The family of Richard Gentry, who left Louisa County, Virginia, and moved to Stokes County, North Carolina in the early years of the 19th century, had a tradition that Richard's father was a William Gentry who had five or six children, lived along the Roanoke River in Virginia for a time, then moved "West". In a previous Journal article (vol 1, #12, December 2001) possible relationships and arguments for the identification of several contemporaneous William Gentrys in Hanover County, Virginia, have been presented. It is our present proposal that the William who died in Sullivan County was the father of Richard Gentry of Stokes County, North Carolina, and the son of James-II Gentry of Hanover County, Virginia.
In continuation of this speculation, we propose further that two young Gentrys, William and John, who were killed in the Indian massacre of the John Brown boating party along the Tennessee River in 1787, were sons of the elder William. We further suggest that an Ayers Gentry who was taxed for land in Jefferson County in 1800 was a third son. (It is perhaps significant that Richard Gentry, Ayers' proposed brother, named one of his sons, Joel Ayers Gentry.) There is no further record of Ayers although we will refer to him again briefly in discussing some unidentified Gentrys below.
E. David (??) Gentry, Revolutionary War Veteran
Probably the next Gentry in chronological sequence to settle in Tennessee was David Gentry, who was born about 1753, enlisted in the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War and eventually died 16 Jul 1847 in Overton County, Tennessee. His date of arrival in Tennessee can only be inferred not demonstrated by any solid evidence. We do know that a "Dowel" Gentry was included in the taxable individuals list for Jackson County in 1802 (probably a census occasioned by Jackson's formation as a new county in the previous year). The spelling appears to be a mis-reading of "David" in the original document. David is thought to have come to Tennessee at an earlier time, probably to the Wautauga Settlement in Washington County. At the time of David's response to a call for enlistment in the militia, a group of more than 1000 "over-the-mountain" militia under the command of Colonel John Sevier also answered the call from the Watauga Settlement. David's militia unit and the Tennessee volunteers both took part in the battle of Kings Mountain. At that time David may have become friendly with some of the Tennesseans and after he was discharged in 1782, decided to move west to Washington or Sullivan County. David is widely believed to have had a son, Thomas, by a first marriage, who according to the 1850 Jackson County census, was born about 1796 in Tennessee, meaning David had moved there at some earlier time. There are no direct records for David from 1782 to 1802, we can only guess as to what he was doing during that interval.
David's lineage is a mystery. This Journal has devoted an entire article to an in-depth discussion of this man (JGG, vol 2, #4). Several LDS Ancestral File submissions claim that his first wife was Elizabeth Smith and that she died in 1801 in Overton County, Tennessee (despite the fact that this county was not organized until 1806). Although there is no solid evidence of this wife's name or when the marriage took place, it is probable that David had at least two sons by his first marriage, Jesse, Thomas and perhaps a third, John, who settled in Tennessee. This is based upon associations between these families and children of David's second wife in later years. He may also have had a daughter Lucinda, born in 1792, who married Francis Davidson and spent most of her life in Fentress County, Tennessee.
Jesse's marriage to Elizabeth Gallion was recorded in Grainger County in 1807. In 1812, Jesse and his brother-in-law, Thomas Gallion, sold land in Jackson County, and in 1813, Jesse and Thomas Gallion signed a petition in Overton County attempting to organize a militia for defense against Creek Indians. A John Gentry enlisted in the War of 1812 from Jackson County, then disappeared from view. It is very likely that he was a brother of Jesse and Thomas who died at an early age, and whose son James lived with Thomas in later years. Jesse was in the 1820 Jackson County census, but sold his land that year moving to Todd County, Kentucky briefly. He and Thomas moved briefly to Vermillion County, Illinois where both appeared in the 1830 census. Both then returned to Tennessee and settled again in Jackson County. This makes at least five Jesse Gentrys that need to be carefully distinguished in Tennessee records -- one in Knox County (the son of Robert), one who lived briefly in Jackson County then moved to Smith County (son of Bartlett and a grandson of Robert), one in Carter County (a son of Benjamin Gentry and grandson of Joseph), one in Fentress County (a son of William Gentry and grandson of Charles), and this Jesse in Jackson County.
David was married a second time in 1807. David's second wife, in testifying on behalf of her deceased husband in petitions for a widow's pension, provided conflicting information concerning her age, her name -- Sarah Roberts or Sarah Johnson -- the place where she was married -- Anson County, North Carolina, or Bedford County, North Carolina (non-existent, although she might have meant Bedford County, Tennessee). David's children by his second wife are unknown except for a son David Jr and a possible daughter, Rebecca, who married Thomas Gore (an ancestor of Vice President Albert Gore). The 1820 census for Jackson County reports a David Gentry with apparently two sons and three daughters living with him (the census document was damaged and it is not possible to say whether his wife Sarah was with him at the time). David Sr. died in 1846 or 1847 in Overton County. In 1850, his widow, Sarah, was living in Jackson County with her son David Jr. Her presumed stepson, Thomas Gentry, was living next door to Sarah, and on the other side of Thomas, lived Elizabeth Gentry, widow of Thomas' brother, Jesse. [This family has been discussed in detail in a later Gentry Journal article, issue B, May 2007, published after the original appearance of this present article.]
F. Family of John3 Gentry (??John2,
Nicholas1) of Botetourt County, Virginia
The next group of Gentrys to move to Tennessee may have first done so at about the same time as David's move (and there is some speculation that he was their uncle). They are thought to be sons of John Gentry who died in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1779. John's lineage is very much in doubt. A major question is whether he was the same John Gentry who lived in Louisa County and Amelia County, Virginia, in the 1740's and 1750's or was a son of the the older John. [Note. This question has been addressed at some length in a Gentry Journal article, issue D, September 2011, published after the original appearance of this present article.] In any case, the John who died in 1779 left a will, bequeathing his estate to, among others, "his sons" (without naming them). Hugh Gentry, believed to have been named for John's father-in-law, Hugh Green, and Joseph Gentry, are commonly thought to be sons of this John. (In furtherance of this supposition, Hugh named one of his sons Hugh Green and Joseph named a son Joseph Green.) Other sons have not been specifically identified in the genealogy literature, although it is possible that the James Gentry who appeared in the 1810 census for Augusta County, Virginia (adjoining Botetourt County), was also a son. The author proposes that another son was John Gentry, described here, who like Hugh and Joseph, moved to Tennessee from Virginia in the late 1700's.
F1. Hugh4 Gentry (John3)
Hugh was probably the oldest of the sons of John of Botetourt and is said to have been born in 1769. He appears to have been a very mobile individual, moving from Virginia to Tennessee, to Kentucky, back to Tennessee, and then to Alabama. The first reference to him in Tennessee was in 1787 when he signed a petition in Washington County addressed to the North Carolina Legislature asking for formation of the State of Franklin. The next reference to him in Tennessee was not until 1812, in Franklin County. Family historians indicate that Hugh went to Shelby County, Kentucky, during this interval, and married there. His four oldest children are said to have been born in Kentucky. This writer does not have available records to confirm or deny this. It seems unusual for Hugh to go to Shelby County, which is quite far north in Kentucky, and then move down to the southernmost part of Tennessee, but a large proportion of the early settlers in Franklin County came from Kentucky. Moreover there seems to be no question that Hugh was in Shelby County for he is on record as being the bondsman for a marriage recorded there in 1797.
Hugh appeared in an 1812 tax and voter registration list in Franklin County, but was not in any Tennessee census records. By 1820, the year of the earliest Franklin County census, he had moved to the other side of the Tennessee border to Jackson County, Alabama. This was an area which was newly-created in 1819 as a county at the same time that Alabama was created a state. Only Hugh Jr (Hugh Green), of Hugh's sons, is found in Franklin County census records for 1830. Hugh Sr died in Jackson County, Alabama, in 1840 by which time even Hugh Jr. had also moved to Alabama.
F2. John4 Gentry (??John3)
A John Gentry who died in Montgomery County, Ohio in 1807 had at least three sons, Ephraim, Samuel, and John who were born in Tennessee and who eventually moved to Madison and Wayne Counties, Indiana. John is also said to have had an older son, David, born in 1796, also in Tennessee, for whom further information is lacking. This John married a widow, Hannah Cox, who at the time of her second marriage had a son, Absalom Cox, born 1789 as a result of a first marriage. John moved to Ohio in about 1805 (his daughter Abigail, born about 1806, gives Ohio as her place of birth in the 1850 census), and died there. There have been many enquiries as to the origin of this John. There are only a few references to a John Gentry in early Tennessee records that are not connected with various later John Gentrys that were sons of the original pioneers. The first of these references was an application in 1779 for 640 acres of land on Cherokee Creek in Washington County. This land was then turned over to John Sevier. This is a case where Sevier arranged for a number of surrogates to apply for land at a cheaper cost that was limited to 640 acres per applicant than Sevier himself would have to pay. This led to a total purchase by Sevier of 32,000 acres and was in an area that later became Greene County. John was also mentioned in court records in 1798 in Greene County and again in the 1805 Greene County tax lists. Descendants of John's son Samuel have provided information about his family and described his will which was received for probate in Dayton, Ohio, in 1807<3>. Hannah was still living in Montgomery County, Ohio, in 1820 along with the younger members of her family, but she had died by 1830 and her family had mostly moved on to Indiana.
To identify this John, we first should determine whether it is possible that he was the son of one of the Gentrys who had come to Tennessee earlier. John is thought to have married in about 1793, thus he probably was born around 1770, and his father probably was born before 1750. This means that only Robert (family A), Nicholas (family B), Joseph of Hanover County (family C) and William Sr. (family D) of the families present in Tennessee at the time of John's marriage, were old enough to have been a father of John. Of these, we know Robert did not have a son John, Nicholas and William had other sons John who coincidentally were both killed by Indians, and Joseph of Hanover County, appears to have had a son John who was married to Sarah Brown and who was still living in Carter County in 1815.
Of those Gentrys who did not go to Tennessee, John of Botetourt County was almost the only possibility for being the father of this Ohio John. We can eliminate Nicholas-II as a parent. He had no sons by the name of John, and those of his children who had sons John, can be eliminated because these Johns can be accounted for in different ways -- moving to Kentucky, staying in Virginia, too young, etc. Samuel-II had one son John who died in 1761 or before. We can also eliminate James-II, David-II and Samuel's son, Nicholas-III, all of whom had sons named John with known and different histories. As to the family of Joseph-II, his son William, is also believed to have had a son John, namely John Gentry of Louisa County, Virginia, who likewise had a known and different history than the John we are discussing here. In conclusion, after this long and perhaps tedious discourse, we are left with no absolute evidence that John of Dayton, Ohio, was the son of John of Botetourt County, but the likelihood is greater there than any other obvious choice.
F3. Joseph4 Gentry (John3)
Joseph, son of John of Botetourt County, is thought to have been born about 1775, so was younger than Hugh and our proposed John Jr. The first Tennessee record for him was probably in Grainger County where in 1803 a Joseph Gentry witnessed a deed. In 1805, Joseph's land was sold by the county for delinquent taxes. He next appeared in Franklin County in 1812 in the same voter registration list in which Hugh's name is found. From the reminiscences of his son William and hints from the birthplace of for example, his son Hugh, it appears that Joseph moved his family from Tennessee to Alabama before 1820, undoubtedly to Jackson County. Some time before 1830, Joseph moved back to northern Franklin County (an area that later became Coffee County) and most of his family are included in the 1830 census. Coffee County was split from Franklin County in 1836 and Joseph's name was in that county's census in 1840. He died there in 1847, leaving a will.
Joseph is said to have married Bell Brandon about 1795. After she died and was buried near Hillboro in present Coffee County, Joseph married Mary (Roach) Mash in 1826 in Franklin County. Three of Joseph's older children, John, Catherine, and William, are said to have preceeded the rest of the family to Jackson County, Alabama (with High Gentry's family), and then moved in about 1828 to Williamson and Jackson Counties, Illinois, rather than returning to Tennessee. The younger members of Joseph's family, including sons Joseph Green, Jarret and Hugh, remained in what became Coffee County.
G. Aaron4 Gentry (George3,
Aaron Gentry, born about 1771 in Hanover County, Virginia, was a very prominent member of the Tennessee community, spending almost all of his time in Knox County. The first reference to him was in 1807 when he bought 485 acres of land from his uncle, Daniel Ogg. A correspondent to the "Gentry Family Gazette and Genealogy Exchange" wrote:
Aaron had a very unusual family history. He married first, Polly Ogg, in November 1801 in Orange County, Virginia. Polly died, probably in childbirth, and Aaron then married her sister, Margaret ("Peggy") Ogg in January 1803. Aaron and Peggy left Virginia for Tennessee shortly after their marriage, leaving behind a son, George, born to Polly. George remained in Virginia for the rest of his life and was raised by his grandparent Oggs. George appeared repeatedly in later Virginia census records with Susan Ogg, presumably a younger sister of Polly and Peggy. Sons of Aaron and Peggy included John T., James O., Aaron G., Hardin, Peter, Joab and William. Knox County records include many references to these children. Daughters included Elizabeth, Susan and Margaret. Peggy died in July 1832. Aaron married a third time, in February 1833 to a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Reynolds. She must have been a long time friend because Aaron and his son, James, served as administrators of her first husband's estate. [This family has been discussed in detail in a later Gentry Journal article, issue B, April 2005, published after the original appearance of this present article.]
H. Tyre (or Tyree)4 Gentry (Nathaniel3,
Tyre is another Gentry for whom the antecedents have been controversial and uncertain. His life has been discussed at some length in still another previous Journal article (JGG, vol 2, #11). Tyre came to Tennessee from South Carolina by way of Georgia. There are a few brief references to him in Jackson County in 1811 and 1812, in which he apparently disposed of some claims to land that he had occupied with the intention of securing a land grant. Another land transaction in 1811 in Stewart County, appears to have involved Tyre's son, William. The latter also appears in the rolls of the War of 1812 veterans, being mustered into service at Nashville, and discharged from service in Stewart County in 1815. Tyre's family are known to have moved to Arkansas in about 1817, and appeared in the 1820 census. It is presumed that Tyre went with them, although direct records of his presence are not found until later.
I. David4 Gentry
This David, sometimes referred to as "Cherokee David" spent most of his life among the Cherokee Indians, mostly with the family of a half-breed Indian trader, John Rogers. David is said to have been a blacksmith. He married in about 1803, a Mary Buffington, and lived until about 1817 in the territory between the Little Tennessee and Hiawassee Rivers. He accompanied John Rogers to Alabama when this section of Indian Territory was transferred to the United States. David then married again (date not known), Tiana (also "Diana") Rogers who later became a wife of Sam Houston. David died in about 1829 during a battle between competing Indian tribes. David is described at some length in an earlier issue of the Gentry Journal (vol. 3, #4, April 2003).
J. Family of Richard3 Gentry
Two sons of Richard Gentry moved from Surry County, North Carolina, to Tennessee. Both settled initially in Greene County, and both are conspicuously lacking in documentary references.
J1. Simon4 Gentry (Richard3)
From North Carolina records, Simon (who was born in about 1770), appears to have left Surry County in about 1800, but the first Tennessee records for him are in 1809 in Greene County when his name appeared in tax records. He was listed there each succeeding year to and including 1815, being taxed for land along the Long Fork branch of Limestone Creek. His name is also on a deed for the purchase in 1817 of land on Long Fork branch. Simon was included in the first extant census of Greene County (in 1830), then in 1832 there is a brief reference to a "Simeon" Gentry and wife joining the Mill Creek Baptist Church in Monroe County, Kentucky. From there, his name drops from view, and we have no record of his later life or where or when he died. Simon's daughter Rhoda (Rhody), was married in Green County in 1813, and while beyond the time frame of this article, Simon's son, Richard, is included in a Greene County tax list in 1830 as well as being in the census for that year.
J2. William4 Gentry (Richard3)
There is even less evidence of the presence of Simon's brother, William in Tennessee. He was born about 1775, and had married twice by the time he left North Carolina. He left Surry County considerably later than did Simon, probably in about 1813. William's name is included in the 1814 tax list for Greene County along with Simon. Family tradition has been that William died in Chattanooga, and indeed the William Gentry who appears in the 1840 Hamilton County census is fully consistent with this being our subject William. One can rationalize the lack of records in intervening years if he lived in the vicinity of Chattanooga during most of that time, because this was Indian Territory. While the portion of Hamilton County west of the Tennessee River was organized in 1816, all the area to the east of the river, namely the remainder of Hamilton County and the neighboring counties of Bradley and Polk were not organized until 1836 and 1839. There is no record of the Hamilton County William beyond 1840. Most of William's family scattered widely, but one son, William, is presumed to have settled in Williamson County, Tennessee by 1830, and another son Philip, was in Johnson County, Tennessee in 1850.
K. Meshack(/Meshac)4 Gentry
Meshack and his son Allen D. barely fit within the time frame of this article. After many years in Virginia and Surry County, North Carolina, Meshack moved to Tennessee in about 1818. In testimony given in an application for a military pension, Meshack indicated that he moved first to Greene County. He spent about 2 years there, then moved to Bledsoe County for 2 years, then to McMinn County for 2 years, then finally to the Tellico River in Monroe County. This became the permanent home for his son Allen D. and Allen's wife, Nancy (daughter of Meshack's brother, Abednego), and their descendants. Meshack was born in 1748 in Louisa County, Virginia, and died in Monroe County in 1846. This family has been described in more detail in an earlier issue of the Gentry Journal (vol. 3, #10, October 2003).
References to Unidentified Gentrys
In the early records of Greene, Jefferson, and Blount Counties, there are a scattering of references to Gentrys that have never been previously identified. We will suggest possibilities for their family relationship based on the outline developed above. The references follow.
|1803 Apr 23||William Gentry served as bondsman for marriage of Charles West to Sarah Phillips.|
|1803 Apr 26||David Gentry married Delphy Bridgewater.|
|1804||Jude Gentry, an orphan age thirteen (born 1790), bound to Robert Pearce|
|1808||Philip Gentry married Sally Frazier [black].|
|1810||Bessy Gentry married William Iriar (Irion?).|
|1815||Susanna Gentry transferred an apprentice, Uriah Gentry, to a Robert Mc[illegible]|
|4.||Hawkins County (adjoins Greene, Sullivan and Jefferson)|
|1813||Patsy (nickname for "Martha"?) Gentry married George Smith.|
|Grainger County (adjoins Hawkins, Jefferson and Knox))|
|1816||Nancy Gentry married James Shelton.|
We have arbitrarily set a cutoff date of 1820 for our study of early Gentrys in East Tennessee. This has eliminated consideration of a number of other Gentrys who began showing up in Tennessee records in the 1820's. These include references in Rhea, Roane and McMinn Counties. Most of these Gentrys came from South Carolina, either directly or by way of Georgia. To follow and identify them is a major study in its own right. Like the Gentrys we have been discussing above, such a study is handicapped by the lack of census records until 1830, and by the lack of any references if any of them happened to settle inside the fringes of Indian Territory.
This comprehensive, coordinated description of the information concerning early Gentrys in eastern Tennessee hopefully will prove of assistance to those seeking to identify ancestral roots than may have been planted in this area. To repeat the caution in previous articles in the Journal, however, some of the material presented has been speculation based on probabilities and lack firm foundations. These are the responsibility of the author alone and readers should use judgment in accepting or rejecting statements herein.
Chronology of References
Citations of Gentry references have been arranged below in chronological order by county. In the cases where there are multiple references to an individual, not all of the possible references have been listed. For each citation, the relationship of the individual has been keyed back to the families described above.
|Washington County (organized 1777 by State of North Carolina)||Key||Refr|
|1778||Joseph Gentry assessed for 1 poll||C||8|
|Charles Gentry assessed for land and 1 poll||A1||1,8|
|Robert Gentry assessed for land and 1 poll||A||1,8|
|Charles Gentry served on first grand jury||A1||1|
|1779||John Gentry assigned grant for 640 ac on Cherokee Creek to John Sevier||F2||28|
|1781||Jesse Gentry witnessed in court||A2||1|
|1782||Charles Gentry taxed for 500 ac on branches of Big Limestone Creek||A1||5|
|Jesse Gentry served as constable||A2||1|
|1783||Robert Gentry taxed for 375 ac on Little Limestone Creek||A||5|
|Jesse Gentry living along French Broad River||A2||1|
|1787||Joseph Gentry assessed for 100 ac, 1 poll||C||8|
|Hugh Gentry signed petition||F1||1|
|Sullivan County (from Washington Co, 1779)|
|1784||Charles Gentry taxed for 510 ac||A1||5|
|1787||Charles Gentry of Greene Co., sells 500 ac in Sullivan Co||A1||10a|
|1788||William Gentry and John Gentry, enroute from Sullivan Co., killed by Indians on Tennessee River near Nickajack||D||21|
|1791||John Gentry taxed for 240 ac adjoining Nicholas Gentry land||B||5|
|Nicholas Gentry taxed for 200 ac||B||5|
|1791||Grant from State of North Carolina to John Gentry, 240 ac adjoining that where Nicholas Gentry, dec'd, formerly lived||B||10a|
|1791||Grant from State of North Carolina of 200 ac to Nicholas Gentry [Jr.]||B||10a|
|1796||John Gentry sold 240 ac of land grant property||B||10b|
|179x||William Gentry and wife buried in Crumley Cemetery||D||23|
|1803||Nicholas Gentry sold 138 ac||B||10b|
|Greene County (from Washington Co., 1783)|
|1783||Warrant to Robert Gentry for survey and grant of state land||A||20|
|1783||Warrant to "Bartly" Gentry for survey and grant of land||A3||20|
|1787||Robert Gentry granted 475 ac by State of North Carolina on Holleys Mill Creek (warrant for survey dated 1783)||A||5,20|
|"John Gentry cabin" referenced in description of land grant||F2?||6|
|1788||Robert Gentry claim for land grant resurveyed||A||20|
|1790||"Bartelet" Gentry married Elizabeth Whitman; witness Robert Gentry||A3||7,14,22|
|Charles Gentry land on French Broad River referenced in grant||A1||6|
|1791||Charles Gentry taxed for 400 ac on French Broad River||A1||5|
|Robert Gentry land on French Broad River referenced in grant||A||6|
|Greene County (after separation of Knox, Jefferson and Blount Counties)|
|1794||Jesse Gentry buys 300 ac land on Lick Creek||A2||18|
|1796||Jesse Gentry sells 300 ac land on Lick Creek||A2||18|
|1798||William Gentry appointed to road crew||A2||13|
|John Gentry awarded costs for travel to court||F2||13|
|1803||William Gentry bondsman for Charles West - Sarah Phillips marriage||A1 ?||7|
|David Gentry married Delphy Bridgewater||A1 ?||7,22|
|1805||John Gentry "free taxable inhabitant"||F2||25|
|1809||Simon Gentry assessed for 1 poll||J1||17|
|1810||Simon Gentry assessed for 1 poll||J1||17|
|1811||Simon Gentry taxed for 100 ac, 1 white poll||J1||17|
|1812||Simon Gentry assessed for 1 white poll||J1||17,25|
|1813||Rhody Gentry married Lewis Wheeler||J1||7,22|
|1814||Simon Gentry taxed for 100 ac, 1 white poll||J1||17|
|William Gentry assessed for 1 white poll||J2||17|
|1815||Simon Gentry taxed for 100 ac, 1 white poll||J1||17|
|1817||Simon Gentry bought 87 ac on Long Fork of Lick Creek||J1||18|
|Hawkins County (from Sullivan Co., 1786)|
|1800||Joseph Gentry witnessed deed for land on Holston River||C||19|
|1801||Joseph Gentry witnessed deed for land on Holston River||C||19|
|1813||Patsy Gentry married George Smith||A3 ?||22|
|Jefferson County (from Greene & Hawkins Co., 1792)|
|1783||Duke Kimbrough married Mary Gentry, dau of Robert||A||4|
|1800||Ayers Gentry assessed for 0 ac, 1 white poll||D||8,25|
|Martin Gentry assessed for tax||A4||8,25|
|Robert Gentry assessed for tax||A||8,25|
|Bartlet Gentry assessed for tax||A3||8|
|1804||Robert Gentry married Rachel West of Jefferson Co.||A||1,22|
|1811||Robert Gentry signed will naming children as beneficiaries||A||1|
|1812||John Gentry married Priscilla Graham||A4||1,22|
|1814||Silas Gentry married Piety Witt||A2||22|
|Knox County (from Greene & Hawkins Co., 1792)|
|1797||Jesse Gentry bought land||A2||1|
|1799||Jesse Gentry commissioned as captain in militia||A2||1|
|1802||William Gentry, Silas Gentry witnessed deed for Jesse Gentry||A2||1|
|1805||640 ac land owned by Joseph Gentry sold for taxes for year 1803||F3||,/td>|
|1806||Jesse Gentry served as road overseer||A2||1|
|William Gentry married Elizabeth McPherrin||A2||1,22|
|Silas and Jesse Gentry worked on road on Black Oak Ridge||A2||1|
|1807||John Gentry married Elizabeth Newman||A2 ?||22|
|1808||William Gentry, wife Elizabeth, Martin Gentry witnessed for Jesse Gentry||A2||1|
|1810||Jesse Gentry sold land||A2||1|
|William Gentry appointed constable||A2||1|
|1814||Jesse and Isaac Gentry witnessed deed||A2||1|
|Jesse Gentry, William Gentry witnessed deeds||A2||1|
|1815||Jesse, William, Isaac and Martin Gentry signed petition||A2||1|
|1817||Jesse Gentry sold land||A2||1|
|Martin Gentry married Sally Mitchell||A2||1,14,22|
|1818||Isaac Gentry married Elizabeth Lewis||A2||14,22|
|1819||Jesse Gentry administrator of Silas Gentry estate||A2||1|
|Blount County (from Knox Co., 1795)|
|1804||Jude Gentry, 13-year-old orphan [born 1790] bound to Robert Pearce||D ?||11|
|1808||Philip Gentry married Sally Frazier [black]||D ?||11|
|1810||Bessy Jentry married William Iriar||D ?||22|
|1815||Indenture from Susanna Gentry for apprentice Uriah Gentry||D ?||22|
|Grainger County (from Knox & Hawkins Co., 1796)|
|1803||Joseph Gentry witnessed deed for land on Flat Creek||F3|
|1804||Court ordered sale of land for unpaid taxes on 540 ac land, no personal property found for seizure.||F3||27|
|1805||Land of Joseph Gentry (640 ac) sold for delinquent taxes||E3||27|
|1807||Jesse Jentry married Elizabeth "Gallian"||E||22|
|1810||Joseph Gentry owing double tax on 200 ac for 1809||F3||27|
|1816||Nancy Gentry married James Shelton||A3 ?||22|
|Carter County (from Washington Co., 1796)|
|1794||Joseph Gentry witnessed will||C||9|
|1796||Joseph Gentry assessed for 100 ac, 1 white poll||C||8,25|
|1798||Joseph Gentry present in tax list||C||25|
|1805||Joseph Gentry adjoining Roans Crk, Laurel Fork of Holston River||C||15|
|Joseph Gentry sells 126 ac on Roans Crk, Wilsons Mill Fork||C||15|
|1811||Joseph Gentry sells to Benjamin Gentry 126 ac on Rogers Crk||C||15|
|Joseph Gentry sells to William Gentry 181 ac beg at original survey||C||15|
|John Gentry witnessed deed by Benjamin Brown||C||15|
|1813||Benjamin Brown to John and Sarah Gentry 182 ac Beaver Dam Crk||C||15|
|John Gentry witnessed deed to land on Beaver Dam Crk||C||15|
|1815||John Gentry witnessed deed||C||15|
|1818||William Gentry sells 181 ac adjoining Joseph Gentry||C||15|
|1819||William Gentry (late of Carter Co.) sells iron ore rights||C||15|
|Jackson County (from Smith Co., 1801)|
|1802||Charles Gentry in list of taxables||A1||25|
|1802||David Gentry in list of taxables||E||25|
|1809||Bartlett Gentry filing for 200 ac grant transferred to Smith Hutchins||A3||3|
|1811||Bartlett Gentry filing for 100 ac grant transferred to Smith Hutchins||A3||3|
|Tyre Gentry claimed 30 ac and 10 ac land prior to filing for grant||H||3|
|1812||Tyre Gentry assigned land claims for 10 and 14 ac||H||3|
|Salt petre cave and 10 ac land sold by Jesse Gentry resold||E||3|
|1813||Reference made to improvements made by Robert Gentry||A3||3|
|1814||Bartlett Gentry bought 10 ac land||A3||3|
|John Gentry served as private with 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (which included units from Jackson County) in campaign against Creek Indians||E|
|1816||Reference made to improvements made by Joiner Gentry||A3||3|
|1817||Reference made to land of Bartlett Gentry||A3||3|
|Overton County (from Jackson, 1806)|
|1807||Jesse Gentry buys land on Lick Creek branch of Wolf River||E||16|
|1813||Jesse Gentry signed petition||E||26|
|1820||Jesse Gentry [now] of Todd Co. KY sells land in Overton Co.||E||26|
|Franklin County (from Bedford & Warren Co., 1807)|
|1812||Hugh Gentry assessed for tax||F1||25|
|Joseph Gentry assessed for tax||F3||25|
|1803||David Gentry married Mary Buffington||I||12|
|David Gentry married Diana ("Tiana") Rogers||I||12|
[Amos Gentry gives a near-verbatim version of Robert's will in the
original article as well as a very complete inventory of Robert's estate. The will can be
summarized as follows:]
8. Pollyanna Creekmore, "Early East Tennessee Taxpayers", Southern Historical Press, Easley, SC, 1980.
18. Joyce Martin Murray, "Greene County, Tennessee Deed Abstracts, 1785-1810", Dallas TX, 1996.
19. Joyce Martin Murray, "Hawkins County, Tennessee Deed Abstracts 1801-1819", Murray, 1998.
21. J.G.M. Ramsey, "The Annals of Tennessee to the end of the Eighteenth Century".
23. Karen L. Sherman, "Sullivan County, Tennessee, Cemeteries", Heritage Books, 1991.
24. Byron & Barbara Sistler, "Early East Tennessee Marriages, vol I, Grooms", Nashville, TN, 1987.
25. Byron and Barbara Sistler, "Index to Early Tennessee Tax Lists", Evanston, IL, 1977.
27. WPA copy of Minutes of Court of Pleas & Quarter Session, Vol 2 (1802-1812).
28. A. B. Pruitt, "Tennessee Land Entries: Washington County 1778- 1796", 3 Vol, 1997.
Sept 2003, Revised July 2014
© 2014, W.M. Gentry - All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial purposes provided that proper attribution (including author and journal name) is included.