Issue B
September 2007
Home Page and Index


A Mystery Not Yet Solved

Willard Gentry
Revised May 2014

[Publisher's Note. (September 2007) The present article contains extensive revisions of an article previously published as Volume 2, Issue #4, April 2002 which has been withdrawn and replaced by this revision.
(May 2014) The 2007 article in turn has been extensively rewritten as to style but with occasional factual revisions.]

In earlier issues of the Gentry Journal, a number of "orphan" Gentrys, born in Virginia as a part of the first generations of the family, have been described in some depth. This was done in an effort to determine their relationship to the main stream of descent from Nicholas Gentry the Immigrant.

One of the Gentrys about whom little is known was a David Gentry who was a Revolutionary War veteran and who moved eventually to Overton County, Tennessee where he died. There is much uncertainty and some controversy concerning the facts relating to this David. (We will abbreviate references to him as "David-RWV" when it may be necessary to distinguish him from other David Gentrys.) We are not able to answer all the questions concerning him, but hope to at least have as many facts as possible together in one place to be of assistance to other Gentry family genealogists.

Time Line
We will start with a chronological listing of specific dates relating to David Gentry and his proposed sons and then build on that.

c.1743   David born, as listed in 1840 census, Jackson County, Tennessee
c.1753  David born, as testified in pension application, 1834, Jackson County, Tennessee<1>.
1780+?  Jesse Gentry, proposed son of David, born in North Carolina. Mortality schedule for Jackson County, Tennessee, gives age at death in 1850 as 70; other census records and considerations suggest birth 1 to 2 years later.
1780  David enlisted in militia in Bedford County, Virginia according to testimony in pension application; claimed to have two years military service, but credited for six months.
May 1781  A David Gentry witnessed deed for land in Lunenburg County, Virginia, on branch of Nottaway River<2>.
c.1796  Thomas Gentry, proposed son of David, born in Tennessee, as listed in 1850 census, Jackson County, Tennessee.
1802  "Dowel" Gentry [assumed to be misreading of "David"] listed as tithable resident of Jackson County, Tennessee<3>.
1807  Jesse Gentry married Elizabeth Galyon/Gallion in Grainger County, Tennessee<5a>.
1807  David married in "Feb/May" in "Anson/Bedford County, North Carolina", to "Sarah Roberts/Johnson" (see below — conflict of data between 1853 testimony and 1855/56 testimony of Sarah Gentry, in Jackson County, Tennessee).
1812  Sale of land on Roaring River, Jackson County, Tennessee, that included improvements present when bought earlier from Jesse Gentry<7a>.
1812  Sale of land on Blackburn's Fork, Jackson County, Tennessee, including saltpeter cave that had been sold earlier to holder by Jesse Gentry and Thomas Gallion<7b>.
1813  Jesse Gentry and Thomas Gallion signed petition in Overton County, Tennessee, for establishment of militia.
1814  A John Gentry, possibly from Jackson County, served as private in Colonel Steele's 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment in support of Andrew Jackson's campaign against Creek Indians.
1820  David (age over 45 with 5 children [wife's column missing from surviving census image]) and Jesse (age 26 to 45) listed together in census, Jackson County, Tennessee. Thomas Gentry missing from census.
1830  David missing from census. Jesse (age 40 to 50) and Thomas (age 30 to 40) both listed in Vermillion County, Illinois.
1832+/-  Sarah Gentry testified in 1853 that David moved from his former home in Jackson County to Overton County about 15 years before his death (i.e. about 1832).
Feb 1834  William Gentry (grandson of David) entered claim assigned to him by David for 100 acres on Blackburn Fork in Jackson County.
Feb 1834  David (a resident of Jackson County) testified in Jackson County Court in application for veteran's pension.
1840  David (age given as 97) and wife in Overton County census. David Jr. (age 30 to 40) also in Overton County census. Jesse (age 50 to 60) and Thomas (age 40 to 50) in Jackson County census.
1850  Jackson County census listed Sarah Gentry (age 70, born in North Carolina) living in district 9 with son David Jr (age 38, born in Tennessee).
Jesse listed in Jackson County mortality schedule with death in May 1850 at age 70; his widow Elizabeth (age 63, born in North Carolina) living in district 9 next to two sons William R. and Thomas Gentry (the younger, son of Jesse).
Thomas Gentry (the elder, son of David), age 54, born in Tennessee, living in district 1; one daughter born about 1832 in Illinois, younger children born in Tennessee.
Apr 1853  Sarah Gentry applied in Jackson County Court for retroactive and current widow's pension benefits and testified as to David's death in Overton County 16 Jul 1847. She gave her maiden name as Sary Johnson and stated that she was married to David in Bedford County, North Carolina, on or about 12 May 1807.
May 1855  Sarah applied for a veterans bounty land warrant in Jackson County Court at which time she stated that she was married to David in Anson County, North Carolina, in Feb 1807. Her maiden name this time was given as Sarah Roberts, and David's date of death was 19 Jul 1846.


We will now try to flesh out the bare bones of these dates with proposals for a family and for other details of his life. We emphasize that these are proposals for much of what we will be suggesting is unsupported by any confirming documentary evidence. We will have to depend upon inferences gained from logical analysis of the known data.

Birth Date of David
We start with the date of David's birth. There is no direct record of where that was, but we can safely say that it was in Virginia. As to the year of David's birth; the existing records are conflicting:

  1. In February 1834, David's petition to the Pension Commission gave his age as 80, which would place his year of birth as probably 1753 depending upon whether he was giving his exact age, or about 1750 to 1755 if he was giving an approximate age.
  2. In the 1820 census for Overton County, Tennessee, David's age is simply given as over 45, that is, born before 1775, which does not help much. In the 1840 census , David is listed in the age 90 to 100 column. Because there was a special effort to identify Revolutionary War veterans in that census, David's age is given separately as 97. This would place his date of birth as 1743, ten years earlier than his pension testimony.
Of these two possibilities, placing David's year of birth as 1743 appears highly unlikely. This would mean that David enlisted in the militia at age 37 instead of age 27 and that he died when 103 or 104 years old rather than ten years younger. While this is possible, the later birth date is far more likely. Both ages depend on imperfect memory, of which there is ample example found in the pension application testimony.

David is mis-identified in Richard Gentry's "Gentry Family in America"<15> as the David who was a son of Nicholas-III Gentry (son of Nicholas-II) and Elizabeth Stringer, born in 1754 in Louisa County, Virginia. The latter (David-IV) can be unambiguously identified as moving from Louisa County to Caroline County, Virginia, and the father of four sons who moved to Buncombe County, North Carolina, where eventually David-IV, himself, died. This identification and date of birth has been transferred to David-RWV and appears in many documents, including the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

David's Early Life
One of the next questions, chronologically, is that of a first marriage for David. LDS Ancestral Files submissions<8>, and various family trees posted on internet sites such as RootsWeb.Com/Ancestry.Com, have cited an Elizabeth Smith (or Eliza Smith) as being David's first wife. These sources suggest that Elizabeth was born about 1756, and a number of them give Louisa County, Virginia, as the location. The date of the marriage is sometimes listed as 1776, also in Louisa County. All of this information is without any confirmation and so needs to be considered with great caution. This writer can neither support nor deny any of these assertions. It is highly probable that David had a wife before the Sarah who lived with him in later years, but we are not ready to commit ourselves to the name of this wife and are especially doubtful about the proposal that Louisa County was where he was married.

[Further in-depth discussion of David's life before, during, and immediately after his military service will be found in a later Gentry Journal, Issue E, 2011.]

Post-War Life of David Gentry
David reported that he enlisted for "during the war" in 1780 and that he was discharged from the militia "at the end of the war" at Shallowford, a well-known muster ground at a crossing of the Yadkin River in Surry County, North Carolina. His claim for more than two years of service suggests that the discharge was in 1782 after the battle of Yorktown. He may actually have been either discharged or furloughed earlier at the conclusion of the Carolinas campaign. This may have been after the battle of Guilford Court House in March 1781, which although a defeat for the Americans, led to the withdrawal of the British from the southern colonies. A furlough may have accounted for the difference between the six months of army service with which he was credited for pension purposes and the two years of service to which David referred in his pension application. It might also account for the birth of a son, Jesse, in perhaps 1782 rather than the unlikely date of 1780 which would be immediately before his enlistment in the militia.

It is likely that David returned to his home in Virginia or North Carolina for at least a short time after leaving the army. The record of a David Gentry witnessing a deed in May 1781 along the northern boundary of Lunenburg County was probably the same David. No records have surfaced that would definitely show his presence anywhere during the next twenty years other than the deed witnessing mentioned above. We can summarize various possible destinations:

In summary, the 1781 Virginia deed, the possible birth of children in the 1790's in Tennessee and/or Kentucky, and David's eventual home in north-central Tennessee, all lead to the assumption that David moved to eastern Tennessee during this period of unkown location. We can speculate that this move was prompted in part by talking with fellow-militia men during the war, a large contingent of whom, at the battle of Kings Mountain, were from the Watauga Settlement in Tennessee.

The best possibility is that David moved West not long after he was discharged from military service, especially since this eventually became his home. The Watauga Association had been created earlier by settlers on the eastern borders of present-day Tennessee (see Map 1). By 1780 it was already well-populated as shown by the fact that 1100 men enlisted in the militia in September of that year for the campaign in the Carolinas.

[The Settlement has been described as follows: "The Watauga Association (sometimes referred to as the Republic of Watauga) was a semi-autonomous government created in 1772 by frontier settlers living along the Watauga River in what is now present day Elizabethton, Tennessee. Although it lasted only a few years, the Watauga Association provided a basis for what later developed into the state of Tennessee and likely influenced other western frontier governments in the trans-Appalachian region. North Carolina annexed the Watauga settlement area, by then known as the Washington District, in November 1776."<4>]

Map 1.
Map 1. Wautauga Settlement

Most of the early settlers were from present-day North Carolina, in particular former "Regulators" following their defeat at the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Much of the land occupied by these early settlers was leased from the Cherokee Indians since the area was not officially recognized by North Carolina. The area that included the Watauga Settlement evolved into Washington District, then Washington County of North Carolina, then part of John Sevier's short-lived State of Franklin, then the "Territory South of the Ohio". Finally in 1796, it was admitted to the Union as the State of Tennessee. During this time, Fort Nashboro was established farther to the west in 1780 and Davidson County (embracing territory from which Jackson County was later formed) was organized in 1783. It is possible that David's thoughts had turned to Watauga in 1783 when the State of North Carolina enacted the Land-Grab Act which made vacant land available in Washington and Davidson Counties to all comers in return for payment of 10 pounds per 100 acres. The act did not remain long in effect but may have been enough to entice David in that direction.

The lack of early Tennessee records is not helpful in estimating when David may have arrived there. The first record in Tennessee that applied directly to David was in Jackson County, which had been created in 1801 in part from land that had formerly been Indian territory under military control, and in part from Smith County. Tthe published extract of the initial list in 1802 of tax payers living in the new county shows a "Dowel" Gentry (which is probably a misreading of "David" Gentry). [Another David Gentry reference, in 1803 in Greene County, for a David marrying Delphy Bridgewater was undoubtedly for a different David, probably a son of the pioneer Tennessee settler, Charles Gentry.]

To reach Jackson County, David and his family would have had to leave whatever home they had in Eastern Tennessee, then pass through Grainger County, following one of two trails to their destination. The oldest was the Kentucky Trail which started at Cumberland Gap, then paralleled the upper Cumberland River eventually to Nashville. David would have left this trail part way along as it passed through what later became Jackson County, at the junction of Roaring River and Cumberland River where he is known to have been living in later years. The alternative route was Avery's Trace which had been laid out in 1787 from Knoxville more or less directly over the intervening mountains towards Nashville and which passed through Jackson County enroute. Avery's Trace for the first dozen years was traversed in convoys, accompanied by a military escort and tolls were collected by the Indians, usually at river crossings. Both of these were narrow, rugged trails passable for many years only by horses and pack animals until eventually being widened to allow wagon-passage.

Several LDS Ancestral File and RootsWeb WorldTree submissions for David list the date of his first wife's death as 1801. Her place of death has been given both as North Carolina and as Overton County, Tennessee (see e.g. refr. 8), despite the fact that Overton County did not exist until 1806. This latter location is probably a gratuitous insertion of data arising from the fact that David himself died in that county. We really do not know when this wife died, but the location was likely in Tennessee and probably in Jackson County (or Jackson County's predecessor, Smith County).

Map 2
Map 2
Counties in Tennessee and Surrounding States Relating to David Gentry, 1807
(Virginia and North Carolina Counties as of 1780)

Jesse Gentry, who we propose was a son of David, was married in Grainger County in January 1807 to Elizabeth Gallion. Jesse and a Thomas Gallion, who was probably Elizabeth's brother, operated a salt petre mining operation in Jackson County at some indeterminant time before 1812. It may be that the rest of the Gallion family remained in Grainger County after Thomas left to venture west and Jesse returned with Thomas to that county for his marriage. In discussing Jesse's travels, we can comment at this point that salt petre (potassium nitrate, also spelled "saltpeter") was used in the manufacture of gunpowder and the industry was at its height at the time of the War of 1812. Perhaps Jesse and Thomas were also involved in the distribution of salt petre, necessitating business trips to Eastern Tennessee. Regardless of Jesse's marriage in Grainger County, the two men are on record as signing a petition in Overton County in 1813, so Jesse obviously returned to the Jackson County area and in fact he died there in 1850.

At about this same time, David Gentry was also away from Jackson County, during which time he presumably met, then married his second wife (see more below). The relative location of these counties, and of Bedford County, which is the probable location of David's second marriage, are shown in Map 2 above.

David's Second Marriage
David remarried in 1807. The details of the marriage are described in testimony given by his widow Sarah after David's death. A Bureau of Pensions file relating to David Gentry contains a variety of documents including David's request for a pension in 1834 and a series of subsequent applications by Sarah as the widow of a veteran. This includes correspondence dated 1850 and 1851 during which time she applied for arrearages in unpaid pension benefits due David. Before any action was taken on this appeal, by act of Congress dated 3 Feb 1853, widows of Revolutionary War veterans could claim the same benefits which their husbands might claim under any existing laws if living. In response to this legislation, Sarah applied for a widow's pension for life due her. She appeared before a justice of the peace of Jackson County Court in April 1853 and eventually was successful. David Gentry Jr., L.C. Gentry and Thomas Gentry appeared to testify as to the facts of her marriage to David Sr. While the Pension Office records do not include a specific document granting the pension, in later testimony in 1855 she states "she is the identical person to whom was issued a certificate of pension as widow of said David Gentry deceased under the act of February 8, 1853 payable at Nashville Tennessee at the rate of twenty dollars per annum."

In May 1855, Sarah appeared again before the justice of the peace of Jackson County Court to petition for land bounty warrants provided by an act of Congress dated 3 Mar 1855. This time, affidavits as to her marriage to David were given by William Brown and William Hawkins. Her testimony had details concerning her maiden name, her marriage date, and the location for her marriage to David that were in conflict with her testimony of 1853. Most of these have been briefly listed in the time line at the beginning of this article, but we will repeat them here in more detail:

  1. Correspondence in 1851, testimony by Sarah in 1853, and testimony in 1855 all gave her age at the time as "about 80" [i.e. born 1771 - 1775]. Sworn statements concerning her marriage, from witnesses given in court 3 Sep 1853, include the statement that Sarah "is in our judgement about the age stated in her declaration or about seventy-five years of age from appearance [born 1778]." The age estimates that are rounded to the nearest ten years are obviously very approximate. The census records for Sarah in 1820 suggest an age over 45 [born before 1775]; in 1840 as 50-60 [born 1780-1790]; and in 1850 as 70, born in North Carolina [born about 1780]. Perhaps the best estimate of her birth would be between 1775 and 1780. There seems to be no justification for saying that she was born in Louisa County, Virginia, as stated in some Ancestral Files and WorldTree submissions.
  2. To establish her relationship to David, Sarah and others testified to the facts of their marriage. In April 1853, Sarah stated that her maiden name was "Sary" Johnson; she was married to David by a justice of the peace, Mr. Smith, in Bedford County, North Carolina; and the date was on or about 12 May 1807. At this hearing, David Gentry, an L. C. Gentry and Thomas Gentry testified as to their knowledge of the facts since they had "known David and Sarah for about 50 years". (Thomas was undoubtedly David's son by his first marriage and David a son by his second wife.) The L. C. Gentry has not been positively identified but was probably Lucretia Gentry, David Jr.'s wife. Incidentally Sarah is reported as testifying at this hearing that David had died 16 July 1847 in Overton County.
  3. In May 1855, Sarah testified that she was married to David in Anson County, North Caroline, in February 1807 by a justice of the peace, Mr. Smith. Her maiden name this time was given as Sarah Roberts. In this hearing, Sarah gave the date of David's death as 19 July 1846.
  4. An independent date of death for David is found in some of the supporting papers in the Pension Office file for him. Sarah's lawyer, a Mr. Savage, wrote on 26 Mar 1851 asking for missing widow's benefits be paid to her: "David Gentry of Overton County, Tenn drew a pension as a Revolutionary soldier up to the 4th of March preceding his death, he died about three years ago last July [that is July 1847]". There is also a certificate by the Pension Office that David was paid $20 annually up to 4 Mar 1847, with no date of death on their books.

There are three separate discrepancies here concerning the marriage in addition to the minor differences concerning David's death.

  1. The slightly differing time of the year for her marriage may be related to two separate marriages. The important part appears to be that she married David some time in 1807, and her testimony agrees upon the fact that a Justice of the Peace, Mr. Smith, married them.
  2. Sarah's maiden name was given as Roberts in connection with the marriage in Anson County, North Carolina, and as Johnson in connection with the marriage in Bedford County. A possible answer is that her maiden name was Roberts, that she married for a first time in Anson County to a man named Johnson (but at a different date than Sarah indicated), and that she married a second time, as a Widow Sarah Johnson, to David in Bedford County.
  3. The location for her marriage to David requires some reconciliation. There is nothing in David's history that suggests he spent any time in Anson County. On the other hand, there was not and never has been a Bedford County in North Carolina. The most logical alternative is that the marriage took place in what later became Bedford County, Tennessee. Bedford County did not exist at the time of the marriage, but it was created some months later, in December 1807, by Act of Legislature. There was surely much discussion about petitioning for formation of a new county at the time of David's marriage, and of course it was an accomplished fact for all of the succeeding years of Sarah's life and she would have thought of the area as such at the time and afterwards.

    As an aside, Bedford County was a part of Rutherford County before its formation, and beginning in about 1806 there was a large influx of settlers from North and South Carolina. Many of these were war veterans who were looking to acquire land grants authorized by the State of North Carolina. [When North Carolina ceded her western territory to the United States in 1789 as a condition for membership in the Federal Union, she retained the right to grant lands there to satisfy the claims of her Revolutionary War soldiers.] The area was accessible from the south and east by following the Tennessee River as it dipped south into Alabama, then turned north again. Two major tributaries, Elk River and Duck River, led directly from the Tennessee to the new territory. The influx of settlers was so great that within two years the area was sufficiently populated to petition for a new county. In fact, the area was so popular that by 1830, Bedford County was the most populous county in the State of Tennessee. The location of these counties is shown in Map 3 below.

    Map 3.
    Map 3. Tennessee Rivers and Evolution of Counties, 1801 to 1807

  4. Is there any way to plausibly link David Gentry with Bedford County? One possibility relates to whatever occupation David had. His land in Jackson County may have been strictly a subsistence farm, with limited crops and animals that allowed him to leave home and travel (he was about 54 at the time). There was very active traffic from Tennessee to New Orleans which was the primary destination for Tennessee's market products (corn, whisky, furs, fruits and vegetables, pork). Most of this traffic was by river rather than overland because of a greatly reduced cost. Keelboats travelled up and down the rivers and flatboats were regularly constructed, loaded with cargo, then broken up for their lumber at their destination in New Orleans. David may have been involved in some way with this transportion business and during one of his trips may have travelled down the Tennessee River to the mouth of the Elk River at Muscle Shoals, and then travelled upriver from there to the rapidly expanding settlements that became Bedford County.

David's Later Years
There is no direct record of David's movements after his marriage in 1807 other than census records and the pension application records. Sarah testified that he had lived in Overton County "for about fifteen years" before his death in 1846 or 1847 (note, however, that his pension hearing in 1834 was in Jackson County). He is undoubtedly the David "Jentry" who is found in the 1820 Jackson County census, born before 1775, and with 2 young sons and 3 daughters<16a>. Jesse Gentry's family is listed next to David's in the same alphabetical grouping in that census. (The census for that year had all of the "J's" listed together, but David and Jesse were in one part of the list, a Robert Jentry and another Jesse Jentry together in another part of the list, and a "Michael Jentry" in a still different part.)

David is believed to have lived close to Jesse and Thomas on Blackburn Fork [(see Map 4, district 9 and 10) a branch of Roaring River which was a tributary of the Cumberland River] where Jesse was part owner of a salt petre cave before 1812. David and Sarah and their children do not appear in any 1830 Tennessee census records. Jesse and Thomas had moved from Tennessee to Vermilion County, Illinois, and were listed in the 1830 census for that county<16b>. [This was during a time when there was a settlement boom in Vermilion County with discovery of salt deposits along the Vermilion River, see discussion below.] Both of these older sons returned to Jackson County by about 1834. Two pieces of evidence support this date. One is the fact that Thomas had a daughter born in 1832 in Illinois whereas his next younger daughter was born in about 1835 in Tennessee. Second, Jesse's oldest son, William, obtained a patent for a grant of 100 acres on Blackburn Fork that involved recording a grant entry document in 1834, followed by a survey in 1835, and then receiving title to the land in 1838<9>. This was land assigned to William by David Gentry and coincided approximately with the time of William's marriage. The timing was also just about the time that David and Sarah left Blackburn Fork and moved to Overton County. We can speculate that when Jesse and Thomas returned from Illinois, they perhaps moved back onto their own land and David decided to make room for Jesse's growing family.

By 1840, David Jr., had married and appeared next door to David Sr. and Sarah in the Overton County census for that year with four children<16d>. The rest of David's second family had scattered by then, and have not been found in any census following that for 1820. By the time of the 1850 census, David had died in Overton County, and Sarah was living back in district 9 of Jackson County with her son David Jr. Map 4 shows the location of Blackburn Fork, Roaring River, and the Cumberland River in Jackson County. It also shows the districts into which the county was divided in 1836 in response to an act of the Tennessee legislature requiring all counties to do so. [Blackburn Fork today is paralleled by "Gentry School Road" along which is a family cemetery in which Jesse's son William's family is buried.]

[Jackson County appears to have been a popular destination for Gentrys. Tyre Gentry, of South Carolina, lived in 1811 and 1812 on Indian Creek, a tributary of the Cumberland River, (in district 14 and 15 in Map 4 adjoining)<7c>. He did not remain long, but moved with other members of his family to Arkansas where they settled permanently. Other Gentrys in Jackson County at the time included Bartlett Gentry and his sons Robert and Joiner. This family lived at the southern tip of Jackson County on Cane Creek. Today this creek is in Putnam County at the junction of Putnam, White and DeKalb Counties. A third group of Gentrys lived in the far north on Wolf River along the Tennessee-Kentucky border in an area that later became part of Fentress County. These were the families of Charles and William Gentry. A fourth group of Gentrys was the Michael Gentry family which was listed in the 1820 census. There is no indication of where Michael settled or when he first went to Jackson County. Michael died soon after and his widow returned to Surry County, North Carolina, where she rejoined her in-laws. None of these groups of families were closely related to David.] Map 4.
Map 4.

David's Children

We have mentioned potential children of David a number of times. It is time now to consider them in more detail. Our best guess as to David's family can be summarized as shown.
David Gentry, born probably about 1753, possibly in Amelia County, Virginia; died 16 Jul 1847 in Overton County, Tennessee.
– married (1) in Virginia to a (said to be) Elizabeth Smith (reported but no known evidence), said to have died in 1801, consequently possibly in Jackson County, Tennessee.
– married (2), Feb or May 1807, probably in Tennessee, to Sarah (Roberts) Johnson ( a widow?). Sarah was born about 1775 to 1780, in North Carolina (based on 1850 census).
  Children of David's first marriage (proposed but not proven):
i.Jesse Gentry, born about 1782 (?) in North Carolina, died May 1850 in Jackson County, Tennessee; married 28 Jan 1807, Grainger County, Tennessee to Elizabeth Gallion (born about 1787 in North Carolina).
ii.John Gentry (Speculation), estimated birth about 1787 to 1789 in Tennessee, died before 1820(?); proposed son James born about 1819, living with Jesse, 1820 and 1830 and with Thomas, 1830.
iii.Lucinda Gentry (Speculation), born 30 Nov 1792 in Kentucky; died 1862, Fentress County, Tennessee; married 1808 to Francis Davidson.
iv.Thomas Gentry, born about 1796 in Tennessee; married (1?) probably between 1815 and 1820 and probably in Jackson County, Tennessee to Unknown; married (2?) about 1834, in Jackson County, to Mary "Polly" --?-- (born about 1803 in Tennessee).
  Children of David's second marriage:
v.Daughter, born between 1808 and 1810 (based on census records)
vi. David Gentry Jr. , born about 1812, probably in Jackson County, Tennessee; married between 1830 and 1835, probably in Jackson County, Tennessee to Lucretia --?-- (born about 1813 in South Carolina).
vii - ixOne additional son, and two daughters born between 1810 and 1820 (based on census records), probably all in Jackson County.

Children of David's First Marriage
Jesse and Thomas Gentry
The case for Jesse and Thomas being sons of David depends upon an accumulation of occasions where they were living together as neighbors rather than any direct evidence linking them together. Prior to 1812, Jesse had moved to Jackson County and we know David had been in that county much earlier. At the time of the 1820 Jackson County census, David and Jesse were neighbors. Their paths diverged shortly before 1830, Jesse and Thomas moved to Illinois and soon after, David moved to Overton County. Jesse and Thomas were closely linked during that intervening time. He and Jesse both moved briefly to Vermilion County, Illinois, where they were listed in the 1830 census. By 1840, Jesse and Thomas had moved back to Jackson County. David's widow and her son, David Jr., also had moved back to Jackson County by 1850 and were again neighbors of Jesse's family.

Paul Bain Gentry of Cookesville, Tennessee, a descendant of Jesse Gentry of Jackson County, has written in a posting to's Gentry Forum<6> that he believes that "the Jesse who married Elizabeth Gallion in Grainger County was this same Jesse, and that a Thomas Gallion also living in Jackson County was a brother-in-law of Jesse".

"My Jesse was on Blackburn's Fork, Jackson County, Tennessee by 1812 where he and Elizabeth's brother, Thomas Gallion, sold a salt petre cave to Elija Ewing. Jesse and Thomas signed a petition together [their names are recorded on adjoining lines] to raise a militia to fight the Creek Indians in Overton County, adjacent to Jackson County, in 1813 as per 'The History of Overton County".

It is quite possible that Thomas preceded his brother to Illinois because Thomas was missing from the 1820 census, and then Jesse came to join him. The birthplaces of Thomas' children provides a clue to the timing of these moves. We are missing the record of the birth dates and places for two daughters that were born before 1830, but his daughter Elizabeth was born in Illinois in about 1832. Thomas' next daughter, Sally, was born in Tennessee in about 1835.

The move by Jesse and Thomas to Vermilion County at first glance seems very strange but a consideration of the history of that county provides plenty of justification for this. Vermilion County had been opened for settlement in 1819 as a consequence of an earlier purchase of land from the Indians by William Henry Harrison on behalf of the U.S. Government, and a suceeding treaty that set further details. The Vermilion River which passed through the county of the same name was the source of salt springs that eventually provided the principal industry of eastern Illinois for a number of years<11>. Jesse and Thomas had not been involved in common salt previously, but the recovery, processing, and transportation of salt was very similar to the requirements for doing the same to salt petre, an industry that had attracted Jesse. Access to this newly-settled land could be gained by water transportion from start to finish. Passing west then north on the Cumberland River brought travelers to the Ohio River. Travelling up the Ohio to the Wabash River, then up the latter to the Vermilion River brought one directly to the salt springs. The salt industry gradually died out and was replaced by a farming economy, but for much of the 1820's, families came from all over including a number from Tennessee. Another aspect of Vermilion County history that may have had a bearing on the story of Jesse and Thomas' stay there was the presence of "Wabash fever". This was a form of malaria that was endemic in the area with a consequent substantial mortality. The difference between the census record for Thomas between 1830 (in Vermilion County) and 1840 (in Jackson County) suggests that as many as five of Thomas' children, and possibly his wife as well, may have died in that interval from illness.

Map 5.
Map 5. Illinois, 1830; Rivers and Vermilion County

Returning to the discussion of a close association of Thomas with David, Thomas testified in 1853 to knowing of the marriage of David and Sarah Johnson for "over fifty years". Both Jesse and Thomas' descendants remained for many years after 1850 in the vicinity of Gainesboro, Tennessee. Jesse's widow, Elizabeth, at the age of 80, was living with her son, Thomas (the Younger to distinguish him from his uncle, Jesse's brother, Thomas) in 1860. Mary "Polly" Gentry, widow of the elder Thomas, was included in the 1860 and 1870 censuses and was living with her daughter, Polly, in 1880.

John Gentry (Speculation)
A substantial period of time separated the birth dates of Jesse and Thomas -- some fourteen to sixteen years. There is a significant probability that at least one other son and possibly some daughters of David were born during the intervening years. In the 1850 Jackson County census, a James Gentry family was living eight houses removed from Thomas. James' age makes it unlikely that he was a son of Thomas, but his age fits that of a boy/young man who was living with Jesse's family in 1820 and 1830 and with Thomas' family in 1840. There is a record of a John Gentry having served in the War of 1812 from Jackson County. Nothing further is known of this John. We propose the possibility that John was a brother of Jesse and Thomas, and that James was a son of this John.

Lucinda Gentry (Speculation)
A Lucinda Davidson has been proposed by many as being a Gentry and specifically as being a daughter of David Gentry. Lucinda married Francis Davidson in 1808 (at the age of fifteen, a rather common occurrence in early Tennessee) and the family settled in the Overton/Fentress County area of Tennessee. They appeared in census records for Overton County in 1820, then when Fentress County was divided from Overton, they continued to appear in Fentress County census records until 1860.

There is no clear, unambiguous evidence for Lucinda being a daughter of the war veteran David. The Daughters of the American Revolution have accepted as proof, a very old photo of a lady, on the back of which is a family tree presumably written by Eliza French, a daughter of Lucinda Davidson, and addressed to her own daughter, Lucinda, which with a little bit of guesswork can be interpreted as showing:

[Picture of:] Lucinda Jane French, born 27 Mar 1879 . . . William, died in Indiana [? - a brother?]
[descended from] Eliza Ann Davidson (married John Allen French, born Alabama, died 4 Mar 1910);
[descended from] Lucinda Gentry, born 30 Nov 1792, South Carolina; (married Francis Davidson, born 22 May 1788, Virginia, son of John Davidson and Nancy Porter);
[descended from] David Gentry, born 1754, Louisa County, Virginia; (married Eliza J. Smith, died 1801, Tennessee).
This appears to have been recorded by Eliza French for her daughter, Lucinda, to save. The fact that she has apparently written her mother's birthplace wrong throws doubt on details concerning her grandfather (date and place of birth, for example). On the other hand, identifying her grandfather as David Gentry is less subject to frailties of memory and is more likely to be true.

An alternative proposal has been that Lucinda was a daughter of either William Gentry who appeared in the 1820 Overton County census at the same time as the Davidson family or his brother Jesse who was listed in the Cumberland County, Kentucky, census in 1810. William and Jesse were sons of Charles Gentry, a pioneer settler of Tennessee who subsequently moved to Kentucky. Charles was a descendant of the Nicholas-II branch of the Gentry family<12>. When Overton County was created in 1806, the Wolf River area where Jesse and William lived became a part of that county, and later still, in 1823, it became a part of Fentress County. William Gentry was listed in 1810 in the census for Wayne County, Kentucky, while his brother Jesse was listed in Cumberland County, Kentucky. Both counties were just across the Kentucky border from Jackson County . [The Kentucky-Tennessee border was disputed at that time and it is probable that neither Jesse nor William moved at all, only the census enumeration changing. See Gentry Journal Issue H, November 2004 for further discussion of this issue and details concerning the Charles Gentry family.] The 1810 census for both William and Jesse showed they had daughters born soon after Lucinda, but by that time, Lucinda had married and would have left home and been missing from either family.

The question of Lucinda Davidson's birthplace has an important bearing on identifying her father. According to census records for both 1850 and 1860, Lucinda was born in Kentucky. A number of Ancestral Files and WorldConnect family trees that include David Gentry as her father, have given South Carolina as her place of birth as does the family tree above. This is probably due to confusing the Tennessee David with two Davids, son and grandson of David-II Gentry who both lived in South Carolina. There is no evidence that she was ever in South Carolina. A birthplace in Kentucky in the 1792 timeframe, easily fits the scenario that Lucinda was a daughter of William or Jesse Gentry. But it also can be rationalized if she was a daughter of David. One can assume she was born enroute while David was traveling overland from Eastern Tennessee to the Jackson County area. Or it is also possible David lived briefly in Kentucky, for example after living for a time in the Watauga Settlement, moving westward through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky for a year or two, then going on to Central Tennessee. The fact that David's son, Thomas, was born in Tennessee in about 1796 limits the time frame for any intermediate stay in Kentucky.

Other Children of a First Marriage
The same William Gentry Sr. of Fentress County has been linked as a son to David-RWV. Published histories of Fentress County<13a,b>, in reporting on later Gentry families, tie them back to this William. The family histories generally name William's parents as "David and Elizabeth J. Gentry" and their background as being from South Carolina. In one case, David is then linked back further to Nicholas-III Gentry of Louisa County, Virginia. There are a sufficient number of errors associated with various details of these histories as to render them highly suspect. With respect to the Nicholas-III connection (which we have mentioned earlier as being an error in GFA), we can completely discount the many internet-based family trees for David that confuse him with the David Gentry who lived in Caroline County, Virginia. These family listings, when they do include any children, all list the children of the latter David, four of whom moved from Virginia to Buncombe County, North Carolina. This family is well-documented and should not be confused with the David Gentry of Tennessee.

One other son has been proposed for David and Elizabeth Gentry and that is "L. C. Gentry". This is a direct consequence of a witness by that name testifying in support of Sarah Gentry in her 1853 application for veterans benefits. This individual has not been identified, but like Thomas, he (or she) claimed to have known of the David - Sarah Gentry marriage for many years. It is probable that L.C. was Lucretia, wife of David Jr. (the use of initials may have been deliberate to hide the fact that she was a woman).

Children of David's Second Marriage
We do not know much more about the children of David and Sarah Gentry than we do about those of his first marriage. We can assume with confidence that David Jr. was their oldest son. A child of his age was living in David's household in 1820. A young David Gentry was living near his parents in Overton County in 1840, and in 1850 David Sr.'s widow, Sarah, was living with David Jr. Living next door, was David Sr.'s grandson, Thomas the younger. Information is lacking as to what happened to David Jr. after that time. Neither he, nor any other identifiable members of his family have been found in succeeding census records.

Dr. Ruth Gentry Osborne<14>, long-time student of Tennessee Gentrys, and also a resident of the area, has this to say about David:

"The land David lived on [in Overton County] was mortgaged to a Gore widow who lived adjacent. When David Jr. could not pay the mortgage after David Sr.'s death, Mrs. Gore repossessed it and David Jr. moved back to Blackburn Fork in Jackson Co., beside his half-brother, Jesse's, widow. Mrs. Gore's son then moved to Smith Co., TN and was the grandfather of our vice-president. I have wondered if Rebecca Gore was a daughter of David, who has been reported by some local people to have had a daughter named Rebecca who married Thomas Gore." [Note. Rebecca Gore reported her place of birth as Virginia and her age as 35 in the 1850 census. This effectively rules her out as a daughter of David.]

The 1820 census listing for David Sr. included four children besides David Jr. in his family. One of these was a daughter born 1804 to 1810 who was probably a daughter of David Sr., but who could conceivably have been a child of Sarah's first marriage and a step-daughter of David's. The other three children in the census were all born between 1810 and 1820 (two daughters and a son) and are assumed to be children of David and Sarah. David is not found in any 1830 census, so there is no clue as to how long these children may have lived if they were his, or if the daughters married, to whom. [Records for both Jackson County and Overton County before 1848 were lost by fire and thus are unavailable.] There is no record in census records for 1840 or 1850 of any Gentry that can be logically associated with these unidentified children.

We have attempted here to collect in one place all of the known references concerning David Gentry, the Revolutionary War Veteran. We have identified children that are proposed as the product of two marriages. We have tried to distinguish between facts and fancy included in the inconsistent testimony of David's widow Sarah. With all that, there are many aspects of David's life that remain unknown.

[This article originally included a section devoted to exploring various possibilities for David's lineage. This writer now believes, in the light of later understandings and conclusions relating to the early Gentry families, that the section contained a significant number of errors. It has been replaced by a later journal article, namely JGG issue E, 2011.]


1. "Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications",
National Genealogical Society, Washington, DC, 1976
  File W7511, (BLWt 31908-160-55): David GENTRY, widow Sarah, of Jackson Co. TN
[Note. The file, which is stored in the National Archives and for which microfilm copies are available, contains a collection of original documents, the contents of which are abstracted in the printed index book as follows.]
Credited with 6 months service as private in VA militia.

"[David] appeared in Jackson County court, TN, 11 Feb 1834, age 80 years. Testified that he enlisted in Bedford Co, VA. Served more than 2 years in VA, NC, SC, and GA. Was in battles of Richmond [NC], King's Mountain, Cowpens, Sand Hills SC, Mulberry Fields NC. Discharged at end of war at Shallowford, NC.
Sarah Gentry appeared in Jackson County court, 7 Apr 1853, to apply for Bounty land. [In fact, Sarah's 1853 testimony was an application for a widow's pension, her testimony in 1855 and 1856 was for Bounty land.]. Her age was given as about 80 years. Stated that David died in Overton Co. TN on 16 Jul 1847. For about 15 years before his death he had lived in Overton Co. Prior to that lived in Jackson Co. NC [sic]. Sarah's maiden name was given as Sary Johnson. She was married to David by a justice of the peace, Mr. Smith, in Bedford Co. NC, on or about 12 May 1807.

Facts of marriage certified by testimony of L.C. Gentry and by Thomas Gentry, both of whom had known Sarah and David for about 50 years. Testimony given at same court appearance in Apr. 1853.

Additional testimony provided, 4 May 1855, by Sarah Gentry who stated that she was married to David in Anson Co. NC on or about ___ Feb 1807 by a justice of the peace, Mr. Smith. Her maiden name this time was given as Sarah Roberts, and the death of David was given as 19 Jul 1846. She applied for bounty land under the provisions of the act of 3 Mar 1853. In another court appearance, 17 Oct 1856, her age was given as about 90 years."
2. "Lunenburg County, Virginia, Deed Book 13, 1777-1784", abstracted by June Bank Evans, Bryn Efyliaid Publications, New Orleans, LA, 1991
  1781May 17 Book(13-389)   (p.77)
  William Puckett to son-in-law Richard Crews Jr, both of Lunenburg Co ... love/affection for sd. Puckett's daughter Esther Crews, 50 ac; Lunenburg Co., Rocky Branch Nottaway Riv, adj. John Barnes, John Nash, Zachariah Burket, John Monroe.
Signed William (P) Puckett
Wit: William Owen, Thomas Crymes, David Gentry, Josiah Crews
Recorded: 14 Jun 1781.
[Note. The Nottaway River forms the northeastern boundary of Lunenburg County and was at some distance from earlier Gentry-related Lunenburg County deed locations.]
3. "Index to Early Tennessee Tax Lists", transcribed by Byron and Barbara Sistler, Evanston, IL, 1977
  Jackson Co.
Gentry, Charles
Gentry, "Dowel"
1802    [mis-reading of David?]
4. "Watauga Association"
URL: <>
5. "Early East Tennessee Marriages, Vol 1, Grooms" by Byron and Barbara Sistler, Nashville, TN, 1989
(a) Grainger Co.
 1807Jan 18  Jentry, Jesse to Elizabeth Gallian
(b) Greene Co.
 1803Apr 26  Gentry, David to Delphy Bridgewater
6. Paul Bain Johnson, posting #1381, 25 Jan 2000,
URL: <>
7. Betty Huff Bryant, "Building Neighborhoods, Jackson County, Tennessee Prior to 1820", (Abstractions from Record Group 50, Early Land Records, Tennessee State Library and Archives), 1992.
(a) 1812Apr 25Bk(27-207)      [#8018, p.78]
  John Stafford...12 ac...waters of Roaring R...including improvement that James Rankin bought of Jesse Gentry.
(b) 1812Aug 4Bk(27-352)      [#8573, p.82]
  John ac...Blackburn's fork...salt petre cave that Jentry and Galeon sold to Elijah Ewing.
(c) [A number of 1811 and 1812 references show Tyre Gentry locating on land on Indian Creek and then assigning these claims to others.]
8. Ancestral files from LDS sources give conflicting and erroneous records, e.g. David Gentry, AFN 1T2T-TP, with information from 9 submitters:
  b. 1754, Louisa Co., VA; d. 16 Jul 1847, Buncombe Co., NC
Spouse (1) AFN: NGKH-H2
  Elizabeth Smith, b. abt.1746, Louisa, VA; m. abt.1776, Louisa,VA; d. 1801, Overton, TN.
1) Lucinda Gentry, b. 30 Nov 1792, SC; d. Overton, TN;
2) L. C. Gentry, b. abt.1794, SC; d. Overton, TN
3) Thomas Gentry, b. abt.1796, SC; d. Overton, TN
4) David Gentry, b. abt.1798, SC; d. Overton, TN
  Spouse (2) AFN: M5K3-3N
  Sarah Johnson, b. abt.1759, Louisa, VA; m. 12 May 1807; (no children listed).
  Spouse (3) AFN:M5K3-2H
  Elizabeth Whitlock, b. abt.1750, Caroline, VA, d. abt. 1810/1820, Buncombe, NC
  Spouse (4) AFN: 1FX3-PRC
  Elizabeth Smith, b. abt 1757, of "Lunnebury", NC, (no children listed).
  Spouse (5) AFN: 1F3-PT1
  Sarah Johnson, (no children listed)
9. Tennessee Land Grants, Grant No. 6509100, transcribed from photocopy of original, by Willard Gentry
 "[. . .] by virtue of Entry No 2102 made in the office of the Entry Taker of Jackson County and Entered on the 4 day of February 1834 . . . Granted by the said state of Tennessee unto William Gentry - assignee of David Gentry a certain tract or parcel of land containing one hundred acres by survey bearing date the 10 day of June 1835 - lying in said county on the waters of blackburn fork. . . . [boundaries] . . .to the said William Gentry and his heirs forever . . . on the 28th day of November 1838 . . ."
10. "Mayberry Family", by Mitchell Judd, printed in "Siftings from Putnam County, Tennessee" by Mary Hopson, p.113-114:
URL: <>
  [Abstract] Francis Mayberry (Maberry/Maby) came from North Carolina, was in Grainger County, Tennessee by 1792 then moved to the 10th District of Jackson County, first appearing on the 1801 tax list. His son, Seth married Rebecca and reared ten children that included:
– Jesse [whose daughter Rhoda born 1838 married Thomas Gentry born 1817];
– Mary Polly born 1831 married William Riley Gentry, son of Jesse and Elizabeth Gentry;
– Francis (Frank) born 1833, married Barbara Gentry; sister of William Riley Gentry.
This same URL also contains data from the William Riley Gentry Family Bible including the names, dates of birth and marriages of 6 children of William and his first wife Derusha Hampton, and 11 children of William and his second wife, Mary "Polly" Mayberry; pictures of William Riley Gentry and his wife Polly; pictures of the family of his son, William Campbell Gentry; genealogy of the Loftis family, several of whom married children of William Riley Gentry; and transcriptions of gravestones of three of Jesse Gentry's children in the Gentry Cemetery on Blackburn Fork.
11. "History of Vermilion County, Illinois", by Lottie E. Jones, Pioneer Publishing Co., Chicago, 1911; (available for reading online or in .pdf format at URL:
12. "Journal of Gentry Genealogy Issue 2004H (Nov 2004), "Charles Gentry, Tennessee Pioneer", by Willard Gentry (see sections on Charles' sons, Charles Jr. and William)
URL: <>
13. Fentress County, Tennessee Histories
(a) "History of Fentress County, Tennessee", Fentress County Historical Society, 1987
(p.620, #F623) Clyde and Flora Terry Family
  "John Gentry . . . was the son of William Jr (b.1816) and Sallie Gentry . . . William Sr., was a veteran of the War of 1812 and the son of David and Elizabeth J. Gentry. David Gentry, born in 1754 in Louisa Co., VA died 16 Jul 1846 in Overton Co., TN. He was the son of Nicholas III [son of Nicholas Jr.] and Nancy Gentry . . . David was first married to Elizabeth J Smith in 1773. Elizabeth died in 1801 in NC and he married Sarah Roberts Johnson on 12 May 1807 in Bedford Co., NC."
(b) Albert Ross Hogue, "History of Fentress County, Tennessee", Williams Print Co., Nashville, TN,1916, p.110
  "John Gentry (b.1840) is a son of William and Sallie Gentry. His grandfather's name was also William Gentry, great-grandfather was David Gentry. The Gentrys came from South Carolina and settled on Wolf River in 1835, where John was born five years later.
14. Dr. Ruth (Gentry) Osborne, Cookesville, Tennessee, personal communications.
15. Gentry, Richard, "The Gentry Family in America" [GFA], The Grafton Press, New York, 1909
  Listed under #5 (p.39), Nicholas Gentry (Nicholas II, Nicholas I):
  Children by his first wife:
1. David (17), born 1754.
  And for #17 (p.66):
  David Gentry (Nicholas III, Nicholas II, Nicholas I)
  "Born in Louisa Co., VA in 1754; he was raised in Bedford Co., VA; married Sarah Johnson, May 12, 1807, and died in Overton Co., TN, July 16, 1847. He was a Revolutionary soldier, enlisted from Bedford Co., VA in 1780; served under Capt. Lewis and Col. Benjamin Cleveland, and was at the battle of "King's Mountain" and the "Cowpens." His widow drew a pension from date of his death."
16. Federal Census Records
(a)    1820 Jackson County, Tennessee
Page   Born
/ Sex
14 Jesse Jentry M 3 0 0 0 1 0
  F 1 0   0 1 0
14 David Jentry M 2 0 0 0 0 1
  F 2 1   0 0 [- -]

(b)    1830 Vermilion County, Illinois
Page  Born:
108 Jesse Gentry M 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 0
  F 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 0
108 Thomas Gentry M 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0
  F 1 2 1 0 1 0 0 0

(c)    1840 Jackson County, Tennessee
Page  Born:
280 William R. Gentry M 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
  F 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
283 Jesse Gentry M 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 50-60
  F 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 50-60
284 Thomas Gentry M 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 0
  F 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0
(d)    1840 Overton County, Tennessee
041 David Gentry Jr M 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
  F 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
041 David Gentry Sr M 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 >90*
  F 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 50-60
  * Revolutionary pensioner, David Gentry, age 97

9/25/07, Revised May 2014

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