The following material is a transcription of loose papers in a folder of court documents in
the county courthouse at Madisonville, Monroe County, Tennessee. They relate to a suit
brought by Nancy Gentry against the administrator of the estate of her deceased husband,
Allen D. Gentry, and his supposed wife, Susan.
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Petition on behalf of Nancy Gentry to Chancery Court, Monroe Co. from Folio #524, filed 1854. (The divorce decree is included among the papers in folio 524).
To the Hon. Thos S Williams Chanceler of the Eastern Division of Tennessee sitting in chancery at Madisonville.
Your Oratrix Nancy Gentry a citizen of the County of Monroe & State of Tennessee, humbly complaining showeth unto your honor, that Allen D Gentry departed this life on or about the 18th day of August 1853 in the said county of Monroe having valuable real estate, being the farm upon which the dec'd did situate in said county of Monroe on or near the Tellico River a precise description of which your Oratrix is not now able to give but by leave to produce a more minute description of said lands upon the final hearing of this cause your Oratrix alleges that said lands are worth from three to four thousand dollars. She further alleges that the said Allen D Gentry was at the time of his death, the owner of some four slaves and other valuable personal property. Your Oratrix is informed that George T. Glenn was qualified and entered upon the duties of administrator of said estate of the said Gentry at the Sept Session of 1853 of the county court for said county of Monroe. The said Allen D Gentry dec. left Pleasant M. Riley John Franklin and Adaline, Margaret, Nancy Ann, minor heirs of David Gentry dec., and Malinda Jane who intermarried with Rich'd Hawkins Nancy who was intermarried with a man by the name of Gentry who abandoned her almost as soon as married & Polly Gentry his heirs at law and children of the said Allen D dec. and your Oratrix your Oratrix [sic] further states that she believes the said George T Glenn Adm. has advertised the principal part of the personal estate of the said Allen D dec. for sale and your Oratrix believes he is endeavering to discharge his duties as adm.
Your Oratrix alleges that she intermarried with the said Allen D dec. sometime the year 1811 and that they lived together as man & wife until about the year 1839. When her said husband abandoned her entirely and lived in adultery with one Susan Ivey whom he had placed in a house about one hundred and fifty yards distant from the cabin occupied by your Oratrix. Your Oratrix alleges that she had endeavored to discharge all the duties of a good and faithful wife & has ever lived a virtuous life. Your Oratrix admits that her said husband allowed her to remain in a house upon his land and permitted her to come to the mill and carry off a small pittance for her support. Thus forsaken by her said husband your Oratrix ignorant poor and defenceless was forced to submit to all manner of cruel treatment from her said husband who was now under the complete control of the said Susan Ivy with whom he was living in adultery. Your Oratrix alleges that she was in the power of the said Allen D dec. her husband who kept about him reckless and irresponsible person whom he induced to harrass her in almost every conceivable manner. Whilst her condition was made the more insupportable by the jeers and taunts of the said Susan Ivy who had occupied her place in the affections of her husband. Your Oratrix alleges that her said husband and the said Susan Ivy were indicted at the May Term 1845 of the Circuit Court of the said County of Monroe for lewdness. Your Oratrix charges and alleges that the said Allen D. dec. by himself and by others at his persuasion and instigation set about perpetrating frauds of almost every kind upon your Oratrix in order to fraudulently dissolve himself from the bonds of matrimony from your Oratrix. She shows unto you that among other things the said Allen D. dec. used & caused to be used towards your Oratrix threats and menaces and made false, fraudulent and corrupt representation for the purpose of accomplishing their base designs upon your Oratrix. She charges and alleges that the said Allen D. dec. and those confederated with him falsely represented to your Oratrix that the said Allen D. dec. was charged with an infamous offense by indictment and that he would likely be sent to the Penitentiary of the State unless your Oratrix would consent not to oppose his obtaining a divorce as aforesaid. She charges that the said Allen D. dec. or those persons acting under his direction forged or caused to be forged certain letters to be read to your Oratrix purporting to be written by her friends in the State of North Carolina and other places stating that large sums of money would come into the hands of your Oratrix if if [sic] she were divorced, otherwise the [sic] would go into the hands of said Allen D. dec. whereas in fact and in truth there was no money and and your Oratrix and the said Allen D. dec. by himself or by another at his instance and request falsely and fraudulently promised that your Oratrix should be placed upon a piece of land that she could hold in fee simple where she would not be molested if she would as aforesaid consent not oppose her said husband from obtaining divorce.
Your Oratrix admits that confiding in the promises of the Allen D. dec. and out of fear and sympathy for her said husband and the welfare of their children and not having any one with whom she could advise she did consent not to oppose her said husband in obtaining a divorce. She charges that soon after she had given her consent as foresaid, Pleasant M Alexander then a Justice of the Peace in the County of Monroe aforesaid presented your Oratrix with a written paper, after he had taken her out of the presence of some children and and [sic] colored persons and informed her that she must give consent for her husband to obtain a divorce in writing and that she must sign said paper & qualified as to the truth of its contents. She states that she does not to this date recollect the precise language used by the said Justice but she does charge distinctly that impression made upon her mind, was that she was only consenting for her husband to obtain a divorce, and she states further that with the impression she has stated she did sign her name to said paper by making her mark or authorized the Justice to do so for her and was qualified to the truth of the Justice read to her.
Your Oratrix was afterwards informed that the paper she had signed was a petition asking to be dissolved from the bonds of matrimony and that at the May Term 1846 of the Circuit Court for the said County of Monroe she is informed a decree was rendered divorcing her from her said husband the said Allen D. dec. But your Oratrix distinctly charges and alleges that her consent not oppose her said husband from obtaining a divorce, was given in the manner she has stated and that her signature to said petition for divorce was obtained by fraud and contrivance and that she never did ask to be divorced from her said husband at any time except in the manner she has stated. She charges that all the fraud and misrepresentation she has stated was made by or at the fraudulent procurement of her said husband dec. and the said Susan Ivy.
She charges and alleges that said decree was rendered by reason of false and fraudulent representations made to the Court by or at the procurement of her said husband. Your Oratrix charges and alleges that she was under the power and control of the said Allen D dec. until his death which together with her poverty has kept her from alleging to your honor's court until this time. Your Oratrix charges further and shows unto honor that some time about the 1st day of May 1848 there was a false and pretended marriage between the said Allen D and the said Susan Ivy. But your Oratrix charges and alleges that they were not in fact married legally if at all that they reported themselves to married in order to effect the dismissal of the aforesaid indictment that was still pending against them in the Circuit Court of Monroe County aforesaid. She charges that P. M. Alexander who they pretended to have married them had no authority so to do either by virtue of an office as a licensed minister of the gospel. She further charges that both parties admitted they were not legally married as she is informed and believes and also that their conduct was not such to induce a belief that they were really man & wife. She alleges further that the said Allen D dec. had no children by the said Susan Ivy after their pretended marriage and that the whole of the pretended marriage was a fraud upon your Oratrix and an outrage upon the laws and morals of the land. Your Oratrix further shows unto your honor that the said Susan Ivy or Gentry has asked for and obtained a years support from the estate of the said Allen D dec. and your Oratrix is informed is going to ask for dower out of his real estate in the same manner as if she were the lawful wife of the said Allen D. dec. whilst your Oratrix is left in a destitute and penniless condition thought aprised by her husband that the law would provide for her. She states that she did not receive anything from the pretended promises of her said husband made to induce her to not oppose his obtaining a divorce and she distinctly states all her allegations will be supported by many assertions of credible witnesses.
The premises considered your Oratrix prays that the decree of the Circuit Court of County of Monroe granting your Oratrix a divorce be set aside and for naught be held and the pretended marriage of the said Allen D. dec. & the said Susan be declared void and that your Oratrix be restored to all the rights she would have had there never been a decree of divorce rendered that she may have dower out of the real estate of the said Allen dec. and that portion of the personal estate which by law she is entitled that the said Susan Ivy or Gentry be made a party defend to this bill and be required to answer such and all these allegations in as especially intrigued. She also prays that a writ of injunction issue commanding the said Susan not to use in any way the property of said estate or to bring her suit for dower until the determination of this said Susan is a resident of the County of Monroe aforesaid. She prays that the before mentioned heirs of the said Allen D. dec. who are all residents of the said County of Monroe, State of Tennessee excepting Matilda Jane & her said husband Rich'd Hawkins who are citizens of Blount County, Tenn and who are all of age except the said Adaline, Margaret & Nancy Ann minor heirs of David Gentry dec'd be made parties defendant to this bill and required to answer each & all of the charges and allegations therein as fully and fairly as if here again specially ...gated and thereto more especially as the knowledge of most of the foregoing charges are within their knowledge and that they be enjoined if your honor should deem proper from assigning dower to the said Susan Ivy. Let Riley Gentry provide any letters he may have in his possession before alluded as being forged. Let Goe. T Glenn adm. be made a party defendant and that he be enjoined from paying over to the said Susan Ivy or Suan Gentry any portion of the personalty of the said Allen D. dec'd. This is the first application for injunction and if mistaken in her special prayers your Oratrix prays for such other general relief as in equity and good conscience she is entitled. Let copies and all necessary process issue.
Eakin & Wright Sols
[Signed] Nancy (her mark) Gentry
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The text of the allegedly forged letter to which Nancy refers in her brief is given below.
"State of North Carolina Surry County November 10th 1845
dear sisterinlaw i take the opportunity of writing a few lines to inform you that we are all well at present and I hope those few lines will find you all well. I can inform you that your father is dead. he dyed on the last day of October 1844 and he left his land to his boys and his money and stock to his girls. your part amounts to about to two hundred and fifty dollars. I am exector to his will. I expect to start shortly with a drove of horses to sell and it is posible that I shall call by and see you as it is not mutch out of my way home. if I do not come by as soon as I can return home I will write to you what time to come after you cash. we are informd here by a travling man that stayed all nite in Hamptonville that you and Allen is not living together and was divorsed from each other and if that be the case you must produse a coppy of the cleark of the cort in the county in the county [sic] where you live if it was done or you must bring a power of attorney from [illeg] Allens hand or Allen must come himself after the money. all the balance of your friends is well. William Sparks wife is dead and William remembers his love to you and he is going with us to sell horses and will call by with us to see you and says he will fetch you home with him to help him to rase his children. so no more at present but remains your dear friend until death.
[Signed] Samuel Stocks"
[On the reverse side, the letter is marked "Exhibit A" and is addressed to Nancy Gentry, from Hamptonville]
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The will of Nancy Gentry, dated 27 Jun 1861, is recorded in Monroe County, Will Book B, page 33, as follows:
In the name of Lord Amen = Being weak in body yet sound in mind and seeing that I must depart this liife soon I make this my last will and testament where as the affliction hands of providence has been upon me for some years and for several months past I have been confined and I have been provided for and taken care of by my beloved daughter Mary Hawkins and her husband E. C. Hawkins during my affliction, I therefore bequeath and give unto my daughter Mary Hawkins my land on which I now am [150 acres] and on which the said E. C. Hawkins resides and has resided for several years - said land lies nearly due east of Asa B. Young and is joining said Asa B. Youngs lands; provided however that the said Mary Hawkins and E.C. Hawkins her husband shall pay unto the remainder of the heirs two hundred and fifty dollars to be divided equally among them; also my household furniture I bequeath to my daughter Mary Hawkins except one bedstead which I give to my granddaughter Jane Gentry - one young cow and calf this I bequeath to Jane Gentry because she has been kind to me during my affliction. Again my son-in-law E. C. Hawkins has to pay my doctor bill and see to my interment. Therefore bequeath to the said E. C. Hawkins one cow and calf, one steer and my hogs; except one sow which I bequeath to Nancy Mullins; I pray God and beg my heirs not to break this my last will and testament but I hope that all may be satisfied with my last desires - which I have made as I think just and right. In testimony where of I have signed this my last will and testamony in the presence of witnesses on the 27th day of June in the year of our Lord 1861.Sign: her mark
Witnesses: Edwin Hall, James Hunt, John Stephens
© 2003, 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.