Volume 3 Issue 6
June 2003
Home Page and Index

Cherokee Traditions among the Talleys, Gentrys,
and associated families of Texas and Arkansas

A Genealogical and Historical Exploration

by Patrick Pynes, Ph.D.
© 2003
Condensed and Edited for Publication in Journal of Gentry Genealogy
(Used by permission)

I. The Search Begins

Among the descendants of James Alexander Talley (1847-1889) and Martha Ann (Gentry) Briant Talley (1845-1895?), strong oral traditions about this married couple have persisted for more than a century. While the origins of these traditions are not yet entirely clear, what is certain is that the stories about James Alexander and Martha Ann continue to resonate for many of their descendants, myself included.

This bundle of traditions is primarily oral, and has been passed down from one generation to another by word-of-mouth. Only in the last few years have some of these stories been written down.

Word-of-mouth is how I first heard stories about James Alexander and Martha Ann, who were my mother's mother's mother's father's parents (maternal great-great-great grandparents) (See Appendix for Family Chart). James Alfred (Fred) Talley was the oldest son of James Alexander Talley and Martha Ann Talley. Sometime during the early 1990s, I remember hearing my mother telling me that her mother [Naoma ("Oma") Einkauf, ] had an ancestor who was part Cherokee. This ancestor was said to be Martha Ann Gentry, wife of James Alexander Talley. If I had heard this story before the early 1990s, I don't recall it, or it's possible that I heard the story but paid no attention to it.

I had originally asked my mother about her heritage because of unusual experiences I had while living in east Tennessee during the late 1980s. As many people know, east Tennessee encompasses a significant chunk of the Cherokees' original homelands in the American Southeast. The Cherokees' original homelands also included parts of present-day western North Carolina, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, southwestern Virginia, western South Carolina, and Kentucky, which the Cherokees claimed and used as their hunting grounds.

Having heard this story about the supposed Cherokee ancestry of one of my maternal grandmothers, I wanted to know more--much more. Many questions welled up in me, and I was looking for answers. Unfortunately, before I could ask my grandmother Oma more about what she knew of this Talley family tradition, she died suddenly from emphysema and other complications resulting from a lifetime of heavy tobacco (cigarette) smoking.

With my grandmother gone years before her time, at roughly the same time that I was beginning to search seriously for answers about her Cherokee ancestry, I turned to other family members for help. Maybe they would know something more about Martha Ann and James Alexander Talley, and about Martha Ann's Cherokee roots in particular.

Two of my elders were especially helpful in this search for genealogical information, and to them both I am greatly indebted.

From my great-grandmother's sister, Eula Ewing, a daughter of Fred Talley, I learned that, according to Talley family tradition, Martha Ann Gentry was part Cherokee. This story matched the story that my mother had been told by her mother, which, in turn, had been told to me.

Aunt Eula told this story to me face-to-face, during one of three visits I made to Floresville, Texas, during the 1990s. Aunt Eula also wrote me a letter dated October 31, 1996, in which she stated that "they [Talley descendants] all say she [Martha Ann Gentry] was Cherokee Indian. But none of them show any Indian favor."

Eula's story about Martha Ann's Cherokee ancestry was subsequently confirmed by my great uncle Troy Talley, whose father, Lemuel Talley, was the youngest son of James Alexander and Martha Ann. For Troy, the oral tradition about his grandmother's Cherokee heritage was meaningful and important. He considered himself 1/8th Cherokee by blood quantum,<1> since Martha Ann, as he once told me, was said to have been "half German and half Cherokee."<2> Troy's acknowledgment of his Cherokee ancestry inspired my own deepening sense of pride, and inspired me to look for more information, to confirm the truths of the oral tradition.

Unfortunately, neither Troy nor Eula could provide any further details about their grandmother's Cherokee ancestry. The oral tradition said nothing about where Martha Ann's ancestors may have come from before they moved west to Arkansas, or about whether it was her mother [Elizabeth (Huddleston) Gentry] or her father [James Madison Gentry] who was the source of the family's Cherokee heritage. All that anyone seemed to know was that Martha Ann Gentry was part Cherokee, and that she had passed this heritage on to the seven children she had with James Alexander Talley, and to their many descendants.

From both Troy and Eula, however, and from other Talley descendants, I did learn more about other oral traditions regarding James Alexander and Martha Ann Talley. This further information helped to explain why so few details seem to be known about Martha Ann's Cherokee ancestry.

I learned that in the late 1880s, when Martha Ann would have been about the same age I am now (42), she and James Alexander decided to move from their home in southwest Arkansas to south Texas (Marcelina and Floresville, near San Antonio). Their home was near Brownstown, a small community located not far from Arkansas' western border with the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory (Indian Territory became part of Oklahoma in 1907).

Apparently the 1880s were quite difficult for James Alexander, Martha Ann, and their growing family. Martha Ann, whose first husband, Riley Briant (or Bryant) was killed in the Civil War, and who lost four of her eleven siblings to death in early childhood, began suffering from a steadily worsening mental illness. By 1886, when Martha Ann was 41 years old, she and James Alexander had seven children. In 1887 or 1888, when her youngest child Lemuel Talley (Troy's father) was about two years old, Martha Ann tried to drown him in a well. A family member, however, (James Alexander?) saved the toddler's life. By the time the Talleys decided to migrate from Arkansas to Texas, Martha Ann was considered "an insane person."

What happened next--as the Talley family experienced the process of moving from Arkansas to Texas--set in motion several tragic and traumatic events. Within two years, Martha Ann and James Alexander's seven children had lost both of their parents. James Alexander died in 1889, apparently thinking that his wife was dead, while Martha Ann died sometime during the 1890s. As a result of these events, the Talley children must have been cut off from their parents' roots in Arkansas, and from their Gentry relatives. Despite these losses, the oral tradition about the Talleys' migration to Texas is vivid and specific. The story goes something like this:

Martha Ann had "rain sickness" and could not make the journey to Texas with the rest of the family. Presumably this rain sickness (related to menopause?) influenced her attempt to drown young Lemuel. Rather than stay in Arkansas, where Martha Ann's condition seemed to be steadily worsening, James Alexander decided to take the children (except for oldest daughter Mary, who had already married), to Marcelina, Texas, where other Talley family members could help the family get re-established. Once the move to Texas was accomplished, James Alexander would return to Arkansas, and bring Martha Ann back to their new home in Texas, to reunite her with their children. Meanwhile, she would be in the care of her Gentry kinfolk in Arkansas.

Thus the move to Texas was made. Before moving, James Alexander and his older sons went down and "made a crop" in south Texas. The crop having been planted, they returned to Arkansas, and then moved south for good, riding horses or walking, with their goods and valuables packed into a covered wagon. They spent one sleepless night alongside the Brazos River in east central Texas, on guard for the thieves they feared would try to steal the fifty dollars in cash they were carrying<3>. The next morning they crossed the Brazos and kept going south. This would have been in 1888.

Eula Talley described these events in her letter of October 31, 1996: " Papa [James Alfred Talley] said his Father [James Alexander Talley] put the kids in a covered wagon and sent them to Texas. He had a sister [Susan Elizabeth Talley] living here.She would take care of the family. And he was going back to Ark. to get Grandma [Martha Ann]. When he got back there she had died and was buried."

But was she really dead? What exactly happened to Martha Ann after her family left Arkansas for Texas is not entirely clear. Records found in the Sevier County, Arkansas courthouse suggest that Martha Ann was still alive in 1889. From all indications, Martha Ann Talley died in the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum in Little Rock or Benton, Arkansas, where she lived from 1893 until about 1895. (Unfortunately, the state of Arkansas asserts that all asylum records have been destroyed). If so, she was alive when James Alexander returned to Arkansas to take her back to Texas. But, for some reason, James Alexander was told that his wife was already dead and buried.

Presumably, the person who told James Alexander of his wife's death and burial was James Franklin Gentry, one of her brothers. On April 14, 1890, J.F. Gentry applied for "letters of guardianship upon the person and estate of Martha A Talley who it appears is of unsound mind and incapable of attending to her own business affairs." (In 1886, J.F. Gentry acted as executor and administrator of the estate of James Madison Gentry, his father, who died in 1885). After filing a $200 bond, J.F. Gentry became the legal guardian of his older sister, who became his ward.

Other fragmentary and difficult-to-read notes that I examined during a visit to the Sevier County, Arkansas Courthouse in May 2001 suggest that Martha Ann lived with her brother J.F. between 1887 and 1893, at which time she was placed into the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum. These notes say that Martha Ann lived "2 yrs (after) going to Asylum." These notes also say that "He [presumably James Alexander Talley] left for Tex 87." The "7" in "87" appears to have been changed to an "8," or vice versa<4>. No one seems to know where Martha Ann is buried. A headstone located near her parents' graves in the Brownstown, Arkansas, cemetery is completely eroded and unreadable. In contrast, James Madison Gentry's and Elizabeth Huddleston Gentry's headstones are in excellent condition.

As mentioned earlier, during the 1990s I began doing fairly diligent and active historical and genealogical research to learn more about my Talley and Gentry ancestors, particularly Martha Ann. I do not know why the stories about Martha Ann are so fascinating to me, but I do know that I feel compelled to find out as much as I can about her, and about her ancestors.

I have been deeply interested in all things American Indian since early boyhood--for just about as long as I can remember. My father was a U.S. Army officer and spent much of his career stationed in Latin America (Panama, Honduras, Mexico). During our seven years in Latin America, we lived near several Indian communities and visited many impressive historic sites. During my years in Latin America, I also met and interacted with many American Indian people and mestizos (mixed-bloods of indigenous and European ancestry, who compose the dominant ethnic population in most of Mexico and Central America). When my family lived in a Mexico City suburb in 1971-72, a small mestizo/Indian village was located less than a mile away. This village did not have electricity or running water, and Indian women washed clothing on flat stones in a nearby stream.

Besides my visit to Floresville in 1969 (during the year when my father was stationed in Saigon), I have two other vivid childhood memories that relate directly or indirectly to Martha Ann and James Alexander Talley. One involves my encounter with a young Indian boy in the mountains of Panama; the other involves my family's visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the spring of 1967.

One day in 1965 or 1966, my family took a drive across the isthmus of Panama from west to east, stopping high in the mountains at a point where you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans simultaneously. My father pointed out the historic and geographic importance of this spectacular panorama. An Indian village was located nearby. There we purchased a toy airplane made of bamboo from a young boy and his father. I remember being intrigued by the boy because of the similarity of our ages, and perhaps because he looked like my best friend Carl, a dark-skinned mestizo. This may have been my first conscious encounter with an American Indian, a boy who seemed similar yet different from me.

Our visit to the Smoky Mountains took place about a year later, after we had moved back to the U.S. It was springtime, and the mountains were incredibly lush and green, flowing with clear, cold water. Besides the incredible beauty of the land--which reminded me somehow of the wild, verdant jungles and rainforests I had seen in Panama--what caught my attention was the ancient smell of the old log cabins. One can visit these cabins at various places in the park, and in the nearby historic Cherokee village of Ocanaluftee, on the edge of the Eastern Cherokee reservation.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many Cherokees lived in log cabins like the ones I visited in the Great Smoky Mountains. The white settlers who eventually took the Cherokees' homelands also lived in log cabins such as these. Although I was only seven years old, the rich, musty smell of the earth and of the cabins' decaying logs seemed powerfully familiar to me. The sense of smell is supposedly the most powerful trigger of memory. After we left, I always had a strong desire to go back, to experience this remarkable beauty all over again, and to explore this special place more deeply.

It took twenty years, but, in 1987, I did make it back to the Southern Appalachians, enrolling in the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to work on a Ph.D. in American literature. I went to U.T. for no other compelling reason than its close proximity to the Smokies. While living with my wife Lisa on a farm just south of Knoxville, near Rockford, in a beautiful hollow of the Bays Mountains, I did quite a lot of hiking and exploring in nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I began to understand that the Smoky Mountains were the heart of the Cherokees' original homelands. For hundreds of years prior to the 1830's, when the U.S. government forcibly removed the last eastern Cherokees to Indian Territory along the infamous Trail of Tears, these lands belonged to the Cherokees. (The Eastern Cherokees of North Carolina are descendants of a few hundred Cherokees who escaped removal by hiding in the Smoky Mountains).

II. The Search Continues

The two years I spent living in east Tennessee inspired me to find out more about Cherokee land, culture, and history. This new knowledge eventually led me to discover the Talleys' oral traditions about Martha Ann Gentry's Cherokee roots. I did not begin to do truly serious genealogical research, however, until about 1993, around the same time that my grandmother Oma died. I know now that I should have asked my grandmother more about what she knew about her Cherokee heritage and about her other ancestors. Before I got around to asking the right questions, however, it was too late to ask them. It may be that in some ways her early death continues to inspire this research--this desire to know more about who we are and where we come from.

One of the more concrete discoveries that took place during this phase of my research involved my examination of several Talley family photographs. A copy of a photograph of James Alexander Talley and family that was taken in 1887 or 1888, just before the family's migration to Texas was given to me by a daughter of Lemuel Talley. In this 1887-88 Talley family photograph and in another photograph of Fred Talley and his three brothers that was taken about 1910 ( that was passed on from my grandmother Oma Einkauf), my great-great grandfather Fred Talley shows that he had some American Indian ancestry. In both photos, Fred's skin, hair, and eyes are noticeably dark brown or black, and the shape of his nose and mouth also appears more indigenous than European. In a third photograph from November 1962, taken just days before my great-great grandfather's death at age 90, Fred looks particularly indigenous (see photo).

Fred Talley

To me (and to Troy Talley and others, including several non-family members who have also seen the photographs) Fred looks like a mixed-blood Indian. Except for his sister Alice Isabel, who also appears to be part Cherokee in the 1887-88 photo, Fred's other siblings do not look particularly indigenous, at least not in this specific photograph. In other photographs taken when Fred was middle-aged, he does not look nearly as native Indian as he does in the photographs taken when he was a younger and older man. From what I understand, this kind of physical ambiguity is typical of mixed-blood Indians.

In fact, such differences in physical appearance ("phenotype") among mixed-blood Cherokees are actually fairly common, the result of genetic mixing and biological diversity. There are many historical descriptions of mixed-blood Cherokees from the 18th and 19th centuries, and numerous photographs exist from that time period of people who are known to have had both Cherokee and European (and/or African) ancestry. Some of these mixed-bloods look like "classic Indians," with dark skin, hair, and eyes (high cheekbones are not typical of Southeastern Indians); others could have easily passed for "white," (and many did), with blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Many others look somewhere "in between," like Fred Talley.

It is also true that one's genes can often skip generations, meaning that a blonde hair and blue-eyed parent with Cherokee ancestry could have a child with darker Cherokee features, even if the child's other parent had no indigenous ancestry. This was apparently the case with Lemuel Talley, some of whose children (Carroll, Faydell, Ruby) have darker Cherokee features similar to Fred Talley. My great-grandmother, Elta Talley, had darker features like her father, as did my grandmother. I have seen this kind of genetic "skipping" even in my own family. My daughter Carson, for example, looks remarkably like her paternal grandmother, my mother. Photographs show that when my mother was nine or ten years old, she looked like Carson's twin sister.

Presumably, then, Martha Ann Gentry may have had the darker Cherokee features that can be seen in some of her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Like my own daughter, Martha Ann may have looked a lot like one of her grandmothers. Because they were presumably not as "mixed" (with people of European descent) as she was, Martha Ann's Cherokee ancestors would likely have looked even "more Indian" than she did. Unfortunately, no known photographs of Martha Ann Gentry or of her father James Madison Gentry exist.

A Cherokee's physical appearance was not nearly as important as his or her linguistic and cultural markers. Of most importance was if a person's mother had at least some Cherokee blood, because the Cherokees reckoned tribal identity entirely through the mother's lineage. If your father was white, but your mother was Cherokee--even part Cherokee--then you were a Cherokee, too. All Cherokees belonged to one of seven matrilineal clans.

My research into the family photographs I found of the Talleys did inspire me to keep searching. The photographs did not in any way suggest that the stories about Martha Ann Gentry's Cherokee ancestry were false. In fact, they suggested the opposite. But who were Martha Ann's Cherokee ancestors, and at what point in time did they begin to intermarry with non-Indians?

[Editor's Note. The author at this point goes into considerable detail attempting to learn the facts concerning the ancestry of Martha Ann's maternal grandmother, Mary (Shull) Huddleston and her husband David Huddleston. Going a little farther afield, he also pursued a trail leading from a first cousin of Martha Ann, Mary Huddleston, who married a Samuel Petty who was also believed to have partial Cherokee ancestry. For the purposes of brevity, we will pass over these studies and pick up the author's seach again as he attempted to follow Martha Ann's Gentry ancestry.]

III. The Arkansas Cherokees, 1817-1828

My discovery of Cherokee connections among Martha Ann's relatives on her mother's side was the first meaningful link that I found between the Huddlestons, Gentrys, and Cherokees. Thiis provided a potentially meaningful link between the Gentrys and the Tennessee/Arkansas Cherokees.

The information that I have been finding since this link has centered mainly upon Martha Ann Gentry's paternal ancestors (the Gentrys), and upon their possible connections to a well-known Scots trader to the Cherokees named John Rogers. For now, John Rogers seems to be "the center of the wheel." Nearly everything I have been finding out about the Gentrys' possible connections to the Cherokees revolves directly or indirectly around him, and to his relationships to the Cherokees, mixed-bloods, and whites who were living in the Hiwassee River area of east Tennessee before the Trail of Tears.

Doing further research, I discovered that William Gentry was the father of James Madison Gentry, Martha Ann Gentry's father. James Madison Gentry was born in Wolf Creek, Arkansas (near present-day Antoine) in 1818, one year after William Gentry and his wife Jane Narrad, William's sister Mildred, and William's brother-in-law James Ward "settled along the public road or trail leading from Antoine bayou south to the Little Missouri River in what is now Pike County, Arkansas"<5>.

In 1817, William Gentry and James Ward moved from Tennessee to Wolf Creek, Missouri Territory (the southern portion of Missouri Territory became the Arkansas Territory in 1819). This brought a shift in the geographic focus of my research from Tennessee and northern Georgia to Arkansas. It may be more than a coincidence that 1817 was also the year that the U.S. government signed the "Turkey Town Treaty" with the Cherokees, creating a Cherokee Indian Reservation in northern Arkansas for those Cherokees who had already moved there voluntarily, or who were being encouraged by the government to do so. Among these immigrants to Arkansas were John Rogers and many of his Cherokee relations.

The primary reason for this shift from the Huddleston/Shull lines of research to the Gentrys has been my discovery that several other Gentry researchers also possess oral traditions about Cherokee heritage in the family. During my research into the Huddlestons and Shulls, I did not discover any such oral traditions. However, stories about Cherokee blood among Gentry descendants seem fairly common.

For me, encountering these oral traditions among the Gentry descendants has been a bit surprising, because I had pretty much "thrown out" Martha Ann's Gentry ancestors as possible sources for the Talleys' Cherokee stories early in my research. Everything I read about the Gentrys just did not seem to fit with my notion of a family that was part Cherokee. Based on the narratives I had seen, and on census data from the pre-Civil War period, the Gentrys were fairly wealthy land-owners and slave-owners who were also devout Methodists. These sorts of details did not "square" with what I knew about the Cherokees. At first glance, the Gentrys did not in any way sound like they had Cherokee roots. The Cherokees I had read about early in my research were not private landowners, did not possess black slaves or significant material wealth, and were not Christians.

However, once I began encountering other Gentry researchers who were echoing the Talleys' undocumented rumors of Cherokee ancestry in the family, I began re-examining these original assumptions. Once I did that, and once I began making connections between what I had learned about Samuel Petty's ancestry with what I began learning about Martha Ann Gentry's ancestry, more pieces of the puzzle began falling into place.

In November 2002 I received a forwarded e-mail from a Gentry descendant named Ruby Beaver, inquiring about whether or not other researchers knew anything about the possible Cherokee ancestry of Mildred (Gentry) Ward, and her husband James Ward, who settled in Wolf Creek, Missouri Territory (Arkansas), in 1817. Mildred and James were the great-great-grandparents of Ruby Beaver. According to Beaver, oral tradition in her family said that William Gentry and his brother-in-law James Ward were Cherokees, and/or that Wolf Creek was a Cherokee settlement in Arkansas. She said that she remembered reading a book that identified Wolf Creek as a Cherokee settlement. (I have not been able to confirm the existence of this book, or that Wolf Creek was a Cherokee settlement. Most Cherokee settlements in Arkansas were located further north, along and north of the Arkansas River, the southern boundary of the Cherokee Reservation)<6>.

After learning about this Cherokee oral tradition among the descendants of Mildred Gentry and James Ward, I also discovered a written reference to a similar oral tradition among the descendants of Nancy (Gentry) Little, a younger sister of Mildred Gentry and William Gentry. An article published in the Fall 1997 issue of The Gems of Pike County Arkansas , an historical/genealogical newsletter, makes this statement: "Nancy Gentry Little was buried on the family farm near Summers, Arkansas on the Ross Little place. Traditional family history says she was of Chero-kee [sic] Indian blood" (p. 8-124). This very specific grammatical construction ("of Cherokee Indian blood") suggests to me that Nancy Gentry was a mixed-blood, not a full-blood. Otherwise, the sentence would probably read, "Traditional family history says that she was a Cherokee (Indian)"<5>.

Interestingly enough, Nancy Gentry Little and her husband James Little lived in northwest Arkansas, in Washington County. Summers is located two or three miles east of the Arkansas border with what was then the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. Tahlequah, the Cherokee capital, is located about 25 miles due west. Nancy died in 1840, her husband in 1845. In June 1839, shortly after the Trail of Tears, Major Ridge, the famous Cherokee orator who had signed the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (in which a small faction of mostly mixed-blood Cherokees agreed to give up their remaining lands in present-day northern Georgia for lands in Indian Territory), was assassinated in Arkansas by fellow Cherokees, only a few miles from Summers. "The Ridge" and two of his relatives were killed because they had signed this treaty, thereby violating Cherokee law, which forbid tribal members from selling or giving away tribal land to non-tribal members, under penalty of death.

So now I knew of at least two other oral traditions connecting the Arkansas Gentrys to the Cherokees. But there was one more. After reading an excellent essay about the somewhat "elusive" Tyree Gentry, William Gentry's father, in the Volume 2, Issue 11 (2002) issue of the on-line Journal of Gentry Genealogy ,<7> I wrote an e-mail to the author, Tom Gentry, and asked him whether his family also has oral traditions about Cherokee ancestry in the family, as the Talleys and others do. A brief electronic conversation ensued. Tom replied that the Gentrys do have oral traditions of American Indian ancestry (but not specifically Cherokee), although some Gentry descendants in his family "vigorously" deny this Indian heritage, and no one seems to know any specific details about it, assuming that the stories are true.

Having discovered three other oral traditions about Cherokee/American Indian ancestry among Martha Ann Gentry's paternal ancestors, I was ready to dig even deeper into the Gentrys' roots in Arkansas and Tennessee. Whatever these roots were, I reasoned, the Talleys' connections to them must have been damaged when James Alexander and Martha Ann were separated during the family's migration from Arkansas to Texas.

The key figure who has emerged in this stage of my research is a man named Samuel Narrad, whose name is also spelled in nineteenth century documents as Norrod or Norwood. Samuel Narrad was the father of Jane Narrad, who was the wife of William Gentry, Martha Ann Gentry's grandfather. Thus Jane Narrad was Martha Ann's grandmother; Samuel Narrad was her great-grandfather.

I came across Samuel Narrad/Norrod/Norwood while re-examining early nineteenth century records of the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee. The federal government created the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee not long after the American Revolution. The agency was in charge of regulating trade, controlling settlement, keeping records, etc., on Cherokee lands in the Southeast, much like today's Bureau of Indian Affairs has federal oversight or "trust" responsibilities on contemporary American Indian Reservations, like the Navajo Nation.

I had first examined the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee records while exploring Samuel Petty's connections to John Rogers, the Vanns, and several other traders, missionaries, mixed-bloods, and Cherokees who lived on Cherokee lands in present-day east Tennessee and northern Georgia before the 1820s. Because of their prominence within the Cherokee tribe and their frequent dealings with the federal government, the Rogers and several other mixed-blood families appear quite often in these federal records.

After I discovered the other oral traditions among the Gentry descendants regarding their Cherokee ancestry, I decided to take another look at William Gentry's connections to his father Tyree Gentry, and to his father-in-law, Samuel Narrad/Norrod/Norwood. While using the Internet to try to find out more about Samuel "N," I came across a website that provides a partial transcription of some of the records of the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee
These records are housed in the National Archives and in the Tennessee state archives.

Samuel Norwood is mentioned in a specific portion of these records entitled "Settlers and Intruders on Cherokee Indian Lands, 1801-1816" (see p. 25 on the website for the reference to Norwood). These are notes and records that were kept by the Cherokee Agency's federal agent, Return J. Meigs, regarding non-Cherokees who were illegally settling on Cherokee lands or who were wanting to do business within the boundaries of the Cherokee Agency. At this time in history, many Indian tribes were considered to be sovereign (albeit domestic) entities by the U.S. government; consequently, non-tribal members had to apply for permission or even a passport in order to legally enter or live on tribal lands, like the Cherokee Agency. Under federal law, these sovereign lands belonged to the tribes, not to the federal government, states, or territories.

Examining these Cherokee Agency records, I came across a brief note that Meigs had written for June 27, 1803. This note mentioned that "Samuel Norwood has permission to live in the Cherokee Nation at the place of Mr. John Rogers for the term of six months from the present dates and may pass and repass occasionally to visit his friends during the term above mentioned."

Could this Samuel Norwood be the same man who was the father of Jane Narrad, and who was a close friend of Tyree Gentry? Could the John Rogers whom Samuel Norwood was given permission to visit for six months have been the same white trader whose part Cherokee daughter Diana Rogers married both David Gentry and Sam Houston?

The answer to the second question above is almost certainly yes. The time period (1803) and numerous other references within the Cherokee Agency records make it virtually certain that this Mr. John Rogers is THE John Rogers, the well-known trader.

The answer to the first question is less certain, but it is no less compelling than the more definitive answer to the second question. Based upon the information that I have found, there is strong evidence that the Samuel Norwood mentioned in the Cherokee Agency records was Martha Ann Gentry's ancestor Samuel Narrad. I make this assertion based on several pieces of evidence.

First, we know that William Gentry, Jane Narrad, Mildred Gentry, and James Ward all moved from Tennessee to Antoine, Arkansas, at roughly the same time that John Rogers and his clan, including David Gentry and Diana Rogers, also moved to Arkansas. William Gentry, et. al., are said to have settled in this part of Arkansas in 1817. This was the same year that the U.S. signed the Turkey Town Treaty with the Cherokees, giving official recognition to the several thousand Cherokee immigrants who had already left Tennessee and other parts of the Southeast for Arkansas before 1817, and encouraging other southeastern Cherokees to do the same. Most of these Cherokee immigrants settled along and north of the Arkansas River in Missouri Territory; the Turkey Town Treaty created official boundaries for the Arkansas Cherokee Reservation within what would officially become Arkansas Territory in 1819.

The Turkey Town treaty not only encouraged those Cherokees still living in the Southeast to give up their lands in Tennessee and elsewhere in exchange for tribal lands in Arkansas, but it also offered them a choice to stay and take 640-acre reservations in the Southeast. These reservations were actually carved out of the tribal, communal lands on which these Cherokees and intermarried whites were already living. Under the terms of the treaty, the reservations would become private rather than tribal lands. However, to be awarded private reservations, the Cherokees (many of whom were mixed-bloods) would have to give up their status as Cherokee citizens, becoming U.S. citizens and private landowners simultaneously. (All Cherokee lands were held in common.) The Cherokee Immigration and Reservation Rolls that were created as a result of the 1817 treaty show that John Rogers, David Gentry, and many others decided to leave their lands in Tennessee for the new Cherokee Reservation that was being created in Arkansas. By April 1818, the Rogers clan had settled along the Arkansas River.<8> (Wolf Creek/Antoine is located about ninety miles south of the Arkansas River).

These federal records do not show a William Gentry, Tyree Gentry, or a Samuel Norwood/Narrad as having been party to this treaty or its aftermath. However, the fact that the Gentrys and Narrads left Tennessee for Arkansas at almost exactly the same moment in time (1817) as the signing of the Turkey Town treaty, and at almost the same moment in time that John Rogers, David Gentry, et. al., left the Southeast for Cherokee lands in Arkansas, seems very coincidental, especially in light of the other possible connections between these families. Although they did not live in precisely the same places in either Tennessee or Arkansas, these people all seem to have been moving from Tennessee to Arkansas at the same moment in time.

But what about Samuel Norwood? If he was actually Samuel Narrad, then why did Meigs spell his name as Norwood? The similarity of surnames (Norwood/Narrad) in relationship to the Gentrys during this time period seems remarkably coincidental. Even more importantly, however, is the strong possibility that Meigs wrote down Samuel's name as "Norwood" rather than "Narrad" because the correct spelling of Samuel's surname was not yet standardized. Norwood family researchers have noted that their surname may have been pronounced "Narrad" or "Norrod" (say "NARR-udd") during the nineteenth century and earlier. Hearing something like "NARR-udd," clerks writing down the names of people who told them that their names were "Norwood" or "Narrad" may have written them down phonetically, using the "incorrect" spelling.

Perhaps this "mistranscription" is what happened when Samuel "N" applied to Return J. Meigs for a permit to visit and live with John Rogers in the Cherokee Nation. Since we know from records involving Tyree Gentry, William Gentry, and Samuel Narrad from Stewart County, Tennessee,<9> and from Clark County, Arkansas that Samuel Narrad was not a literate man (he signed documents with an "X," and a clerk or someone else actually wrote his name), it seems possible that he told Meigs that his name was Samuel "NARR-udd," and Meigs wrote it down in the Cherokee Agency records as "Samuel Norwood," rather than Norrod or Narrad.

Given that Jane Narrad's father may have had connections with John Rogers, whose mixed-blood Cherokee descendants later had connections through marriage to the Gentrys via Elizabeth Huddleston Gentry's niece Mary E. Huddleston, it does not seem absurd to speculate that Jane Narrad's mother (whose name is unknown) may have had Cherokee ancestry, which was then passed on to the children she had with William Gentry, and to their grandchildren, including Martha Ann Gentry. Moreover, the Gentry descendents' stories about the possible Cherokee or Indian ancestry of William Gentry's siblings suggest that Tyree Gentry's wife Delilah may also have had Cherokee ancestry. The Cherokee ancestry of the Gentrys and Talleys may have two or more sources.

At the very least, the documented connection between Samuel Norwood and John Rogers suggests that the supposed Cherokee ancestry of the Gentry family of southwest Arkansas stems in some way from the relationship between these two men. If, like John Rogers, Samuel Norwood/Narrad was a trader among the Cherokees, at least for parts of his life, he may have also had a Cherokee wife. Many white Indian traders had two wives--a Cherokee spouse on Cherokee lands, and a non-Cherokee wife back "home." By tribal law, the Cherokees required any white trader living on Cherokee lands to marry a Cherokee woman. Connecting non-tribal members to Cherokee women and their clans was one way the matrilineal Cherokees "absorbed" non-Cherokees into the tribe. It was a strategy of "assimilation."

IV. Conclusions (and Possible Directions for Further Research)

Although I have not yet been able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the oral traditions in the Talley family about Martha Ann Gentry's Cherokee ancestry are based on historical fact, neither have I been able to disprove the authenticity of these traditions. The truth remains elusive, but I believe that the descendants of Martha Ann and James Alexander are closer to knowing the truth than they have been for several generations. Much of what I have been able to "dig up" has been the result of Internet-based research. Only twenty years ago, much genealogical and historical information would not have been available to anyone doing genealogical research at home. If you wanted to see the Cherokee Agency records, for example, then you had to mail an order for copies or make a trip to the national archives or to the Tennessee state library in Nashville. Sitting in my home office in front of a computer screen, I have had access to records that my ancestors could not have obtained without great trouble and personal expense.

Based upon what I have seen and experienced, I believe that our ancestors want us to know the truth of who they were and where they came from. We must continue to tell the stories that really matter to our own children and relatives, so that they can tell them to their descendants. The stories must continue to be told, passed from one generation to the next, like platters of food around the family table. Without the stories, our lives come to an end. We are alive because our stories are still being told. This is one of the truths that Native people have shared with the world. Stories don't just tell us who we are, or who we think we are; they create who we are.

Was Martha Ann Gentry really a Cherokee woman, or was she not? That seems to be the question that she insists we try to answer. Much has been discovered to suggest that she was, in fact, "of Cherokee blood," but much more needs to be researched, so that the last remaining doubts can be erased. Clearly "intermediaries" like Samuel Petty, John Rogers, Samuel Norwood/Norrod, and David Gentry are vitally important in the story of the east Tennessee and Arkansas Cherokees, and to the Cherokees' possible connections to Martha Ann's Gentry ancestors.

Within one's mitochondrial DNA, markers of American Indian ancestry are passed from mother to daughter across many succeeding generations, regardless of the father's racial or ethnic background. Mitochondrial DNA testing of any of William Gentry's sisters' direct female descendants, and/or of one of James Madison Gentry's sisters' direct female descendants, could provide scientific proof of indigenous ancestry. (DNA tests cannot identify one's specific tribal heritage). If we can find one of these direct female descendants of Tyree Gentry's wife Delilah, or of William Gentry's wife Jane Narrad, then we can prove or disprove the theory that one or both of these women was "of Cherokee blood."

In addition to DNA testing of the female Gentry lines, we also need to study the entire body of the Tennessee Cherokee Agency records in much more detail. It may be that there are other references to Samuel Norwood in these records. These references could prove or disprove the notion that Samuel Norwood was Jane Narrad's father. We also need to explore the ancestry of Diana Rogers' husband David Gentry. We need to find out if he was related to Tyree and William Gentry, his contemporaries. It may be that David Gentry was a cousin to both of these men--or he may not have been directly related at all. Unfortunately, preliminary research shows that there were several David Gentrys "running around" at the end of the eighteenth century, so it may be very difficult to learn much more about him.

Finally, much more information about the Gentry family of Arkansas needs to be gathered. Overall, it appears that there has been relatively little contact between Gentry and Talley descendants since the end of the nineteenth century, probably because of the lawsuit that James Alexander's children filed against James Franklin Gentry, and other conflicts over the 120 acres of land that James Alexander left behind in Arkansas. (The Talleys say that the Gentrys stole this land after the deaths of James Alexander and Martha Ann.) Somehow the lingering anger and suspicion between the two families needs to be "overcome." Both families and their descendants need to re-establish a sense of trust and mutual respect, so that they can work together to discover more truths about their ancestors. There can be no doubt that each family can learn more about itself by understanding the other. The truth shall set us free.

One truth that we have learned from this research is that the stories about Martha Ann's Cherokee ancestry come directly from the Gentrys, not from her other ancestral lines. This is a truth that previous generations may not have known with such certainty. Whatever other truths eventually come to light, I think that Martha Ann and James Alexander will be proud of our efforts, and proud of who we are. All of us who descend from these two people owe our existence to the fact that they also walked upon this earth, during a different time. This is true, of course, of every single one of our direct ancestors. Our descendents will say the same of us.


This work and the essay I have written about it are dedicated with hope and love to these seven women: my mother Sandra Einkauf, my sister Caroline Elizabeth Pynes, my wife Lisa Caye Kirkwood, our daughters Carson Caitlin Pynes, Zia McKenzie Pynes, and Shannon Sierra Pynes, and my niece Fiona Aisling Pynes.

And to Selu, our Cherokee cornmother.

If you have comments, questions, corrections, further information, family records or photographs, etc., that you would be willing to share with me, please call or write. I would be pleased to hear from you, and would greatly appreciate your assistance. This essay is a "treatment" for a book I am hoping to write and publish about the Arkansas Cherokees and their possible connections to the Gentrys and associated families, including the Talleys of Texas.

Patrick Pynes
12100 Peaks Parkway
Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
<pynewood (at)>
(928) 527-4578

Selected Bibliography of Works Consulted and Cited

Awiakta, Marilou. Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom . Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 1993.

Logan, Charles Russell. "The Promised Land": The Cherokees, Arkansas, and Removal, 1794-1839. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, n.d..

Markman, Robert Paul. The Arkansas Cherokees: 1817-1828. Ph.D. dissertation. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1972.

McClure, Tony Mack. Cherokee Proud: A Guide for Tracing and Honoring Your Cherokee Ancestors . Somerville, TN: Chunannee Books, 1999.

McLoughlin, William G. Cherokees and Missionaries . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

Mooney, James. History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees . Asheville, North Carolina: Historical Images/Bright Mountain Books, 1992.


1. Eula Talley Ewing, letter to the author, October 31, 1996. Author's possession.

2. Author's telephone conversation with Troy Talley, November 19, 1996.

3. The information in this paragraph comes from separate telephone conversations with Billie Talley and Jimmy Talley on January 9, 2000. Billie Talley is the wife of James Alfred Talley's son (James) Coleman Talley [1909-1980]. Jimmy Talley is the son of Billie and Coleman Talley.

4. See the following sources in the Sevier County, Arkansas, Courthouse in DeQueen:

Book 15, pp. 210-211;
Book 17, p. 200;
Book F (Record of Wills), pp. 431-432.
In the courthouse there are also several Probate Court documents dating from 1904. These deal with a legal protest and complaint that my great-great grandfather Fred Talley and all six of his siblings filed against Frank Gentry, who requested a $520.00 settlement from the Talley estate to compensate him for the expense of taking care of his sister Martha Ann during the years before she was placed into the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum (52 months worth of "Board washing and Clothes"). Attorneys E.B. Cocke and W.H. Blanton, of Floresville, Texas, represented the Talleys. The Talleys' attorneys argued that they did not owe J.F. Gentry any money at all. Rather, they argued that James Frank Gentry owed them money (nearly $3000) for what he had taken from them and their mother. The Talleys argued that Frank Gentry owed them 14 years of rent for his use of the 120 acres of land that Martha Ann and James Alexander owned together, but which he had occupied since becoming Martha Ann's guardian in 1890. Whether the court ordered Gentry to pay these funds to the Talleys is unclear. However, a court document shows that a judge reduced the $520.00 that Gentry requested to $213.33. J.F. Gentry appealed this ruling, but what became of his appeal, or of the Talleys' protest and complaint against him, is unknown, pending further research. Clearly there were not good feelings at all between the Talleys and J.F. Gentry.

5. See Volume VIII, Number 4 (Fall 1997) issue of The Gems of Pike County Arkansas. As of February 2003, this issue was available on the internet at
< >

6. Information in this paragraph comes from the author's electronic mail correspondence with Ruby Beaver, during 2002-2003.

7. See < >

8. See p. 19 in Sam Houston with the Cherokees, 1829-1833, by Jack Gregory and Rennard Strickland. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

9. According to Ruby Coleman, Samuel Norrod appears as Samuel Norwood in the Stewart County Tennessee Land Records Deed Book C, 1789-1818, Entry #261.


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