A Samuel Gentry lived in Spartanburg District, South Carolina, in the 1800's for close to sixty years with scarcely any record of his existence. He was included in one census enumeration as a child then is missing from the next five. His widow can be found in the 1850 census, then she too is missing from further census records. A pair of deeds involving land transactions may or may not be by him. But records in the National Archives describe a man who was a veteran of the War of 1812, and according to the testimony of his widow, was born about 1786, married twice, died in 1844, and spent his entire life in Spartanburg District. We shall explore this mystery man in more detail.
Summary of Facts
Virtually all that is known about Samuel is found in a collection of 38 pages in a folder at the National Archives, a part of the "War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications". The documents all relate to applications by Samuel's widow, Milly, for a bounty land warrant under an Act of 1850, a bounty land warrant under an Act of 1855, and finally a widow's service pension under an Act of 1878. Much of the material has to do with affidavits as to Milly's marriage to Samuel, and eventually a request by Milly's daughter, Mary, for reimbursement for nursing expenses incurred during Milly's final days. In amongst all of this, there are a number of significant facts.
All of this information has more to do with Milly than it does to Samuel. But to boil it down to a few facts relating directly Samuel, we can see that:
Census records to Samuel as far as any listings in his name are concerned are non-existent. We have no explanation for this. Based on presumed family relationships, we can identify his presence with his father in the 1790 Spartanburg District census. Thereafter, the only census records for a Samuel Gentry in Spartanburg District appear to be for other Samuels. Finally, in 1850, after Samuel's death, his widow, Milly was listed under the name "M. Gentry" along with five children, two of whom, a daughter Mary and a son William appeared in the widow's pension records cited above.
There are a couple land records that probably involve this Samuel inasmuch as they involve transactions along the Enoree River on the south border of Spartanburg District. This is the location where Milly was living when she first applied for widow's benefits in 1851. All other Samuel Gentry land records involve locations farther north, most of them along the forks of the Tyger River and many of them with Richard Gentry as a neighbor.
What was Samuel's Lineage
In speculating on Samuel's relationship to the other Gentrys in Spartanburg District, we begin with his date of birth, about 1786. There is one other Samuel who can be identified as being of roughly the same age, born in South Carolina. This was the Samuel Gentry living in Spencer County, Indiana, who in the 1850 census for that county declared he was 65 years old and born in South Carolina (in about 1785). We can trace this Samuel back census by census to 1810 when he was listed in the census for Ohio County, Kentucky. Inasmuch as all of the early Samuels living in South Carolina before 1800 lived in Spartanburg District, we can assume this second Samuel was also born there.
There were three Gentrys living in Spartanburg at the time of the two Samuel's birth that were old enough to be their fathers. Two of these were also named Samuel, and the third was Nathaniel Gentry. All three of these were in the 1790 census and had sons of the appropriate age. The two younger Samuels must have been sons of two of these three men. We will review each of these in turn, starting with the older Samuel whom we have identified in previous journal articles as Samuel the Elder. He was listed in the census as "Jentry, Sam'l : (2- 2-1)". This was Samuel-III, a son of Samuel-II Gentry who in turn was a son of Nicholas Gentry the Immigrant. The sons of this Samuel, by virtue of a deed of sale recorded in 1801 in Surry County, North Carolina, after Samuel's death, in which his heirs were named as grantors, can be identified as Allen, Nicholas, Jeremiah, and Samuel. Allen was living away from the family in 1790, the other three were living at home. This accounts for one of our younger Samuels.
The second of the older Samuels has been identified in previous articles as Samuel the Younger and is believed to be a son of Nicholas-III Gentry, an older brother of Samuel-III and also a son of Samuel-II. He was listed in the census as "Gentry, Samuel: (3-2-5)". This Samuel died in Spartanburg District in 1819. By way of court proceedings relating to Samuel's estate, we can identify two of Samuel's sons as Reuben (his executor) and Nathaniel. Also closely associated with this family in census and land records from 1800 onwards were a Samuel who was born before 1774 and a Richard Gentry. Samuel and Richard lived as neighbors for many years along the Tyger River. Samuel lived until after the 1840 census, so died in roughly the same time span as our subject Samuel, but his date of birth eliminates him from consideration as being one of the two Samuels we are discussing. A son of his, also named Samuel, was born too late to be considered here.
This leaves Nathaniel as the only other logical parent of the other Samuel born in 1785 - 1786. Nathaniel is listed in the 1790 census as "Gentry, Nathaniel: (2-2-1)". Nathaniel left South Carolina before 1800 and was next found with most of his family in 1810 in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Two of his sons were believed to be living separately at the same time in neighboring Lincoln County, Kentucky. The fact that a South Carolina-born Samuel Gentry was in Ohio County, Kentucky, in the same year is pretty convincing evidence that given a choice between being a son of Samuel-III Gentry and Nathaniel Gentry, he must be the latter. Nowhere is there any documentary evidence tying the two together, but on the other hand there is no direct evidence identifying any of Nathaniel's children. By elimination, it appears that Samuel the subject of this article, must have been a son of Samuel-III.
Narrative Summary for Samuel Gentry
This father we have just identified, Samuel-III, was living in Surry County, North Carolina, until just about the time that Samuel Jr. was born. Samuel Sr. was taxed for land in 1782 and 1786 which he was occupying and for which he had entered an application for a state grant that he finally received in 1792. In 1784, two land transactions named him as a neighboring land owner at which time he may or may not have been present. In 1790 he was listed in the Spartanburg District, South Carolina, census, so he obviously had moved some time prior to that. All this is to say that the claim that Samuel Gentry Jr. was born in South Carolina in about 1786 may well have been true.
Samuel-III died in about 1800. He was not included in the 1800 census, but land he still owned in North Carolina was not sold until 1801. Samuel Jr. was not listed under his own name in the 1800 census, nor is there any evidence that he was living with any of his three brothers. But being about age 14 at the time he may have been included with an older sister or a family friend of whom we are unaware. More importantly, he was not in the 1810 census. We know that in 1814, Samuel at age 28 was living as a farmer in Spartanburg District. We also know that he volunteered for service in the South Carolina militia, was enlisted as a private, and after some months of service, he ended up on Charleston, where he was discharged, still a private. Here the trail turns cold. For the rest of his life he somehow managed to escape being recorded in any South Carolina census. It was not until 1850 that the family was included in a census at which time his widow, Milly, and five children were listed (see below).
A deed for the sale of land and a mortgage in 1831 and 1843 by a Samuel Gentry appear to apply to this Samuel. He had bought or somehow acquired 400 acres of land just north of the Enoree River at the extreme south tip of Spartanburg District. This had been granted originally to a Thomas Fuller. There is no record of Samuel buying this land and there is the possibility that his wife, Ann, was a daughter of Thomas. Samuel sold 100 acres in 1831 which was not recorded until 1838. His wife, Ann, relinquished dower rights in 1834. Curiously, in 1843, when Samuel mortgaged his land along the Enoree River, it was a mortgage for 400 acres again. Did he buy back the 100 acres he sold eleven years later?
We believe that these two transactions were by our subject Samuel. They were located in the area where his widowed second wife, Milly, was living in 1851 when she first applied for a bounty land warrant. Mountain Shoals where she lived, was on the Enoree River, where the town of Enoree is now located, and the closest post office was Cross Anchor, a few miles away. In addition, all the deed references to other Samuel Gentrys during the period from 1804 onward had been along forks of the Tyger River, some distance north of the Enoree, and many of the references mention the fact that the northern Samuel was a neighbor of Richard Gentry for many years. These were both sons of Samuel Gentry the Younger.
Samuel's first wife was probably the Ann who relinquished dower rights in 1834 after Samuel's 1831 sale of property. She died not long afterward and Samuel was married a second time in 1838, to Milly Hindman, a widow. We know very little about his children by his first wife. Milly and Samuel's younger children were listed in the 1850 census and the children apparently included Edward (born about 1833), Mary (born about 1835), and Jonathan William (born about 1837 or 1838). It is entirely possible that Ann died in childbirth at the time of her last child's birth. Samuel and Milly had two children, a son born about 1839 whose name is uncertain (Elza?), and a daughter, Clarinda, born about 1841. The family is missing from the 1860 and 1870 census.
Milly remained in the Cross Anchor postal area for an unknown length of time, at least through 1856. When next she was heard from, in 1878, she had moved to northern Spartanburg District, in the Martinsville postal district. Her final years were spent with her step-daughter, Mary. Milly died in late 1787 only a few months after being granted a service widow's pension (of $8 per month). Samuel's son William was living nearby at the time of Milly's death. He was quite active in trying to help his step-mother obtain a pension and his name is on a number of documents in the pension file. Both Mary (age 44) and William (age 41) were listed in the 1880 Spartanburg census. Living with Mary was a Sarah Gentry who was listed as a sister but also listed as widowed, so she either resumed her maiden name or was actually a sister-in-law. Sarah was 50 years old (born about 1830). If a sister of Mary, she fits very well into Samuel's family as a daughter older than his son, Edward. Another possible child of Samuel was a Samuel Jr. who was living as a bachelor man with the John and Sarah Ralph family in southern Spartanburg District in 1860. His age of 33 (born about 1827) also fits well the expected range of a Samuel Sr. family.
We have outlined here a proposed description of a Samuel Gentry and family who for some unknown reason are missing from the civil records of Spartanburg District, South Carolina during his lifetime. Much of the information about him comes from the National Archives War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land application files along with two land ecords. But we feel that it reflects fairly the family of the Samuel who is known to have been a son of Samuel-III Gentry.
2. National Archives and Records Administration.
"War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files", Catalog #564415, Samuel
Gentry, 38 pages.
Facsimile copies of individual pages may be browsed online at URL:
3. Larry Vehorn, "Spartanburg District, South Carolina Deed Abstracts". "Books U-W (1827-1839)", "Books X-Z (1839-1848)", Southern Historical Press, Greenville, SC, 2001.
|(a)||1831 Feb 20||Bk(W-596)||(p.460)|
Samuel Gentry (Spartanburg District) to Samuel Waldrip (same) for $275 sold
100 ac on two mile Creek, the waters of Enoree River, being part of 400 ac formerly
granted to Thomas Fuller.|
Wit: J. Underwood, G. M. Hobby. Signed Samuel (x) Gentry.
Dower relinquished by Ann Gentry, 18 Dec 1834. Rec 10 Sep 1838.
|(b)||1843 Mar 2||Bk(Y-241)||(p.205)|
Samuel Gentry (Spartanburg District) tp N. C. Vance for $424.59 mortgages 400 ac land
whereon Samuel Gentry now lives on the road from Enoree River to Mrs. Hobby's, to
be paid in full on 25 Dec next.|
Wit: W. D. Byrd, Samuel Stewart. Signed Samuel (x) Gentry. Rec. 24 Jul 1843.
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