A. "CHEROKEE DAVID" GENTRY and TIANA ROGERS|
Who was this David?
B. "PREACHER ELIJAH" GENTRY
Did he have an Indian wife?
AbstractA. DAVID GENTRY
Persistent stories of two early Gentry men marrying Indian wives are examined. In the
case of David Gentry, the question is one of the identity of David. In the case of Elijah
Gentry, the question is whether or not there was a marriage.
Cherokee Indian legends tell of Tiana (also known as "Diana" and "Talahina") Rogers, who
was famous for having been married briefly to Sam Houston, following his term as Governor
of Tennessee and before he became President of the Republic of Texas. These include a
statement that she was married first to a David Gentry. To simplify later discussions, we will
refer to him here by the nickname, "Cherokee David". We present here a summary of what
we have found about David and discuss his possible ancestry.
David Gentry's Indian Relationships
Any discussion of David Gentry needs to start with the tangled relationships of the family into
which he married. For this, following Cherokee matrilineal custom, the family has been
described as being descendants of a Cherokee woman, Elizabeth (of the Long Hair Clan)
who married Ludovic Grant, a Scotsman, in approximately 1720. A daughter, Mary Grant,
was married in the 1740's, to William Emory, an Englishman by birth, who settled among the
Indians in the Cherokee Nation East (eventually Tennessee). This and the other relationships
below are taken primarily from the compendium of Cherokee genealogy prepared by Emmet
Starr, "History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore", and first published
According to this genealogy, among Mary and William Emory's children were a daughter,
Mary Emory (born about 1745), and a daughter, Elizabeth Emory (born about 1748), both
one-quarter blood Cherokees. Mary Emory married Ezekial Buffington (some accounts have
Mary's sister also marrying Ezekial Buffington, a marriage ended by divorce). Among their
children was a daughter, Mary Buffington, estimated to have been born about 1772, who is
said by many accounts to have married first (in about 1791), James Daniel. Existing
genealogies, including Emmet Starr, are very confusing concerning whether this Mary married
second, David Gentry, in about 1803, or whether David's wife was another Mary Buffington,
the daughter of Ezekial Buffington and Elizabeth Emory. In any case, this first marriage of
David's resulted in three daughters, Elizabeth Gentry (born in about 1806), Isabel Gentry
(born in about 1810), and Patience Gentry (born in about 1812). Of these three, Elizabeth
has been identified further as marrying Ezekial Williams and having a daughter Mary Williams
(born about 1830). Her two sisters are listed by Emmet Starr as "dying without issue".
Mary Emory's sister, Elizabeth Emory, is said to have had several husbands (including
perhaps as indicated above, Ezekial Buffington). One of these husbands was Robert Due,
whom she married in about 1765 and by whom she had a daughter, Jennie Due, born in
about 1766. A later husband of Elizabeth was Captain John ("Happy-Jack") Rogers, a
well-known operator of a trading post in one of the many Cherokee villages along the
Hiwassee River in the Indian Territory of Tennessee. Some time after John's wife Elizabeth
died, John married his step-daughter, Jennie. Among the children of this marriage was Tiana
Rogers, who is estimated variously as being born between 1796 and 1803.
We can assume that during his years of marriage to Mary Buffington, David Gentry was
living with the Cherokees at or near the site of the Cherokee village where John Roger's
trading post was located. In 1818, Rogers and many of his Cherokee neighbors moved to a
new location on the Arkansas River in the vicinity of present-day Dardanelle. This was at the
time of the Calhoun Treaty, ceding Indian lands in Tennessee to the United States. Some
6000 Cherokees left Tennessee, moving to new Indian lands set aside for them in Arkansas.
It was at this time also that McMinn County was established in the former Indian Territory.
David Gentry presumably accompanied the Rogers to his new location. [As an aside
comment, Arkansas Territory was formed from Missouri Territory in 1819, and was the new
boundary of settler movement, especially after the close of the War of 1812-1814. It is
interesting that the sons of Tyre Gentry, described in JGG, vol 2, #11, moved to Clark
County, Arkansas Territory, in about 1817.]
There is no evidence whatsoever as to what happened to David's first wife, Mary, and
their children - whether she died and the children were raised by David or by other family
members, or whether David left Mary, or whether David married a second time while still
married to his first wife. At any rate, David married Tiana (also "Diana") Rogers, one of the
younger daughters of John Rogers and Jennie Due, perhaps a little before or after 1820.
[Tiana's name as it appears in the official documents found in the War Department and
Bureau of Indian Affairs is spelled both "Diana" and "Dianna" Rogers. Her name among the
Cherokee was "Tiana", supposedly because the Cherokees had difficulty pronouncing the "d"
in Diana, so we will use it here. The name "Talahina" found on her gravestone seems to
have no foundation in fact.]
Tiana by all accounts was considerably younger than David, by fifteen to twenty years. It
would be interesting to know whether this was a marriage sparked by romance, or was more
of a marriage of convenience or family relationships. There is some controversy as to
whether David and Tiana had any children, but Emmet Starr and others credit them with two
daughters, Gabriel (estimates of birth range from 1820 to 1825) and Joanna (estimates of
birth range from 1822 to 1826), both of whom Emmet lists as dying without issue. David is
assumed to have lived with Tiana until he was killed in about 1829, supposedly in a border
skirmish between Cherokee and Osage Indians, in Oklahoma Territory. In the years just
before his death, Ft. Gibson had been built in Oklahoma in 1824 to keep peace between the
Cherokee and the Osage, and in 1828, the Cherokee were forced to leave their lands in
Arkansas and move to Oklahoma. A graphical representation of the more commonly
accepted version of these family relationships is given below.
One can find variations of the above genealogical summary in various places, which
considering the tangled family lines, is not surprising. Emmet Starr's genealogy appears to
be the standard used by descendants of these families. As we know from Gentry experience
with Richard Gentry's, "The Gentry Family in America", one should not put complete faith in
this book by Starr. Undoubtedly some of his information needs modification, and some may
be completely in error, if we but knew where the errors lay. We can at least presume that it
is a fact that David Gentry married a Mary Buffington, a woman of mixed blood, and then later
married another woman of mixed blood, Tiana Rogers.
After David's death, Tiana married Sam Houston, whom she had apparently known for a
number of years. This marriage, in an Indian ceremony, is said to have taken place about
1830, in spite of the fact that Sam was still married to his first wife. This was during a period
in Houston's life after he was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1826 and then resigned the
governorship in 1928 and retired in exile to the Cherokee territory in Arkansas. Subsequent
to this, a biography of Tiana in "Pitter's Cherokee Trails", comments, "Several years later
Houston, being a restless soul, took off to liberate the Republic of Texas. He asked his
Cherokee wife to go with him but Tiana wanting to settle down refused to leave [her home in
eastern Oklahoma]. Later both Tiana and Houston remarried and in 1838 Tiana Rogers
Houston died of pneumonia." Tiana was buried in an unmarked grave, but in 1904 at the
urging of her supporters, the remains of Tiana were exhumed from her supposed grave and
reburied in the "Officers Circle" at Fort Gibson National Historical Cemetery, Muscogee
County, Oklahoma, where her headstone is marked, "Talahina R. wife of Gen Sam Houston"
(photos of the gravestone can be seen at several websites relating to the Fort Gibson
Who was David Gentry?
David is described variously as being a "half-breed blacksmith", being a "man of affairs" and
as being "of considerable wealth and power". The blacksmith occupation certainly is
reasonable. As to being a "man of affairs" or having "considerable power", his relationship to
John Rogers alone would have given him considerable influence. [A measure of John's
influence is the fact that his son, John Jr., who married a Chefokee woman, became the chief
of the Western Cherokee.
The statement that David was a half-breed has very little likelihood of being true. It is
significant that Emmet Starr makes no mention of this but simply says "David Gentry, a
blacksmith, married Tiana Rogers". This story may have originated because David, having
married Mary Buffington, became a part of her clan according to Cherokee matrilinear
customs. This may have been misunderstood later as indicating David himself was partly
Indian. Based on his marriage to Mary Buffington, his date of birth has been estimated as
approximately 1780. If David were a half-breed Indian, his father presumably would have
been born in the time period of 1750 to 1760, and we must also presume that the father
must have moved to Indian territory in the late 1770's when Kentucky and Tennessee first
became available for settlement. There he could have met and married an Indian wife and
there David would have been born. Such a prospective father of our "Cherokee David"
would have had to have been a son of one of the earliest Gentrys who perhaps was looking
for excitement and ventured along with traders like Daniel Boone into Indian territory. There
is no record of any Gentry doing so, and from all that we know of the Virginia Gentrys of that
period in their history, it would be possible but highly unlikely for a heretofore
unknown Gentry to be such a father.
If David was not part-Indian, we still have difficulty trying to identify possible parents, but
there is at least a considerably larger choice. There are still certain parameters that must be
met. If David was born in a more settled part of the country rather than in Indian Territory,
he could have been the younger of a series of children, and his father could possibly have
been born as early as 10 to 15 years before 1750. Even if he was born in Tennessee, for
example, his parents would have been married elsewhere and moved there afterwards along
with other older children. In addition, David would have appeared in the 1790 census if he
were living in a locality where the census was taken.
We should also consider both David's name and also the area of Tennessee to which he
moved. As to the name David, this was a common one among the descendants of
Nicholas-II and especially among the descendants of Samuel-II's son, David-III. Among the
known children of the rest of Samuel-II's sons, none include a David. It is not a particularly
common name among the descendants of Joseph-II, but there were several Davids in that
branch of the family, so we can not rule them out. Considering where westward movements
occurred, obviously any of the Gentrys who moved to Kentucky can be eliminated. While
John Roger's trading post on the Hiwassee River was far more accessible from South
Carolina and Georgia thanVirginia, we cannot rule out Gentrys coming to Sullivan,
Washington, and Jefferson Counties, Tennessee, and then travelling down the Tennessee
River. With the frequent Indian conflicts, such travel, however, generally involved passing
through Indian territory as quickly as possible rather than lingering along the way.
From a geographical perspective, the odds of "Cherokee David" being of South Carolina
background much outweigh any other source location, since John Roger's trading post was
on the travel route for the Cherokees driven from their hunting grounds in South Carolina and
Georgia going up to Tennessee where the refugee Cherokees were centered. The
movement of later South Carolina Gentrys into McMinn and Rhea counties illustrates the
relative ease of access to southern Tennessee.
Let us briefly consider all the possibilities for David's parents. In doing so, it will be helpful
to refer to previous issues of this Journal (JGG, vol 1, #12, and JGG, vol 2, #1 which discuss
the family of Joseph-II), and also the summary of movements of early Gentrys (JGG, vol 2,
issue #2, particularly the 1760-1775 and 1775-1790 periods of time). We will divide these
possibilities by major branches of the Gentry family to simplify the discussion.
Table of Possible Fathers of David
|Name ||Possible Father of David? ||Comments|
|Family of Joseph-II (only grandchildren would have
been of correct age)|
|Sons of James Sr:
Born abt. 1737, witnessed a deed in
Hanover Co., VA in 1759, then nothing
Probably the William who died in
Sullivan Co., TN, after 1791; three
possible sons, William, John, and
Ayers lived in TN, we cannot rule out
possibility of an unknown David.
|Sons of William-Sr
If David of Overton Co., TN was a son of William, it would be possible for him to have
a son David before or after he finished Revolutionary War service, although this son's date of
birth would not be ideal. He had a son David by a second wife, making this David that much
less likely to be "Cherokee David's" father.
|Sons of John of
Joseph was in Washington Co., TN as early as 1778, but is not known to
have had any son named David.
Hugh was in Washington Co., TN by 1787, but is likewise not known to have had any
|Sons of Joseph Jr.
While Joseph was in Carter Co., TN in 1796 and 1797, he did not leave VA until after
1795. He had a son David born in VA in about 1792.
|Family of Samuel-II (only sons of Samuel's older
children would be of sufficient age)|
|Sons of David-III
||These will be listed separately|
-- and son Reynolds
-- and son Robert
|Hezekiah's sons known from his will |
Reynolds had one son of right age to be "Cherokee David" but all evidence is against this son
Robert's three sons of correct age are believed to be other than David.
|-- David Jr.
||A David Gentry of correct age present in Greenville Dist, SC in 1800 is thought to be son of
David Jr. He was newly married in 1800, and is thought to have moved to AL.
If this David was not David Jr.'s son then one of the latter's sons in the 1790 census is
||Simon had three sons under 16 years of age in 1790. Of these, one is un-identified and
missing from records after 1800.|
||Nicholas went to Davidson Co., TN by 1780, his children are all known.|
||John had one son in the 1790 census who has not been definitely identified and who was
not in SC records after 1800. In addition, a possible son, John Jr., in GA in 1790, could have
had a son of "Cherokee David's" age.|
|-- Allen Cain
||No unidentified sons of correct age.|
||Had a son David who moved to TN and AR, died about 1841.|
||Not in any census records; moved from SC to GA then MS. Known children do not
include any David.|
Elijah, and at least his son James were in Clarke County, GA as late as 1805, but it is
possible a son could have left the family to go north into Tennessee before that
|Other Sons of
-- All other
Nathaniel's family not completely known. It is possible that he could have had a son
or grandson of the correct age for "Cherokee David" but it is very unlikely.
Families and movements all known in period before 1800
|Sons of Nicholas-II (David's father could only have
been a grandson of Nicholas)|
|Sons of Robert
||Robert was the only one of Nicholas' children to go to TN. Only Robert's son Charles
could have had an un-identified son of "Cherokee David's" age.|
|Sons of David, Nicholas, and Martin
||Nicholas-II's sons and most of their families moved to Kentucky. None went to
|Sons of Moses
||Moses remained in Virginia but most of his sons moved to Kentucky|
|Sons of Benajah and Nathan
||Nathan died at a young age. Benajah remained in Virginia, but some of his family moved
Before leaving the subject of possible parents of David, we should mention that there was
a competing David who was married to Delphy Bridgewater in Greene County, Tennessee, in
1803. This is another David whose parentage is not known. The marriage date conflicts with
the proposed date of marriage of "Cherokee David" with Mary Buffington, and in addition, this
other David was located along the North Carolina border, farther north in Tennessee than we
would expect for someone who ended up in Indian Territory. There are fragmentary reports
of Gentry orphan children living in Blount County, Tennessee, in about 1810, and it is
possible they were children of the Greene County David. Because of the location of Greene
County, this husband of Delphy Bridgewater, was much more likely to be related to the
Gentrys who lived in the northeast corner of the state, possibly a son of the mysterious Ayers
In summary, if the author were forced to pick one most likely prospect for David's father, it
would be Simon Gentry with the thought that David was with his father at the time of the 1790
census, and then left home after the death of Simon, shortly after 1800.
The tale of Tiana and General Sam Houston has stirred the imagination of the romantically
inclined, so there are many references in the literature to this alliance. As we look closer, the
Cherokee records of her immediate family and of her first husband, David Gentry, are not
entirely without question. But there appears to be enough truth to these records that one can
confidently say that a David Gentry did indeed marry Tiana. We can guess that possibly this
David came from South Carolina, but beyond that cannot be sure of his parentage, other than
to say that if indeed he was born in South Carolina, he was almost certainly a descendant of
David-III and Sarah Brooks Gentry.
B. ELIJAH GENTRY JR.
The well-known Methodist preacher in Mississippi in the early 1800's, Elijah Gentry, was the
son of Elijah Sr. and Hannah Gentry. Elijah married Wilmoth Killen in Mississippi two or three
years before 1820 and the couple spent the rest of their life there, raising at least eight known
children. Two controversies relate to this marriage, and recently surfaced again in the
Queries and Comments section of the Journal of Gentry Genealogy for the months of
February and March. The Journal will attempt to throw a little more light on this subject by
outlining the facts as we see them.
A Statement of the Issues
The kernel of the controversy comes down to the issue of whether or not a proposed son of
Elijah Jr, a James G. Gentry, was or was not a son of his, and was or was not of part Indian
extraction. In order to preserve in a more permanent location, the exchange which
precipitated this present discussion, we will reprint here the comment of Correspondent A (a
descendant of James G. Gentry) in the February Comments and Queries section of the Journal
of Gentry Genealogy:
"[Responding to a comment by Correspondent B] about how Jacob Elijah Gentry could not
be the father of James Gentry, due to the fact that Elijah Gentry was a Circuit Riding
Methodist Preacher in Monroe County, Miss. when James Gentry was born in Alabama in
1814. I am of the opinion that James is the son of Jacob Elijah Gentry as this was all the
same territory during this period of history. Most all of Alabama once was part of the
Mississippi territory. [The State of Mississippi was formed in December 1817, at the
same time that the Territory of Alabama was split off from the eastern portion of the former
Territory of Mississippi.] [The writer adds: Monroe County was established by a
Proclamation of Governor Holmes of the Territory of Mississippi and covered, in fact, about
half of the Alabama Territory.]
"Wilmoth Killen was known to be a Full blood Catawba Indian that married Jacob
Elijah Gentry. James Gentry ( one-half Catawba Indian) married Caroline Bush . They are
my GGG Grandparents. Their daughter Mary Elizabeth Gentry Gordon is my GG
Grandmother. One of their (James and Caroline's) sons is William E. Gentry (one-quarter
Catawba) and lots of information can be found in the Creek Indian Territory about him .
These Gentry's were Catawba Indian (Catawba Indians are from the SC area originally) but
were adopted into the Creek Nation in IT."
Correspondent B (who is a GGGgranddaughter of Elijah) responded in March as follows:
"Continuing the debate as to the parentage of James Gentry, b. circa 1814 in
Alabama. There are many problems with [Correspondent A's] theory that 'Wilmoth Killen was
known to be a Full blood Catawba Indian that married Jacob Elijah Gentry']
"First The Elijah Gentry who was the Methodist minister who married Wilmoth Killen
(and who was a son of Elijah, son of David, son of Samuel, son of Nicholas I), was never
known as Jacob Elijah. Every tax record, every census record, every land record refers to him
simply as Elijah. Examples include the census records of 1820 (Wayne Co MS), 1830 (Rankin
Co MS), 1840 (Winston Co MS), 1850 (Neshoba Co MS) and 1860 (Neshoba Co MS), 1820
Wayne Co tax roll, 1827 land patent, and two Mississippi state statutes (one naming Elijah
Gentry to a three-man committee to locate the courthouse and jail of the newly formed
Rankin County and one naming Elijah Gentry as one of nine trustees of the Pearl River
Academy). The only Jacob Elijah in the direct line is a grandson of Rev. Gentry (born August
5, 1852, son of the minister's son John Wesley).
"Second Wilmoth Killen's family has been identified and she is NOT a full-blood
Catawba, or indeed a full-blood Indian of any kind. She was born in 1795 in North Carolina,
and is clearly the one female child under age 10 in the household of her father William Killen
(spelled "Killin") on the 1800 Richmond County NC census. William Killen is believed to be the
son of John Killen, one of several brothers who emigrated to America from Ulster, Ireland and
settled in Delaware. Killen family history does not agree as to whether it was John or William
who was born in Ulster, Ireland, but it is consistent that either William or William's father was
born in Ireland.
"Since James' adoption into the Creek Nation requires that his mother have been of
Native American descent, Wilmoth Killen's Irish ancestry clearly means that Wilmoth was not
"Third Wilmoth and Elijah did not marry until after the 1816 territorial census. William
Killen appeared on that census in Wayne County with two females 21 years of age or older.
That is consistent with Wilmoth's date of birth of 1795. On the 1820 Wayne Co census,
William Killen is shown with only one female in his household, a woman more than 45 years
of age, thus showing that his daughter married between the date of the 1816 census and the
date of the 1820 census. Elijah Gentry is then shown on the 1820 Wayne Co census with a
wife aged 16-26 (thus born not earlier than 1794 and not later than 1804), and the members
of the Killen family are all around the same area. In fact, the census entry for Wilmoth's
younger brother William Jr. is directly beneath the entry for the Gentrys in 1820, her father
William Sr. and older brother Henry on the next page. Further bolstering the later date of the
Elijah-Wilmoth marriage is the fact that the minutes of at least one Conference of the
Methodist Episcopal Church attended by Elijah Gentry as an itinerant minister after the
probable birthrate for James Gentry show that all the ministers in the conference were
"Fourth the census records for the Gentry family clearly show that Elijah and Wilmoth
had only eight children: Martha Ann Gentry, Elijah K. Gentry, Ira Bird Gentry, John Wesley
Gentry, Nancy A. Gentry, Isabella Gentry, William Jefferson Gentry, George Washington
Gentry. The only others ever to live in the household of Elijah and Wilmoth Gentry were
Elijah's youngest brother, Josiah, and their mother, Hannah. All of the Gentry children were
born in Mississippi, married in Mississippi, and, with the exception of Martha Ann, who cannot
be traced after her marriage in 1836, all remained close to their parents in Mississippi until
after Rev. Gentry's death (in 1850, for example, Elijah K., Nancy and Isabella were in Winston
Co, Ira Bird in Attala Co, and John Wesley, William and George were living with their
parents). By contrast, James was born in Alabama, was married in Alabama, remained in
Alabama through the 1840 Coosa County census, and did not appear in Mississippi until 1850
when he first appears on the census in Chickasaw County, some distance away from any of
the Elijah Gentry family."
"It is certainly possible that James Gentry was the son of some Elijah Gentry, perhaps
even some Jacob Elijah Gentry. It is even possible that there may be some connection
between James Gentry and Rev. Gentry. James may well be a grandson of Elijah Gentry Sr.,
father of Rev. Elijah Gentry, or of one of the elder Elijah's many brothers, and thus a cousin
of Rev. Elijah Gentry. There is, however, no evidence that he was the son of Rev. Elijah
Gentry, much evidence to suggest that he was not the minister's son and he absolutely
cannot be the son of Wilmoth Killen Gentry, the wife of Rev. Elijah Gentry."
There is another version of this issue, which repeats the thought that James was partly of
Indian extraction, but does not identify Wilmoth Killen as an Indian. Doris Gentry Bias, in
"Gentry Family Gazette & Genealogy Exchange", vol. 7, pp.115-116 (Sep 1989) [edited
by Richard Gentry of McLean, Virginia] observed:
"Another known son of Elijah and Hannah Gentry is Elijah Gentry, born in Georgia,
c.1787 who married first -?- an Indian and had a son named James G. Gentry. James G.
Gentry is listed on the 1850 Chickasaw County, Mississippi census at page 271 with wife
Carolina Bush, a Creek Indian and their family.
"One daughter [of James] was Vicey Rebecca Gentry. She married Hermogene
LaBlanc (it is spelled "Lerblanche" today); they had one known son, Hermogene Elijah
Lerblanche. LaBlanc, says Karen Beare, one of their descendants in Checotaw, Oklahoma,
was a Louisiana Frenchman and he left Vicey Rebecca and she never heard from him again.
There may have been other children of Elijah and his Indian wife we do not known about."
[Doris is a descendant of Elijah and Wilmoth Gentry through their son Elijah
Correspondent B presents persuasive evidence that if Elijah had an Indian wife, it was certainly
not Wilmoth Killen. Consequently the claims of Correspondent A appear to be unfounded as
she presents them. The former's comment that Elijah was an itinerant preacher in the
Methodist Episcopal Mississippi Annual Conference, does not entirely dispose of the possibility
Doris Bias raises.
Census records in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in 1850, indicate Elijah was born about
1787 in Georgia. This age is consistent with his age in census records in previous
Mississippi listings: in 1820 (Wayne County), 1830 (Rankin County), and 1840 (Winston
County). The date of Elijah's marriage to Wilmoth is not known precisely, but it appears to be
between the time of the 1816 census Correspondent B mentions, and the birth of their first
daughter Martha Ann, and two sons Elijah Killen and Ira Bird Gentry, all before 1820.
James Gentry's entry in the 1850 Chickasaw County, Mississippi census indicates a date
of birth of about 1814, a year when Elijah was about 27 years old. Elijah's father was last
known to be in Clarke County, Georgia in 1805, then moved to Mississippi where he died in
about 1817. This leaves a considerable span of time in Elijah Jr.'s early life during which
nothing is known of his whereabouts or activities. We cannot say with assurance that he did
not marry an Indian woman in that time (whether it was a formal ceremony that Elijah
considered binding, or was an Indian ceremony that he may have considered to be of no
more concern than that of Sam Houston for his wife Tiana).
In the records of the Methodist Episcopal Mississippi Annual Conference which was first
formed in 1813, Elijah was first included in the Conference annals as being "continued on
trial" in 1815, and being "elected to deacon's orders" in 1816. In the first year of existence of
the Annual Conference, in 1813, Elijah's brother Simon is listed as being "admitted on trial",
but there was no mention of Elijah. For the sake of argument, let us say that Elijah and
Wilmoth were married about 1816 or 1817, after Elijah was elected a deacon of the church. If
indeed, Elijah Jr was married once before his marriage to Wilmoth, between the birth of
James and Elijah's entry into the ministry, there were possibly two or three years of time
when Elijah was indeed unmarried.
James G. Gentry's indication of Alabama as being his place of birth, may or may not have
been accurate. Elijah's son, Ira Bird Gentry, is listed in the 1850 Attala County, Mississippi
census as also being born in Alabama. To the extent that Ira's place of birth was mis-stated,
James' place of birth may also have been mis-stated, or as Correspondent A indicates, James
may have been born in a section of Mississippi that was considered to be part of Alabama at
the time. Neither census record can be relied upon as being completely authentic. Of further
interest, is the fact that this James, if indeed a son of Elijah, was probably named for Elijah's
older brother, James Gentry, the presumed oldest son of Elijah Sr. and Hannah Gentry. In
any case, if the younger James was a son of Elijah Jr., he was obviously not raised with
Elijah's family and may have lived with Indian relatives (or with his mother if she was still
alive) in Alabama.
Subsequent to the first publishing of this article, additional information was forwarded to the
editor<2a,b>. In the interests of complete disclosure and preservation of
evidence, we are adding the material to this article. The first piece of additional evidence is the
fact that Elijah's service as an itinerant Methodist preacher started as early as November 1814.
This was while Mississippi was still being served by the Tennessee Annual Conference. Elijah
continued in this itinerant service until the 1817 conference at which time he "located" and gave
up his travelling duties (usually this was done when the preacher married and took on family
duties). The second contribution of additional evidence concerns the record of Elijah Jr and
Elijah Sr's service as volunteers in the Mississippi militia in the War of 1812.
These facts greatly lessen the likelihood that Elijah Jr was the father of James G. Gentry,
but do not eliminate it. One can argue that service in the militia was typically a matter of
anywhere from two to six months service, then a return home, then re-enlistment which
apparently Elijah did do. The southern campaigns in the War of 1812 were primarily skirmishes
with the Indian allies of the British, with the exception of the Battle of Pensacola and the Battle
of New Orleans. There is the possibility of Elijah fathering a son with one of the camp followers
that may have accompanied the army, or with some local woman during a period of long
encampment, and leaving the mother behind when he left the service, (quite possibly without
knowing she was pregnant). There are many instances of this in modern times as in Vietnam.
It would help to explain the termination of the relationship if indeed Elijah was involved, and the
fact that James apparently was raised entirely by his mother or her family and never had any
contact with Elijah. As to Elijah's ministerial life after his army service, there are many cases
where a man "gets religion" and undergoes a radical change in lifestyle.
The question has been raised as to why Elijah and Wilmoth Killen should have to try to
prove that as a couple, or Elijah individually, were not parents of James. This is a
legitimate observation. The argument is that if someone wishes to assert that Elijah was
James' father, it should be up to them to provide proof of such. No such proof has been offered
to date and it appears that from present information we have no way of proving this relationship.
On the other side, one can also say there is no proof that such a relationship could not
have been possible. So the question is at a stand-off.
Anecdotal, family tradition in the family of James G. Gentry asserts that he was part Indian, and
this tradition has claimed that James was a son of Elijah Gentry and Wilmoth Killen. No direct
evidence of this has been provided. It appears evident from what our correspondents have
written, that Wilmoth Killen was in no degree Indian; and if James was part Indian, he was
certainly not a son of hers. It is further evident from what is known of Elijah Gentry, that the
predominance of evidence indicates there was little likelihood of an earlier conventional
of Elijah resulting in the fathering of James Gentry. It is not possible, however, to rule out the
possibility that Elijah had a formal or informal Indian wife, name unknown, before he
married Wilmoth. The question of parentage greatly favors James being a son of some
individual other than Elijah, but it cannot be conclusively proved.
1. J.J. Hill, "Old Cherokee Families", "Old Familes and their
reprinted from "History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore" by
Emmet Starr, Oklahoma City, 1921, pages 303-476. Reprint and index,
Norman, OK 1968.
[Individuals are identified by superscript generation numbers following an index number
showing the order of the individual in his or her family.]
|p.305 Grant [Family]|
Note Ludovic Grant, who was said to have been a Scotchman, in a statement recorded on
page 301 of the Charlestown, South Carolina probate court in the book of "1754-1758" in a
sworn statement of Janueary 12, 1756, says "It is about thirty years since I went into the
Cherokee Country where I have resided ever since" "I speak their language". He married a full
blood Cherokee woman of the Long Hair lan. He was among the Cherokees at the same time
that Christian Priber and James Adair was in the nation. Grant's half breed daughter married
William Emory, an Englishman.|
|| Grant. William Emory|
||Mary Emory. Rim Fawling and Ezekial Buffington || 2
||Elizabeth Emory. Robert Due and John Rogers.
Note Rim Fawling, Ezekial Buffington, Robert Due and John Rogers were
||Susannah Emory. John Stuart, Richard Fields and Joseph Martin
||John Fawling. Nannie Vann |
|| William Fawling. |
||Samuel Martin. Catherine Hildebrand, Charlotte Wickett |
||Elizabeth Buffington. David McLaughlin and Jeremiah C. Towers
|| Susannah Buffington. Jeffrey Beck and Surry Eaton. |
|| Annie Buffington. * James Daniel|
||Ellis Buffington. Catherine Daniel and Lydia Snow |
||Mary Buffington. James Daniel|
||Thomas Buffngton. Mary Daniel|
|[Children of Elizabeth Emory and Robert Due]|
||Jennie Due. John Rogers |
|| Note John Rogers' first wife was Elizabeth Due nee Emory and his second wife was
his step-daughter Jennie Due.|
||Mary Buffington. David Gentry|
|| [Note. This is an anomalous listing in the reference since the generation
numbering system indicates Mary should be a second daughter of Elizabeth Emory and
Robert Due since there is no line dividing half-sisters. In addition, Mary's surname is given as
Buffington, but Emmet Starr does not show a marriage of Elizabeth to Ezekial Buffington
(although some other sources suggest she did marry him briefly and was then divorced). It
makes more sense for the Mary Buffington who married James Daniel (in the listing above) to
have married David Gentry in a second marriage.] |
|p.307 [Children of Jennie Due and John Rogers]|
||Annie Rogers. John W. Flawey and Thomas Irons |
|| Joseph Rogers. *|
|| William Rogers. Nellie May |
||Tiana Rogers. David Gentry and Samuel Houston |
|| Note. David Gentry, a blacksmith was also the first husband of Tiana Rogers |
|| Susannah Rogers. Nicholas Miller|
|[Children of Mary Buffington and David Gentry]|
|| Elizabeth Gentry. Ezekial Williams |
|| Isabel Gentry *|
|| Patience Gentry *|
|p.317 [Children of Tiana Rogers and David Gentry]|
||Gabriel Gentry. * |
|| Joanna Gentry. *|
* = died without issue
---------- = division between step-siblings
2. Judy Russell, in a private communication to the editor.
"The first reference to Elijah as an itinerant was not on the records of the MISSISSIPPI
Conference, because Mississippi was part of the TENNESSEE Conference until 1815. So the
first reference is on November 14, 1814, when Elijah Gentry was admitted as a junior itinerant
preacher for the Tennessee Conference at a meeting in Logan County, KY, and assigned to the
Pearl River District in Mississippi."
"At the 1815 conference, he was received into full connection, continued as an itinerant and
assigned to the Amite district for the year 1816.
"At the 1816 conference, he was elected to deacon's orders and assigned to the
Chickasawhay district for the year 1817. According to Rev. John Jones, "A Complete History of
Methodism as Connected with the Mississippi Conference," 1887, vol I, page 427 'Except the
supposition that Alexander Fleming was a widower, the Mississippi Conference at this date [Oct
11, 1816], the Mississippi Conference ar this date was exclusively a bachelor Conference.'
"At the 1817 conference, he "located" (gave up his itinerant status and salary but continued
to preach locally). That is ordinarily done because of marriage and responsibilities of a family. "
"According to online records [Genealogy.Com database in a book called "Mississippi Territory in
the War of 1812," by Eron Opha Rowland].
The 1st Regiment Mississippi Infantry, U.S. Volunteers was formed beginning in January 1813.
Major Dale's Battalion was formed sometime after November 1813. [ Judy comments, 'If
Elijah did in fact serve in both units (and it appears that he did), then he was a pretty busy boy
from January 1813 until well into 1814.']"
Elijah Gentry -- Major Dale's Battalion, Mississippi Militia. Entered as Private, discharged as
Elijah Gentry -- 1 Regiment U.S. Volunteers. (1 Reg't Miss. Territorial Vols.). Entered as
Private, discharged as Private (p.179).
Elijah Gentry Sr. -- 1 Regiment U.S. Volunteers. (1 Reg't Miss. Territorial Vols.). Entered as
Private, discharged as Private (p.179).