Submitted by: Jeanie Lewis Parker
My grandmother Lizzie Franklin told me lots of stories when I was growing up in Madison County NC. One of which was of her grandfather William “Bill” Gentry.
Now we all know that NC was divided in their loyalties to the south in the war. Some of my 2nd great grandfathers fought for the north and some for the south. But one thing they all had in common, most all fought in the Civil War.
This particular story is one of the things that happened to my granny’s people; they were either too young or too old to fight. In our part of the mountains, which was Shelton Laurel at that time in history, the “Tories” as my granny called them were a band of rebels that didn’t have the best interest of any of our mountain folk in mind or heart. The Tories would go from house to house up in the hollers and valleys and look for people that were either deserters or just didn’t have an interest in the war and take them prisoner or kill them.
My granny’s story was passed down by her grandmother (Gentry), her father’s mother.
The women would stay at home when the Tories came through looking for the men folk, to distract them by letting them think their men had gone off to the war. Sometimes the Tories would stay in their homes and make the women cook for them. The men left at home lit out to the woods to hide until the Tories left. Sometime the Tories would stay for days, so the men had nothing to do up in the mountain woods. But they had made a plan beforehand just in case.
Granny said when the women weren’t busy the Tories would make them sit against the wall in the cabin to keep them from running away. One of their men would sneak up to the house and poke a stick through a crack in the “chinking” (the mud mixture that seals the logs to keep cold and snow out of the cabins). The women would then know they were near and needed food.
Her grandmother and other women in the cabin would sift the bran from the corn meal before making corn bread. Now the Tories would keep account if the food that was used, so they had to be careful not to give themselves away by using too much cornmeal. So they would save meal back as the bran (the husks left in the meal after the corn is ground into meal). They would save corn meal in the bran and after the soldiers ate, the women would get the bran and finish sifting the meal to make bread for their men. They would wrap it up in cloths and on pretense of going to the outhouse they would leave it in a place where their men could find it.
As the story goes, my granny Franklin’s grandfather Bill Gentry was a soldier in the Union army. When he came home the Tories caught him and tortured him. Granny told me they shot him so many time that his blood put out the fire on the brush pile the drug his body up on.
This is the story my grandmother told me. According to the history records my grandfather William Bill Gentry was killed in Tazwell TN in 1864. My grandmother’s father was born the same year his father was killed in the war. His name was also William “Kirk” Gentry. The Kirk was after Colonel George Kirk in the Union army. He must have been well thought of for my great grandmother to have named her son after him. My granny’s father was called “colonel” all his life. Her mother died just after giving birth to their youngest son Roy. My grandmother helped raised the other children after her death
They are buried side by side with their wives in the old Gentry Cemetery in Madison County.