Submitted by: Jeanie Lewis Parker
My grandmother, Lizzie Franklin, told me lots of stories when I was growing up in Madison County, N.C., one of which was of her grandfather, William “Bill” Gentry.
Now, we all know that N.C. was divided in their loyalties during 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 was most all fought during the Civil War.
This particular story is of 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, the “Tories,” as my granny called them, were a band of rebels that didn’t have the best interests 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 who 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 stayed at home when the Tories came through looking for their men folk, so as to distract them by letting them think their men had gone off to the war. Sometimes the Tories stayed in their homes and made the women cook for them. Their men had lit out to the woods to hide until the Tories left. Sometimes, 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 made them sit against the wall in the cabin to keep them from running away. If hungry, one of their men came up to the house and poked 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 the other women in the cabin sifted the bran (the husks left in the meal after the corn is ground into meal) from corn meal before making corn bread. Now, the Tories kept account of the food that was used, so the women had to be careful not to give themselves away by using too much cornmeal. So they saved meal back as the bran. They saved corn meal in the bran, and after the soldiers ate, the women got the bran and finished sifting the meal to make bread for their men. They wrapped it up in cloths, and on pretense of going to the outhouse, they left 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 times that his blood put out the fire on the brush pile they 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, William Kirk Gentry, was born the same year his father was killed in the war. “Kirk” was after Colonel George Kirk of 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.
My great-grandfathers are buried side by side with their wives in the old Gentry Cemetery in Madison County.