After discovering the wonderful article below (Athens Weekly Review (Texas), January 18, 1901), I wanted to know more about the young Texas student who wrote it. By researching the census, death records, and other records on the Internet, and finally contacting a descendant, my curiosity was rewarded. Please enjoy reading Dauphin School, and then find out about Fon Gentry, the author.
Our teacher has appointed me to write the news item of the school and community to you this week. Our school has not been very full for more than a week owing to the bad weather and so much sickness. We have about forty pupils in regular attendance and sixty enrolled. Fifty-five is the most we have had in one day. Mr. Tinsley Williams who was so low with black jaundice at our last writing is reported much better. Mr. Pierce’s little child is still very low. Mrs. Jim Williams is still in bed with catarrhal fever. Mr. Joe Chriswell is very low with rheumatism. Mr. Allen Carroll who has been so low with pneumonia is better. Mrs. Buckner’s little child died yesterday morning and they are going to bury it here today. Mrs. Rome Haunsel is very low with pneumonia. Mr. Tom Ellis who has lately bought land and settled a new home in our neighborhood has gone back to Mississippi. I have not heard what his sudden idea was for leaving. Mr. Bob Tanner is right sick this week. Mrs. E. Schrader is having a new house built on her farm adjoining Mr. J. W. Peay. I am ten years old and I am in the fifth grade.
Mr. Editor, if you will mail a few sample copies of your paper to our teacher, we will give them out and perhaps get some new subscribers for you. With best wishes for the Review, I will close. -Fon Gentry
Editor’s note: The above is a model news letter. Now how many more schools will furnish pupils to get up such? We will send you the sample copies.
Florence (Fon) Smith Gentry was born on December 1, 1889, in Henderson County, Texas. Her parents were William Jefferson Gentry, born in Georgia, and Monterrey Indiana Burke Gentry, born in Alabama. They married in Henderson County on July 10, 1872.
In the 1900 census, a year before she wrote the Dauphin School article, Fon was living in Henderson County with her parents and four siblings. In the 1910 census, she is living in Henderson County with her parents and three siblings, and Fon’s occupation is listed as grammar school teacher. Tragically, nine years later, she died of influenza.
The following are excerpts from my interview with Britt Thompson, who is the great-grandson of Fon Gentry’s sister. He has compiled a detailed family history.
“According to my mother, Fon Gentry went to Columbia University in New York, and graduated from there when she was either 16 or 17 years old (Note: Barnard College is the women’s college of Columbia). I am sure that her brothers, Dan and Dodge, who were very successful merchants, would have been able to help her. Fon died during the great influenza outbreak, at a military camp near Waco, Texas. She had been serving there as a nurse or public health worker.” (My research indicates that the military camp was Camp MacArthur.)
“There were some other tragedies in Fon’s family. Her older brother Dodge and her sister Bertha died within 24 hours of each other in 1933, on Christmas day, and the day after. I have their obituaries. My grandmother remembered when that happened and exactly what the details were.”
“Fon’s mother apparently had quite a penchant for unique names. She named my great-grandmother English Marvin Gentry, but they called her Sybil. The only one of her children who had a ‘normal’ name was my great-grandmother’s older brother, Daniel Burton Gentry.”
“Dan was a merchant in Malakoff, and was one of most prominent citizens in the town for years. His brother was named Jerome Kirby Gentry, but they called him Dodge. My grandmother went to Malakoff in about 1920 to work in his dry goods store, where she met my grandfather.”
“Fon’s father’s real name was William Ervin Gentry. There was an incident involving him, passed down through the family, that early in the Civil War, he supposedly tarred and feathered a fellow with help from some companions, and he had to run away and change his name to avoid being subsequently identified. So he changed it to William Jefferson Gentry. He and his wife, Monterrey Indiana (she was called Ann), along with Fon and her brothers, Dodge and Dan, are all buried in the Malakoff City Cemetery.”
“In quite a twist of fate, I came back from New York after graduate school at NYU, and I became a teacher. The first job that I had was in Kemp, Texas, in Kaufman County. My grandmother, Margaret Knotts Payne, graduated from Kemp High School in 1918. Her mother and my great-grandfather, Albert Ross Knotts, lived most of their lives in Kemp.”
“I write two columns for the Malakoff, Texas newspaper, one called Looking Back and the other called Down Memory Lane. I go back to the archives of the paper and pull stories about people and places from my hometown and publish them every week or write original articles concerning the people and places from my hometown’s past. In so doing, I have made friends all over the country who want to tell me about their families and their connections to my hometown. I have gotten so much more out of doing that than the effort I have put into it. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
“Several years ago, in researching another one of my family’s lines, named Finney, I found a relative who had many Finney family records. He had my great-great-great grandparents’ love letters from 1848 to 1852, letters in which they always addressed each other as ‘most affectionate companion,’ the term I now use in referring to the love of my life. When you read the letters and discover the way that people expressed themselves then and the hardships that they went through, you begin to understand exactly what people coped with 150 years ago. Addison and Laura Finney were apart from each other for weeks at a time. He fought in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. He died in 1864. I cannot find any record of his death. He is buried in an unmarked grave. Laura was poverty stricken after the Civil War, as so many people in the South were.”
“Fon’s family settled in a place called Walnut Creek, which is outside of Malakoff. There were many rural communities around there that no longer exist, and it’s possible that the school she taught in may have been in Walnut Creek. The Dauphin School is no longer in existence. None of those places are.”
Below are two additional articles in the Athens Weekly Review which mention Fon Gentry.
Feb. 22, 1901
Fon Gentry, who was so sick with pneumonia, is much better. Mrs. New is very low with pneumonia. We had no preaching last Sunday as our pastor was kicked by a horse on the way to his appointment. Mrs. Jim Williams is still sick. Mrs. Florene Holiman is very sick. Billie Cook and Miss Ada Clay were married last Thursday night. We are going to have a little exercise on next Friday, Washington’s birthday. Mrs. Criswell is improving her house by repainting it. Tom Holiman and wife are proud of a little son at their house. George Sansing has moved to his new home this week. Harvey Kimble and mother are to leave today for Mississippi. Misses Nellie Williams and Leora Overton spent Saturday and Sunday in Malakoff visiting Nellie Williams’ sister, Mrs. Lee Harrel. W. A. Schrader will return home from his school tomorrow. Misses Pearl Owen and Fon Smith of Malakoff were guest of Miss Floyd Gentry Saturday and Sunday. Dan Gentry, clerking at Malakoff, visited his parents last week. Clarence Knotts, who has been staying with his brother, Bass Knotts, left last Saturday for Louisiana. Dodge Gentry and Oscar Ballow, who are attending Bruce Academy at Athens, were visiting their parents last Sunday.
Mrs. Criswell is improving her house by repainting it. Tom Holiman and wife are proud of a little son at their house. George Sansing has moved to his new home this week. Harvey Kimble and mother are to leave today for Mississippi. Misses Nellie Williams and Leora Overton spent Saturday and Sunday in Malakoff visiting Nellie Williams’ sister, Mrs. Lee Harrel. W. A. Schrader will return home from his school tomorrow. Misses Pearl Owen and Fon Smith of Malakoff were guest of Miss Floyd Gentry Saturday and Sunday. Dan Gentry, clerking at Malakoff, visited his parents last week. Clarence Knotts, who has been staying with his brother, Bass Knotts, left last Saturday for Louisiana. Dodge Gentry and Oscar Ballow, who are attending Bruce Academy at Athens, were visiting their parents last Sunday.
reporter: Jimmy Pierce
SCHOOL PICNIC AT DAUPHIN
10 a.m., May 25, 1901.
Welcome Address- W. A. Schrader.
Response- Elam Henderson
11 a.m. Entertainment by the school
No. 1 Pantomime- by fourteen girls.
Recitations- Eula Meredith, Hattie Belle Holland, Grover Ballow, Clifford Williams
Essays- Florence Ballow, Rena Jenkins, Frazier Holland
Dialogue- Three little girls
No. 2. Recitations- Erbie Holland, Bertie Gentry, Lonny Tanner, Leather Easterwood, Eugene Holland
Essays- Genie McDanial, Fon Gentry
Colloquium- Jake Sansing and Lessie Williams
Dialogue- Five girls
No. 3. Recitations- Lillie Williams, Sallie Ballow, Albert Tanner, Earl Sansing
Dialogue- Ten girls
Recitations- Gussie May Allen, Leora Overton, Henry Meredith, Lillian Sansing
Essays- Beulah Taner, Nannie McDanial
Declamation- Rufe Easterwood
Colloquium- Fon Gentry, Miss Belle Allen
Noon – 12:30- Dinner on the ground
2 p.m. Address- Judge Paul Jones
A sermon to the children will probably be preached at 3:30 p.m. and an effort is being made to have music all during the day by singers. Everybody invited.
William J. Gentry died at his home on Main Street about 11 o’clock last Saturday night after a long illness, during which he suffered much, and for many weeks was unable to lie down in bed but sat up all the time.
Mr. Gentry was born in Georgia on January 6, 1846, and came to Texas with his parents in 1855, locating near Athens, and lived there the remainder of his days in Henderson County.
He enlisted and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and after the war came back and settled down to agricultural pursuits.
A few years ago he moved from the farm to Malakoff and spent the remainder of his days surrounded by his children.
The funeral services were conducted at the family home by the Rev. H.B. Laney, and interment followed in the Malakoff Cemetery.
He is survived by his aged wife and the following children: Messrs. Dan and Dodge Gentry of Malakoff, Jeff D. Gentry of Grand Prairie, Mrs. James J.W. Peay and J.W. Easterwood of Athens, Mrs. Ross Knotts of Kemp and Mrs. Bert McGregor of Houston and a number of grandchildren.
A more extended notice will appear in next week’s issue.
-The Malakoff News, July 14, 1923
Mrs. W. J. Gentry, another pioneer of this section, passed away at her home on North Terry Street at 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon after a lingering illness. Funeral services were held from the Methodist Church at 10 o’clock Thursday morning, conducted by Rev. E. L. Edgar of New Boston, former pastor here. Interment, in charge of J. A. Ballard, local mortician, took place in the family plot in the Malakoff Cemetery. The deceased is survived by two sons and two daughters: Dan Gentry and Jeff Gentry of Malakoff, Mrs. John Easterwood of Athens, and Mrs. Ross Knotts of Kemp.
An obituary notice will appear in these columns next week.
–The Malakoff News, August 17, 1934
“Over the years, as I have done genealogy research on my family, I have come to feel the sadness when people and the stories of their lives are forgotten. In a way, I feel useful when I have the opportunity to uncover their stories, because it gives me a sense that at least somebody remembers them. As Shakepeare said: ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee’.” –Britt Thompson