ASHEVILLE


Mama and Daddy, Goldie Gertrude Butner and Zebulon Beard Gentry, met in Columbia Tennessee. He was the foreman of a Southern Bell telephone crew putting a long distance cable from Birmingham to Nashville. They were married at the Polk Hotel in Columbia in 1906. Mama's mother was Lettie Ann Scott. Her father was John Scott Butner. I know very little about that side of the family.

Jessie Lee the oldest of our family was born August 14, 1907, in Asheville, North Carolina, at the home of our paternal grandparents, William Gentry and Mary Margaret Bailey Brooks Gentry, 10 Spring St. There has been a highway there for many years. My grandfather was a blacksmith; my grandmother, a midwife. I was born there on March 14, 1911. There was a very deep snow on the ground, but that didn't keep a lot of people from gathering outside their home, not to honor my birth but to see the first sports car in Asheville. The car belonged to the physician that delivered me, a Dr. Prichard. My name was to be Mary (should I be a girl) for my grandmother Gentry. (In those days you just had to patiently wait to find out whether it would be boy or girl.)

Mary Louise Gentry, Asheville, North Carolina, 1911.

Fortunately or unfortunately, according to the way someone may think, they got Mary Louise Gentry. The Louise was named for a doll. Ida Mai Ashe, a little girl in the neighborhood, had a doll named Louise; and my mother loved the little girl. In fact, the girl asked for me to be named for her doll. Thus came the name Mary Louise. Perhaps that is why I like dolls. Ida Mai had a little girl when she grew up, and she named her for me. She was Louise Loosier.

My Grandma Gentry had first married a Brooks and had two sons, Jeff and James. Brooks and the sons all died. Then she married William Gentry. My father had two sisters-- one named Jessie died very small –– then there was Emma. The oldest brother was Wyatt, then Christopher, Henry Silas, Zebulon Beard. My grandmother and Aunt Emma (Daddy’s sister) took good care of us all. My kind loving grandparents were real mountaineers with such a good heart. They loved us dearly. They loved string music and buck

William M. Gentry and his wife, Mary Margaret "Polly" Bailey

dancing. They played many different sorts of string instruments. They were old time Baptists. In fact, just over the Tennessee-North Carolina line, near Marshall, North Carolina, there was a tiny log church, the Gentry Baptist Church. My folks had lived there at one time and started the little meeting house. My father was born at Marshall. Aunt Ruthie, my grandfather’s sister, lived out of town and had a pet bear. She had a dirt floor which she would sweep till it was immaculate.

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