A Guide to the Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection, 1780-1998
Gen. Gordon Cloyd was a descendant of David Cloyd. In 1764, Indians attacked the homestead of David Cloyd in Rockbridge County, Virginia. His wife, Margaret, was killed, as well as his son John. Another son, Joseph Cloyd, was away from the house at the time of the attack and was thus spared. David Cloyd passed away in 1792; Joseph Cloyd bought land and settled in Back Creek in present day Pulaski County in 1773. During the American Revolution, Joseph Cloyd served under Col. William Preston of Montgomery County. He is credited with saving Col. Preston’s life when Preston was thrown from his horse during a skirmish at Wetzell’s Mill in North Carolina. Following the war, Joseph Cloyd bought more land in Pulaski County and built a brick house on Back Creek.
Joseph Cloyd married Mary Gordon and together they had three sons, Gordon, David, and Thomas. Gordon and David married two sisters, Sallie and Elizabeth McGavock. The McGavock sisters were the daughters of James McGavock and Mary Cloyd, Joseph Cloyd’s sister. James and Mary McGavock also had a third daughter, Margaret, who married Joseph Kent.
David Cloyd and Sallie McGavock had five children: Margaret, Joseph, Gordon, Cynthia, and James McGavock. James McGavock Cloyd married Frances E. McNutt on November 5, 1853, together they had one child, David, in January of 1855. Frances died on December 21, 1858. James then married Harriet J. Ernest on January 10, 1861. They had four children: Fanny Ernest, Lucy McGavock, Sally, and Harriet Gordon. James Cloyd lived at the homestead on Back Creek in Pulaski County that was originally settled by Col. Joseph Cloyd.
Gordon Cloyd commanded the 19th Brigade of the Virginia Militia during the War of 1812; he was later promoted to Major-General and thereafter was known as General Cloyd. He later served as a land surveyor for the Montgomery County area, and, together with his brothers, purchased a tract of land along the New River know as Buchanan’s Bottom. Gen. Gordon Cloyd and Elizabeth McGavock Cloyd together had six children, of which only two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth Cloyd survived. The two sisters married two brothers, James Randal and David Fenton Kent. David and James were the sons of Joseph Kent and Margaret McGavock Kent. Gordon Cloyd left the Buchanan’s Bottom land to his daughter, Mary, and her husband, James Randal Kent. Elizabeth Kent and David Fenton Kent received the land at Back Creek and the house known as Springfield.
David Fenton Kent and Elizabeth Cloyd were married on January 2, 1834. Together they had seven children: Gordon Cloyd, born December 7, 1834, died November 11, 1837; an unnamed son, April 23, 1836 who lived eight days; Mary Elizabeth, born May 17, 1837, died December 14, 1837; James Randal, born August 15, 1838, died September 4, 1861; Sarah McGavock, born November 5, 1839, died March 9, 1891; Joseph Gordon, born March 22, 1841, died July 15, 1886; David Fenton, born May 17, 1844, died October 18, 1878. David F. Kent lived at the Springfield property and ran businesses with a Thomas Miller. He was reputed to have been an entertaining storyteller. David Fenton Kent died on January 28, 1850. Elizabeth Cloyd Kent outlived him by nineteen years, dying February 7, 1869.
James Randal Kent and Mary Cloyd Kent moved to Buchanan’s Bottom and lived at first in the old Trigg house. Later, they built Kentland mansion, which stands to this day. Together James and Mary had five daughters, Elizabeth Cloyd, born 1819, Sarah James, born 1822, Mary Louisa, born 1824, Cynthia, born 1827, and Margaret Gordon, born 1840. James Randal Kent was a prominent landowner and successful farmer. He also held several minor public offices including Sheriff of Montgomery County from 1822 to 1823, as well as a Justice and a land surveyor. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, James Randal Kent bought up land, he owned around 8000 acres in 1860. In 1855, construction began on a resort at Montgomery White Sulphur Springs, a hotel that later served as a hospital during the Civil War. In 1860, James Randal Kent became a founder of the Preston and Olin Institute, a Methodist school in Blacksburg that was the predecessor to present day Virginia Tech. He was among the wealthiest men in Montgomery County with an estimated wealth of $196,000. Kent was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, and he owned more than 100 slaves at the start of the war. He served as an organizer for the Confederate Army, as well as a supplier of foodstuffs, providing grain and beef to the Confederate Army all the way up to the day Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Though Kentland survived the war, many barns and out-buildings were burned, including the plantation office with the majority of James Kent’s personal papers. In 1867 his land was valued at 41% less than it had been in 1860. James Randal Kent died on May 29, 1867.
Sarah James Kent, daughter of James Randal Kent, married Francis Bell, a cattle buyer from Staunton, in 1855. Together Sarah and Francis had four surviving children: twin sons, James Randal Kent Bell and Samuel Hays Bell in 1858, a daughter, Mary Louisa Bell in 1861, and Francis “Frank” Bell in 1864. They built a home on the land in Pulaski given to Sarah by her father. They lived there at Mountain Home until the mid-1870s, until their new home, Rockwood, was completed c. 1876.
The four Bell children were well educated and all attended college for some period of time. Public schools were non-existent at this time, so a governess, Mary Eliza Sedgewick, taught them while they lived at Mountain Home. James Randal Kent and Samuel Hays Bell both attended Washington College in Lexington from 1875 to 1877. Mary Louisa Bell went to Mary Baldwin College in Staunton. Frank Bell attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute before transferring to the Virginia Military Institute and graduating with the class of 1885.
Sarah James Kent Bell died in April of 1884; Francis Bell followed her nine years later in 1893. In their will, all their land and properties were to be divided by the four children as they saw fit. James Randal Kent Bell received the Mountain Home properties, Samuel inherited the land in Augusta County, and Rockwood was split between Frank Bell and Mary Louisa Bell.
James Randal Kent Bell married three times. His first wife was Maria L. Sedgwick, the daughter of their governess, Mary Eliza Sedgewick, Maria died shortly after the birth of their daughter, Mary Peck Bell. His second wife was Lida Howell Whitsett. Lida died in January of 1902. Together they had five children, Amelia Louise, Elizabeth Kent, Sarah Frances, James, and Francis Joseph. The name of James R. K. Bell’s third wife is unknown. All of his children were born at Mountain Home and grew up there.
Samuel Hays Bell married Bessie Arbuthnot on May 18, 1893. Together they had four daughters, Sarah James, Elizabeth, Mary Lou, and Margaret. They lived in Staunton on the land inherited from Francis Bell. Samuel Bell died in Staunton on June 26, 1903.
Mary Louisa Bell married Dr. Kent Black at Rockwood November 14, 1894. Dr. Black graduated from the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1875. He worked as physician and surgeon at the school until 1890. Dr. Black died in 1909. Following his death, Mary Louisa Bell Black moved back to Pulaski to live with her family. She died at Rockwood December 12, 1943.
Frank Bell married Ellen Gordan Kent, the granddaughter of David Fenton Kent, in 1889. They had eight children: Sarah Kent Bell born September 28, 1890, Gordon Cloyd Bell born January 16, 1892, Ellen Howe Bell born February 12, 1893, Francis Bell born August 16, 1894, Mary Lou Bell born July 1, 1896, Elizabeth Cloyd Bell born September 7, 1897, Samuel Hays Bell born May 16, 1901, and Agnes McGavock Bell born September 1, 1905. Frank Bell worked in the cattle business just like his father and grandfather. He was an accomplished business man and over the years he bought the rest of the Rockwood property from his sister, Mary Louisa Bell Black. He died at Rockwood on December 21, 1939, just a few months after the celebration of his fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Frank Bell’s son, Gordon Cloyd Bell married Mary Eliza Withrow on November 16, 1918. They had four sons, Edgar Withrow Bell, Gordon Cloyd Bell Jr., David Kent Bell, and Andrew Mathews Bell. Gordon Bell Sr. was a farmer and overseer of farm lands, and he also served as the President of the Bank of Dublin. Mary Withrow Bell died September 30, 1938. Gordon Cloyd Sr. then married Lucy Preston King in October of 1942, and they lived for a time in Phoenix, Arizona where Gordon Cloyd Bell Sr. died in 1965.
Edgar Withrow Bell, the eldest son of Gordon Cloyd and Mary Withrow Bell was born on October 27, 1919. He grew up in Dublin and attended Lees-McCrea College in North Carolina. He wrote articles about music trends and opened “The Record Bar” at Wysor Electric Appliance Co. in Dublin. He also served as a postal worker in Arlington where he died in November of 1971.
Gordon Cloyd Bell Jr. was born in Dublin on May 13, 1921. He was a farmer and overseer of the Withrow and Bell lands in Pulaski County, VA. He also served on the board of the Bank of Dublin. He attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Furman College before entering the armed services in January of 1943 and served with the Black Panther Division during World War II. Gordon Cloyd Bell Jr. died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September of 1967.
David Kent Bell was born in Dublin on April 5, 1925. David attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and graduated with the Class of 1949. He also served in the armed services during World War II. He married Beverly Ann Gould from Baltimore, together they had two children: Sheri Lynn Bell born April 30, 1957 and James Gordon Bell born March 3, 1959. David Kent and Beverly Gould divorced and he married Helga Lewandowski. David Kent Bell died January 26, 2003.
Andrew Mathews Bell was born in Dublin on July 14, 1932. He died October 26, 1948.
Ellen Howe Bell was born February 12, 1893. She attended Mary Baldwin College. Ellen married Orrin Rankin Magill on September 30, 1915. Through the National YMCA, they moved to China where they lived for many years. Upon retiring, they moved to Blacksburg where they often entertained Chinese students attending Virginia Tech. Ellen Howe Bell Magill was elected the 1962 Mother of the Year in Blacksburg. She died January 19, 1968.
In 1918, Gordon Cloyd Bell married Mary Eliza Withrow. She was the granddaughter of James W. Withrow of Greenbrier County. James Withrow was born in Lewisburg, in what is now West Virginia, on October 23, 1818. Though not a licensed attorney he served as a judge and the Master Commissioner of the Circuit Court. He also represented the county in the state legislature where he served on the Judiciary Committee. He married Mary Jane Kincaid and had two sons, Edgar Daingerfield Withrow and Heber K. Withrow, and three daughters, Mrs. Helen Feamster, Miss Mary J. Withrow, and Mrs. Lucy Withrow Montgomery. James Withrow died June 26, 1901.
Edgar Daingerfield Withrow was born December 9, 1845. He married Mary See Renick on November 3, 1886. Edgar served in the Civil War as a member of Confederate company E of the 14th Virginia Cavalry. Edgar was captured at Berryville in 1864 and spent the end of the war at Camp Chare in Ohio. Following the War, Edgar went into business with his father, and later ran his own business selling agricultural implements. Together with Mary Renick, he had six daughters and one son: Mary Mathews Withrow, born September 16, 1887, died October 3, 1892; Annie Primrose Withrow, born January 26, 1889, died June 16, 1982; Mary Eliza Withrow, born November 29, 1892, died September 29, 1938; Helen Cameron Withrow, born January 9, 1895, died July 25, 1903; Letitia Renick Withrow, born July 1, 1897, died December 24, 1922; Geraldine Withrow, born August 1, 1901, died July 8, 1902; Edgar D. Withrow Jr., born July 8, 1903, died October 2, 1913. The Withrows moved to Pulaski County sometime around 1910. Edgar Withrow died March 9, 1926 and Mary Renick Withrow died January 7, 1929.
Annie P. Withrow never married. She was very close with her nephews, Edgar, Gordon, David and Andrew Bell, and much of their correspondence was written to her. She attended the Lewisburg Female Institute beginning in 1907. Annie Withrow died in June of 1982.
Letitia R. Withrow was born July 1, 1897. She moved with her family to Dublin and graduated from Dublin High School. She then attended Stonewall Jackson College in Abingdon until the school burned in 1914. She then entered Hollins College in Roanoke, VA. Following graduation she became a special student of voice under Professor A. Y. Cornell of New York for two years. In 1919, she took a job as Assistant Voice Teacher at Greenville Women’s College in Greenville, South Carolina. She taught there for two years, and for one year at Annville College in Annville, Pennsylvania. She left Annville College to return to New York in order to resume her training with Professor Cornell in preparation for a singing career. Shortly thereafter she returned home, where she died from influenza on December 24, 1922.
For information on these families the following sources were consulted:
Bell, Isabelle Mottesheard. The Bells of the Valleys of Virginia. Blacksburg, VA: Pocahontas Press, 2003.
Gray, Reverend Robert. A Genealogical History of James McGavock and His Descendants From 1760 to 1903. Richmond: Wm. Ellis Jones, 1903.
Harlow, Benjamin Franklin. The Renicks of Greenbrier, 1951.
Hoge Jr., James Otey ed. The Diaries of James Armistead Otey. Blacksburg, VA: Pocahontas Press, 2004.
Johnson, Patricia Givens. Kentland at Whitethorne: Virginia Tech’s Agricultural Farm and Families That Owned it Harmans, Buchanans, Triggs, Cloyds, Kents, Cowans, Bells, Adams. Blacksburg, VA: Walpa Publishing, 1995.