In the 1900 census, my great grandfather, James A. Kent, stated that he was born in Arkansas and that his father was born in Tennessee. His father, David Marion Kent, is in the same household at age 82, born Oct 1818 and is listed as "father." David stated his place of birth was S.C., and his father was born in “Irland.” Because David listed Tennessee as his place of birth in all other census, as well as his son James listing the same for him in this census, we can make the assumption that he was answering the question as he heard it, which was, "place of birth of this person's father." David understood that the census taker was asking for a history of the family. That history has been documented and will be given in this story. This Kent family probably began its origins in Ireland, probably as Scots cast out in the upheavals of the Jacobean period. While at one time I believed that Mark Kent was from Ireland about 1770, I believe now that the census enumerator heard “from Maryland” as “from Irland (Ireland).” This statement would be correct for Martha’s family. Mark Kent and Martha Bankhead Kent were in the Colony of Maryland in 1774 and one daughter was born there. In the time period since 1770, we have migrated through North Carolina, into South Carolina and from there to Tennessee and points westwards. There are descendants of Mark and Martha Kent in many parts of the United States today, a country that Mark and Martha contributed to building.
Who were Mark and Martha Bankhead Kent?
A little is known through probate, census records and recollected family history. They were probably Presbyterian, as Martha's family was contributors to Bethel Presbyterian in Harford County Maryland in 1768. David Marion Kent donated land to build a Presbyterian Church in Arkansas about 1870 and my grandfather, Grady Dale Kent SR, told me that we were Presbyterian before becoming Methodist. He also told me that our "Kent" ancestor had fought in the Revolutionary War. No proof that Mark fought has ever been found. Mark died in 1791 and Martha in 1802. Service in the Revolutionary War is generally proven from either histories of campaigns or Revolutionary War pensions, the latter which did not begin until 1812-13 so it is unlikely we will ever find records of Mark serving. We know he was over 18 in 1774 because he is found on the Harford County Maryland Tax Roll of 1774. He is not, however on the oath of Allegiance to the Commonwealth of Maryland in 1775 and this is a mystery as all his in-laws were as well as an apparent brother or cousin, Jesse Kent. They lived in Deer Creek Upper Hundred. This was up on the Pennsylvania line and implies an area capable of providing 100 men for defense. It is an old English measure of land.
About these early arrivers. We know that a James Bankhead arrived aboard the Ship, Betty Gregg, aka "Snow _____", into the Port of Charleston in 1767 at age 21. He settled in Chester County immediately on a headright grant and is remembered as a Revolutionary War hero. This James Bankhead is a cousin or 2nd cousin to our Bankheads in Maryland. We also know there is an Irish Kent family with a similar name pattern that arrived into Cecil County Maryland, next to Harford County about 1770. They migrated into Pennsylvania. They place their roots in Londonderry Ireland and claim descendancy from a Thomas Cante born to a Thomas or a William Kent. This is based upon christening records at St Columbs Church in Londonderry in 1746 and 1748. This is likely not our family.
In 1815 William Bankhead named his siblings in his will. He named the “children of Martha Kent dec” as well as other Bankheads present in Pinckneyville and Harford Co MD. A William Bankhead is listed with his sons in 1774 in Harford Co MD. So We can say that Martha Bankhead’s father was William. I believe that he is a cousin or brother to Dr. James Bankhead of VA who was married into the Monroe (Pres. Monroe) family. He had a daughter who married a son of Thomas Jefferson. He came to the Colonies about 1738 as a Royal Naval Officer and resigned his commission. It is said he was one of the closest friends that Thomas Jefferson had. Likely that is how the Bankheads in MD got contracts in SC to build the public buildings for the first Federal Courthouse built under the Constitution. It was to be the model courthouse but the land chosen was too low and it flooded at high water of the Broad River. It was abandoned about 10 years later as a result. The Gaol(jail) was a gourd shaped cellar in the ground as common in those days. The doors still exist to that jail and are in the hands of the Union County Historical Society. Likely, they were built in 1789-1790 by our kinsman, the Bankhead’s and the Kent’s.
In Suffield MA, now Suffield CT, near New London CT there is a Kent family, who have many Kent – Dwight connections about 1675 - 1750. They are quite prominent and my understanding is that they go back to early Kent brothers who came into Dedham MA from England about 1640. There are many Kent connections between England and Scotland. My belief is that the Kent family we are descended from is originally from Scotland. This is based upon associations with the Scot-Irish. However, as you read further remember this, Samuel Kent of Suffield CT married Abia Dwight. They were the grand uncle and grand aunt of Francis Marion Dwight on the Dwight side as was another grand uncle, General Marion of the Swamp Fox fame such on the Marion side. Francis Marion Dwight was adopted by General Marion abt. 1789 after Dwight’s parents died, but only if he agreed to give up the Dwight name and become the heir to General Marion’s fortune. He carried from that time forward the same name as his adopted father, Francis Marion. The General died in 1795. The young Francis Marion (Dwight) rushed home from the University of Pennsylvania to be with his dying adopted father and grand uncle. Apparently, General Marion put many of his Marion “wards” though college.
There are other mysteries about Mark as well. All his children whose records we have found can read and write which was uncommon in 1775. His son, John, had beautiful handwriting. We know from later census records placed against Mark and Martha's probate that no children were born between 1775 and 1782-83, and then a sudden flurry of children were born right up to Mark's death in 1791. His probate has a note due him from Alexander Hambleton, a common spelling for Hamilton in that period. Alexander Hamilton was known for his debts. Mark’s brother in-laws, John, James and Hugh Bankhead were the general contractors on the first courthouse in the US built after the new Constitution. We also know that his son, and possibly a grandson too, married into the family of General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. We also know that between 1782-83 and 1791, 4 children were born. We believe that Mark was settled into Union Co SC by 1787 and that his last 4 children were born there. The 1790 Census, possibly enumerated just after Mark died, list our family as John Kent _r. This has to be Jr, Sr, Dr or an error. The page is old and smeared over so only the “r” in “_r” is legible. There is a clear space after Kent although if you seek the record you will find it listed as KENTER. Since everything else is spelled Kent including 1774 records, Mark may have been John Mark Kent Sr. or perhaps he had a brother with that name who cared for Martha and the children in Mark's absence. This is possible as John Kent in Edgefield might be Mark's son while the John with Martha could be Mark's brother or cousin? Records in the National Archives and Library of Congress exist that during the War of Independence a John Kent was the translator for the Marquis de Chastellux, who rode with General George Washington. While this may or not be our Mark Kent, it is only a hypothesis. The Marion family were Huguenots and attended Church Mass in French. There is a Revolutionary War grant to a John Kent in the Carolinas that was sold to a Reynolds about 1786. We do have Reynolds in the family in that time period so this John Kent may be Mark as he no longer would have needed the land when he moved to SC. No where except the 1790 census do I find John Kent listed as John Kent _r. The _r is Jr on other families when it appears on the page. The _r is a puzzle because the last son born to Mark and Martha was Mark Jr in 1790, just before Mark’s death. Mark left no will so it was an unanticipated death.
When Mark died, his probate records mostly farm type items. One must however remember that even Thomas Jefferson, who was the framer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and who designed and built Monticello, considered himself a farmer. The same can be said for our first president, George Washington. Within Mark's probate are other items of interest, the one that comes to my mind most is, "and two fine dogs." Mark must have loved to hunt. Other items are notes due him from individuals. These could be for any reason. One note is from Benjamin Savage, a man whose descendants later married into the family and a man whose influence was quite strong in early South Carolina. Whatever Mark did, he knew many influential people. Why he and Martha had no children from 1775 - 1782 is a mystery and certainly with no modern contraceptives at that time, it would mean they were apart. John and William's beautiful handwriting is a mystery too. Perhaps Mark was captured early in the War at the Battle of Long Island with about 400 of the Maryland troops and interned, not to be released until after the prisoner exchanges of 1780-81 began. Or perhaps he was a businessman who took his children to France for an education and was not home long or often enough for Martha to conceive. Both are a reasonable hypothesis as the Bankhead family were merchants who traded with Europe. With all the Bankheads fighting the British, the British Isles would have been off limits. Their trade would have been mostly with France if they continued to trade after the War began. It therefore is possible that this is how John could have received his education and how he may have met the young Marion lady. Another possibility exists from the records of William and Mary's college. There, a John Kent, as a student, was instrumental in defending Williamsburg against the British when the men were off fighting. He and several other student leaders rallied the students so hard against the invading troops that the British decided to leave Williamsburg alone, not realizing the men of the town were gone. Whether this is our John or not is unknown. There were other Kent families in Virginia at that time as well. In the end, nothing much more about Mark is known except that he purchased land in the Fannin's creek area of Union County SC as early as 1787. He does not show on the 1790 Census so the whereabouts of the family is unknown. Martha does show on the 1800 Census. It might be noted that Mark's death coincides with both the French Revolution, and a flood on the Broad River near Pinckneyville. Whether either contributed to his death is unknown and the author is merely showing some possible causes. Many a settler died in Native American attacks. If he were a merchant trading with France, it is possible he could have lost his life there, especially if he was known to have been associated with the ruling class. It is also possible that he was a brick maker or Mason by trade, as the Courthouse and public buildings built at Pinckneyville by the general contractors, his in-laws, were built out of brick.
As a postscript to when this page was originally written, we have since learned that the Continental Congress's Secret Committee ordered war goods from France during the American Revolution. In order to repay the French who lent the monies, several American ships loaded with Virginia tobacco were diverted to France. One of those ships was the American ship, "Snow Speedwell," under the command of a Captain Kent. Current research is focusing on the Kent family of Suffield CT since John Kent’s wife was a sister to Francis Marion (Dwight) whose grand uncle and aunt in CT were a Kent / Dwight marriage. It is known from oral and bible entries that John Bethel Kent married an “Elizabeth Marion, sister to Francis Marion. General Francis Marion was the Swamp Fox.” This is likely a foster sister or adopted sister, perhaps a daughter of John Marion II as there is a connection to this part of the family showing in 1809 –1810. There are many Elizabeth’s in the Marion family. As of this date 6/29/2001, no one has proven which was John Kent’s wife. There are people who say they know but the connections they claim are easily proven wrong. John Marion seems to have had a daughter named Elizabeth who is not well known. Her brother was Nathaniel Marion who was raised with Francis Marion Dwight in the General’s household. It is with these two fellows and their brother in law that a son of John Bethel Kent and Elizabeth Marion lived in 1809 – 1810 making it probable John Marion II is the father. Additionally, the J. D. Palmer family in Chester county SC was just across the River from the Kents. We have J.D. Palmer and other Palmers in Kent probates and the Bankheads and McKissicks married Palmers of that family too. Additionally, Catherine Palmer of this family married John Marion III, a sibling to Nathaniel Marion and the proposed Elizabeth Marion.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids