Ann (Hawkins) Gentry

Elizabeth Davis

Ann Hawkins was born in Madison County, Kentucky, on Jan. 21, 1791, to Nicholas Hawkins, a Revolutionary War veteran, and Ann (Robinson) Hawkins. On Feb. 10, 1810, she married Richard Gentry whose father also was a war veteran.

The couple settled on a farm and their first child was born while Richard was serving in the War of 1812. His military career kept him away from home for long periods of time, forcing Ann to manage alone. By the time they moved to St. Louis in 1816, three more children had been born. Ann made the journey there on horseback with her infant daughter in her arms.

They were only in St. Louis a year before they moved to Franklin, Missouri, where Gentry became a land speculator. In 1820, the family moved to Smithton (near Columbia) where Gentry built a log cabin, which also served as Columbia’s first tavern. In 1821, he was elected Columbia’s first mayor.

While Ann raised their thirteen children and ran the tavern, Gentry served in the state militia, traded in Santa Fe, and served as state senator from 1826 to 1830. Circa 1830, they built a new two-story brick home. Gentry served as postmaster from it from 1830 to 1837; Ann served for him during his absences.

The Seminole War began in 1837 and Gentry was commissioned as colonel of a volunteer regiment. Cosigning notes so his men could buy horses, they headed for Florida. Unfortunately, Gentry was killed in battle Dec. 25, 1837.

Her response to the death of her husband was, “I’d rather be a brave man’s widow than a coward’s wife.”

She continued on alone raising her family and operating the tavern. With the aid of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, she received a widow’s pension of $30 a month and was appointed the new postmistress, a position she held for almost 30 years.

Gentry’s estate was small, but with the pension, Ann was able to pay off all the notes Gentry had cosigned when he went off to war.

The Civil War was especially hard on Ann. Her sons fought on both sides and her youngest was killed in battle. Through it all, Ann persevered and by the time of her death Jan. 18, 1870, she had managed to save $20,000 to be divided among her children.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to