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 James William “Will” Gentry

James William “Will” Gentry

Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, USA
Death 3 Dec 1936 (aged 68)
Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA
Burial Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, USA
Plot Sec I, Lot 82
Memorial ID 38553703 · View Source
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"Will" was 1 of 13 children born to Richard Henry Gentry and Frances Mary Umbarger. While Will's father was a native of North Carolina and his mother was from Virginia, he and his siblings were all born and raised in Monroe County, Indiana where Richard was a farmer.

Will married Ollie Butcher on 22 Jan 1894 in Monroe County. The couple did not have any children.

Will was one of the founders of the Gentry Brothers Circus based in Bloomington, Indiana. In the beginning, Will worked with his older brother, Henry Briton Gentry, to build the animal show H.B. started in the 1880's, into what was widely considered to be the "greatest dog and pony show ever developed in the United States."

Will and H.B. were joined in the business by two more Gentry brothers, Wallace and Frank. As the show became more popular, it eventually grew into a traveling circus with four separate units.

Will helped run the circus for many years, and also worked as a ringmaster for one of the Gentry Brothers' four traveling units.

At the time of his death, Will was 68 years, 2 months and 15 days old.

Will's headstone gives a birth year of 1871, but this is not supported by other sources. He was listed as being 3-years-old on the 1870 census. When the 1880 census was taken, he was listed as a 12-year-old. His obituary gives his age at death as 68, which would make his year of birth 1868.

Will was survived by his wife, Ollie, who later remarried. She passed away in 1961.

Children: None.

Will's siblings:
Lora Gentry
Ella Gentry
Wilbur A. Gentry
Wallace Watson Gentry
Lillie J. Gentry Penrod
Henry Briton Gentry
Emma W. Gentry Evans
Frank H. Gentry
Infant Gentry
Infant Gentry
Infant Gentry
Jessie Gentry Gant


Marriage announcement:

Will Gentry Weds Ollie Butcher

Will Gentry surprised his friends last Monday night by quietly getting married. His handsome, young bride was Miss Ollie Butcher who was raised in this county but recently has been living at Indianapolis. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Clevenger at the parsonage in the presence of a few relatives. Will is a young man calculated to make friends wherever he goes, and he has lots of them who now extend hearty best wishes.

(Bloomington Saturday Courier; 13 Jan 1894; p. 1)


Excerpts from obituary:

Will Return Body To City For Funeral Services.

James William Gentry, 68 years of age, one of the brothers who founded the Gentry Bros. Dog and Pony Show, died Thursday night in a hospital in Miami, Fla., of arthritis. He had been in failing health for a number of years, and had spent the summers here and the winters in Miami. He left here with his wife early in the fall.

The body will be returned here for burial and will arrive Sunday on the Monon at 11:27 a.m. Funeral arrangements have not been made.

Mr. Gentry was the third of the four brothers, who founded the circus. Two of them survive, Henry B. Gentry, the oldest, and Frank Gentry, the youngest of the brothers, both living in Bloomington. The other brother, Wallace Gentry, died a few years ago at Hot Springs, Ark.

The show started in this city in 1886 with 16 trained dogs and a wagon and grew to be one of the largest amusement enterprises in the country. The show reached the height of its success between 1915 and 1920 and each of the four brothers toured the country with a unit of the circus during those years. Mr. Gentry, known as Will Gentry to his many friends throughout the country was known as one of the best animal trainers in the profession and was recognized also as an excellent business man.

Following his retirement from the circus business he engaged in the operation of a bottling company, which later became the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and is now owned by M. R. Currie. Mr. Gentry also dealt extensively in real estate. He built a fine residence at 3rd street and Ballantine road many years ago. The property is now owned by Alpha Delta Pi sorority. The purchase included a tract of land, which was added to the city as a subdivision. At one time a circus training quarters was operated there. Mr. Gentry was a partner with William L. Bryan, president of Indiana university, in the ownership of the Arbutus apartment house on east Kirkwood avenue, the first modern apartment building erected in the city.

Mr. Gentry was a member of one of the oldest families in the city. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gentry, and resided during his early life in the Gentry homestead on south Rogers street, one of the city's landmarks.

He is survived by the widow, who was formerly Ollie Butcher; two brothers, Henry B. and Frank Gentry, and three sisters; Mrs. Lillie Penrod and Mrs. Emma Evans, of this city, and Mrs. Charles Gant, of Indianapolis.

Mr. Gentry was a member of the Elks Lodge of this city. The four brothers were made life members of the local order many years ago.

Short funeral services were held in Miami today before the body was started on the trip to this city.

(Bloomington Daily Telephone; 04 Dec 1936; p. 1)

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  • Created by: Lynn
  • Added: 20 Jun 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 38553703
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James William “Will” Gentry (18 Sep 1868–3 Dec 1936), Find A Grave Memorial no. 38553703, citing Rose Hill Cemetery, Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Lynn (contributor 47138895) .