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Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection

Identifier: Ms-2008-040

Scope and Content

The Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection spans the dates 1780 to 1998. The collection contains the papers and business records of four prominent families from Montgomery County and Pulaski County, Virginia and Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Also included are documents relating to numerous other individuals and families from across Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia. Documents include correspondence, land deeds and warrants, as well as financial records including debt statements, receipts, account statements, and money orders. The collection is divided into thirteen major series: Gordon Cloyd Bell Sr. Papers, Edgar Withrow Bell Papers, Gordon Cloyd Bell Jr. Papers, David Kent Bell Papers, Bell Family Papers, James Withrow Papers, Edgar D. Withrow Papers, Annie P. Withrow Papers, Withrow Family Papers, Kent Family Papers, Cloyd Family Papers, Other Family Papers, and Other Materials.

Series I: Gordon Cloyd Bell Sr. Papers: This series spans the years 1917 to 1962 and includes personal correspondence to and from Gordon Cloyd Bell Sr. as well as business correspondence and materials from Bell's time as the President of the Bank of Dublin in Dublin, VA. The series also contains bank statements from 1940 to 1941.

Series II: Edgar Withrow Bell Papers: This series contains materials dating from 1919 to 1970, including a birth certificate for Edgar W. Bell. The papers are mainly personal in nature. There is extensive correspondence, dating from 1934 to 1970 as well as a scrapbook and some newspaper clippings. There is a limited amount of Edgar Bell's financial records including bank statements dating from 1942 to 1945.

Series III: Gordon Cloyd Bell Jr. Papers: these papers date from 1921 to 1967. These papers include a birth certificate and academic records, as well as, land deeds, tax documents, and financial records. Also included are materials from Gordon Bell Jr.'s time in the military including correspondence from the time of his service in World War II. World War II materials also include a "Save Conduct Leaflet." These leaflets were air dropped in Western Europe by Allied forces in order to aid in the surrender of German Soldiers, the leaflet in this collection was most likely the version distributed from December 1944 through April 1945, it contains both English and German text.

Series IV: David Kent Bell Papers: These papers date from 1925 to 1978. They range in scope from David Bell's birth certificate and education records to financial records and insurance documents. Also included is correspondence, some of which dates from David Bell's service in World War II. Also from this period are military documents dating from 1943 to 1948.

Series V: Bell Family Papers: This series is composed for documents from various members of the Bell family including James Bell, Mary Withrow Bell, Andrew Bell, Francis Bell, and Ellen Howe Bell Magill. These items range in date from 1834 to 1967. They include financial records for James Bell, along with correspondence from Mary Withrow Bell, Andrew Bell, and Ellen Howe Bell Magill. This series also contains information regarding the settlement of the estates of both Francis Bell and Mary Withrow Bell.

Series VI: James Withrow Papers: This series contains material ranging in date from 1848 to 1910. The bulk of the material in this series is financial records for James Withrow's business in agriculture, including contracts, correspondence, checks, receipts, money orders, debt statements, and account statements. Also present are documents relating to the settlement of James Withrow's estate.

Series VII: Edgar D. Withrow Papers: This series spans the dates 1864 through 1936. Included in this series are personal items including correspondence from Edgar Withrow's time as a Confederate Prisoner of War. Also included are records from the Greenbrier Light Infantry Grays of which Edgar Withrow was a member. The majority of this series is composed of financial records and business records from Edgar Withrow's business as an agricultural implements salesman.

Series VIII: Annie Primrose Withrow Papers: These papers consist of personal correspondence and items dating from 1889 to 1981, including land deeds and other legal documents as well as a 1908 "Greenbrier" yearbook from the Lewisburg Female Institute.

Series IX: The Withrow Family Papers: This series spans from 1870 to 1941, it contains materials from members of the Withrow family including business records from various businesses run by James Withrow and his son, Edgar, in addition to this are papers from Heber K. Withrow, Mary Renick Withrow, Helen Withrow, Mary E. Withrow, Mary J. Withrow, Letitia Withrow, and papers from Withrow Place as well as the Withrow Tourist Home.

Series X: The Kent Family Papers: This series includes materials dating from 1814 to 1881. The series includes the correspondence and financial records of two prominent Southwest Virginia landowners, James Randal Kent and David Fenton Kent.

Series XI: The Cloyd Family Papers: The Cloyd family papers include correspondence and financial records for Gordon, Mary, and James Cloyd. Also included are several land surveys done by Gordon Cloyd, a land surveyor for Southwest Virginia. These materials date from 1792 to 1866.

Series XII: Other Family Papers: This series is composed of land warrants and deeds, financial records, and personal correspondence from numerous individuals and families from Southwest Virginia and what is now, Southern West Virginia. These materials range in date from 1780 to 1998 and are dived into two categories, those materials sorted by individual or family and items organized by category.

Series XIII: Other Materials: This series is composed of magazines, booklets, brochures, and photographs that could not be identified as belonging to any one person or family. The series spans the dates 1901 through 1997.


  • 1780 - 1998


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

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 up 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 on 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, 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, he also served 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 American 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, 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, and 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 at Mountain Home until the mid-1870s, when in 1872 Francis Bell purchased land from the Darsts and the Cloyds, their new home, Rockwood, was built 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 up 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, 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, 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 for many years, 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 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.


9.5 Cubic Feet ( 18 boxes)


The Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection contains the personal papers and financial records of members of four prominent families. Included are members of the Bell, Kent, Cloyd, and Withrow families, as well as, materials from related families and acquaintances. This is a diverse collection containing materials dating from 1780 to 1998. Items of interest include several Land Deeds and Warrant from the late 18th Century, including one signed by Benjamin Harrison, then Governor of Virginia; American Civil War correspondence from Confederate POW, Edgar Withrow; Regimental listings from the 19th Brigade of the Virginia Militia; and correspondence and military documents dating from World War II. The main collection contains materials from Gen. Gordon Cloyd, James Randal Kent, David Fenton Kent, Gordon Cloyd Bell Sr., David Kent Bell, James and Edgar Withrow, and many others.


The collection is arranged into series corresponding to the creators. Each series arranged by type of material and then placed in chronological order.

Series I: Gordon Cloyd Bell, Sr. Papers, 1917-1962

Series II: Edgar Withrow Bell Papers, 1919-1970

Series III: Gordon Cloyd Bell, Jr. Papers, 1921-1967

Series IV: David Kent Bell Papers, 1925-1978

Series V: Bell Family Papers, 1834-1841

Series VI: James Withrow Papers, 1848-1910

Series VII: Edgar D. Withrow Papers, 1864-1936

Series VIII: Annie Withrow Papers, 1889-1981

Series IX: Withrow Family Papers, 1870-1941

Series X: Kent Family Papers, 1814-1881

Series XI: Cloyd Family Papers, 1792-1866

Series XII: Other Family Papers, 1780-1998

Series XIII: Other Materials, 1901-1997

Source of Acquisition

The Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection was donated by James Gordon Bell to Special Collections in 2008: "In memory of my grandfather, Gordon Cloyd Bell, who collected items of historical interest, and my father, David Kent Bell, who treasured them, my wish is that these items be used to preserve our history."

Related Archival Materials

A listing of individuals and families in our Biographical Vertical Files is available online, but files of particular interest may include:

  • Bentley family (related to the Cloyd, Kent, and McGavock families)--this file contains a 2014 update to: Robert Gray's The McGavock Family. A Genealogical History of James McGavock and His Descendants from 1760 to 1903. Richmond: W.E. Jones, 1903. CS 71 .M144 1903 (copies in Special Collections and University Archives and Newman Library). The 2014 update is also available online.
  • Kent, James Randall

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the the Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection began in June 2008 and was completed in October 2008.

Bell, Kent, Cloyd, Withrow Family Collection, 1780-1998
Jennifer Vipperman, Archivist
2008 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US