County’s 2 Sentell families related

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

There has been renewed interest in the Sentell families of Covington County. New information on this family has been accessed since a much earlier column featured the family. Also, a recent column on the Burnett family included a daughter from the Sentell family. Today’s writing will seek to present additional history as well as clarify the relationship of the two different Sentell families being in the county at an early date.

The earliest ancestor in this Sentell family to be identified by this writer was John Sentell, b. 1680 in Exeter, England. Among his children was a son, Samuel Sentell, b. 1705 in England, who was married to Mary Hatcher (1705-1748), who is believed to have been born in Ireland. Among their children was a son, Jonathan L. Sentell, who was born in 1729 in Virginia, so Samuel and Mary would have immigrated to America before that date. Jonathan died in 1799 in South Carolina.

Jonathan was married to Ann Sterling who was born in 1725 and died in 1775. They had the following children: William, b. 1765, d. 1837, m. Elizabeth Stephens; Sterling, b. ca 1775; Samuel, b. 1759, d. 1844, m. 1782 Nancy Stephens; Jonathan; John; Elizabeth, m. ? Clark; and Sarah. The son, William, was the father of John Edward Sentell, b. 1784, who was theone who came to Covington County and will be discussed later.

Unfortunately there was some family dispute over Jonathan’s will in which he gave more to one child than the others. The details of this family feud are not known, but family legend indicates the children tended to go their separate ways.  Some even began to spell their name as Sentelle. This seemed to be a dividing line between the sides formed by the children; some used Sentell and some Sentelle. (For convenience sake the Sentell spelling is used in this writing.)

Jonathan’s oldest son, William Sentell, was married to Elizabeth Stephens, who appears to be a sister to Nancy Stephens who was William’s brother, Samuel’s, wife. The Stephens family lived in the same community with the Sentells in the Carolinas. William was born in 1756 in Red Oak Creek, North Brunswick County, Virginia, and died in 1837 in Big Willow Creek, N.C. He served as a private in the North Carolina Militia in the Revolutionary War. His service extended more than seven years, and he has been memorialized in DAR records. Throughout his life, William and his family migrated from Southside Virginia to Halifax County, North Carolina, on to Edgefield County, South Carolina, and finally to Western North Carolina in Buncombe and Henderson Counties.

William Sentell and his wife, Elizabeth Stephens (1751-1847), reared the following children: Nancy Ann, b. 1782, m. 1808 Solomon Osteen; John Edward, b. 1784, d. 1840, m. Martha (Fletcher) Willbanks; Samuel, b. 1787; Guilford, b. 1789, m. Catherine Robinson; Patsie, b. 1791; Richard, b. 1797, d. 1883, m. (1) 1815 Sarah Robinson (2) 1841 Elizabeth McCall; James Richard, b. 1800, d. 1870, m. (1) Bettie Benton (2) Jane “Jense” Huggins; and Parmelia, b. 1808, d. 1880, m. Robert Barnett.

Among William’s children was his oldest son, John Edward Sentell, who appears to have come to be an early settler in the Montezuma settlement in Covington County. John E. Sentell is mentioned in several accounts of local history for Covington County. He arrived in the area before 1820 and was one of the first white settlers even before the county was formed in 1821. John E. was born in 1784 in Halifax, North Carolina, and lived until 1840, the year he died in Butler County, Ala.

Although John E. did not reside in Covington County that many years, he left a significant impact on the development of the area. He acquired land from the federal government on December 8, 1823, the first day any was for sale. His purchase was 80.20 acres of land in the Conecuh River Township. Earlier that year in March 1823, John E. was elected to serve as the County Commissioner of Revenue and Roads. Then two months later on May 10, he was elected to serve as a Justice of the Peace for Beat Number Two, the western part of the county. On December 24, 1824, an additional voting precinct was established at John E. Sentell’s home, which remained until it was abolished on December 22, 1826.

When the 1830 federal census was made, the Sentell family was not found. Although the reason for the move is not known, it was learned they had moved to the adjoining Butler County. John E. and his family would reside there until his death in 1840. John was married to Mary A. and they reared the following children: Caroline, b. 1821,d. 1870, m. Ellsberry Fail; Martha, b. 1822, d. 1891 in Clarke County; Nancy O., b. 1825, d. 1884, m. Sherod Durden; James J., b. 1829, d. 1880, m. Emily Holt in 1855 in Clarke County; Melvina, b. 1832, d. 1886, m. S.T. Durden; Francis, b. 1834, d. 1907 in Clarke County, m. William L. Williams; and Henry, b. 1837, d. 1860.

These children grew up in Butler County and married people in that general area. Some moved to Clarke County and others stayed near by their home area.

The Sentell descendant who came to Covington County some years later was John Troup Sentell. His family and related history as well as his relationship to the above Sentells will be presented in next week’s column.

Anyone who might have any correction to the above history or who has additional genealogy on the Sentell families is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email:

Sources for this writing include Wyley Ward’s Early History of Covington County, 1821-1871 and his Original Land Sales and Grants in Covington County, Alabama, Gus and Ruby Bryan’s Covington County History, 1821-1976, The Heritage History of Covington County, Alabama, and Sentell family web sites.