Jane Hicks Gentry
In 1916 when Cecil Sharp traveled to Madison County to collect the old ballads, he visited the Laurel Country and Hot Springs. In Hot Springs he collected 70 songs from a single woman–Jane Hicks Gentry–the most he had collected from a single person.
There he was met by Lucy Shafer, principal of the Dorland Institute, who had previously written to Sharp about a Mrs Gentry. A historical marker is placed in front of the Gentry house which is still standing. Although Hot Springs is only a few miles from the Laurel country, Jane Gentry’s songs and style were unlike that of the other nearby singers that Sharp had been visiting.
Another Hicks family member, Frank Proffitt, is credited with saving and adding to the old mountain folk song that became the “Ballad of Tom Dooley.” This song was based on a real story about a man named Tom Dula. (The name Dula was pronounced Dooley in the mountains) Dula was hanged in Iredell County, North Carolina in the late 1800’s. Frank Proffitt heard the song sung by his father and grandmother. The Kingston Trio recorded the song in the 1960’s and it became world famous.