In the current version of the character, it was revealed that the Kent Family in the 1800s were noted abolitionists who assisted the personnel of the Underground Railroad like Harriet Tubman. The family moved to the territory of Kansas to promote the cause of creating a free state by running a newspaper for the region.
Unfortunately, the family patriarch was murdered by Border Ruffians who wanted to silence him. Furthermore, the sons, Nathenial and Jeb, argued and had a parting of the ways so deep about slavery that they found themselves on opposing sides of the American Civil War with Jeb fighting with the notorious Confederate guerillia unit lead by William Quantrill. Nathaniel fought for the North and married an half Indian woman who gave him a special traditional spiritual symbol that is obviously a forerunner and inspiration for Superman's chest symbol.
After the war, Nathaniel became a sheriff of the small town of Smallville while Jeb rode as the leader of a band of bandits. Eventually, he discovered he had a son out of wedlock from years ago and allowed him to join his gang. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a murderous sociopath and Jeb approached his estranged brother to arrange a trap to stop his son.
Unfortunately in springing the trap, the son mortally wounded his father before being killed himself and Jeb fully reconciled with Nate before dying. Nate remained in Smallville and the Kents have stayed for generation up to Jonathon and Martha who discovered Kal-El who arrived from the destroyed Planet Krypton.