Friday, July 3, 2009

Not descended from Ethan Allen!

Here is a copy of my article from the "Polk County Poineers", Vol XV, Numbers 3-4 Sep & Dec 2000, published by the Polk County (Ark) Genealogical Society. After correspondence with the Society, I discovered that they were sending out information to inquiries about the Allen family which included copies of the two newspaper articles stating our "kinship" to Ethan Allen. This of course, served to further a misconception that is simply not true. I decided the least I could do was furnish the Society with further proof of our ancestry so that they could at least furnish folks with both sides of the story!

FACT or FICTION - Ethan Allen, Our Ancestor?
By Kay M. Haden, great great granddaughter of Polk County AR pioneer, Peter B. Allen.

As in all families, we have our traditions. My great aunt, Grace Graham Hays, although not an Allen descendant herself, spent years trying to prove an Allen relationship to Ethan Allen of Revolutionary War fame. She hoped her daughter and granddaughter would be eligible for DAR membership. None of the rest of the family took much notice of her efforts although the premise seemed to be a very nice connection to an historic figure.

Eventually, Aunt Grace sent us all copies of a DAR application for a descendant of one MOSES ALLEN - who on earth was he? The papers revealed that Moses Allen had served in the Revolutionary War as a private in the militia from Dutchess County, New York, and was listed as a bounty land recipient.[1]

Moses Allen was married to Chloe Ward and had several children including a son Peter Buell Allen.[2] The family had removed to Ontario County, New York, by 1795 or 1796. This Peter Buell Allen served in the War of 1812; said by his nephew, Orsamas Turner, to be a Brigadier General,[2] though I have not yet found the actual record [See follow up Note below]. Peter left Ontario County for Indiana probably in 1818. At the time of the writing of his book in 1851, O. Turner stated that many of his descendants were living in Terre Haute.[2] The Vigo County, Indiana, US Census of 1850 does indeed confirm this statement.[3]

The history books of Vigo County, Indiana include some delightful stories about Peter B. Allen from New York. One of these describes how he brought his family by packhorse, canal, and flatboat.[4] His wife was Mary, believed to be Mary Peterson from DAR applications.[5] His children were listed in the above history book and included another Peter B. Allen.[4]

The younger Peter B. Allen married Mary Rowena Hoskins on 28 Dec 1836 in Vigo County.[6] He was found as signing documents for the County Clerk of Vigo County a few years earlier.[7]In 1840, Peter Allen appears in the Territorial Census of Sevier County, Arkansas and by 1850 he was the enumerator for White Township in Polk County.[8] These facts, and others, are confirmed by the Obituary of Peter B. Allen, which appeared in The Mena Star on October 10, 1901, written by his son C. E. F. Allen and leaving no doubt that this is indeed the same gentleman.[9]

The nine children of Peter B. Allen and Mary Rowena Hoskins, born in Polk County, are as follows: Augustus A., Henry Clay, Nathaniel Orrin "Nat", Peter B. T./ F. "Porter", Mary Adeline "Addie", Charles Edward Francis, Martha Elizabeth, Dewitt Clinton, and Philena Josephine "Josie". Josie was my great grandmother. These children are confirmed both by the Obituary of Peter B. Allen[9] and his Will dated 9 April 1901 and filed for probate 14 Oct 1901.[10]

So why did Aunt Grace ever hunt for a relationship to Ethan Allen? Two articles appeared in The Mena Star about Nathaniel O. "Nat" Allen. The first of these was on Thursday, February 7, 1922, and appeared to be written by (or at least dictated by) Nat himself. He stated "Grandfather Allen (meaning the Peter B. Allen of Indiana and New York) was a grandson of Ethan Allen." On March 30, 1930, another article was printed in The Mena Star about "Uncle Nat Allen" and describes how Ethan Allen was "the great great grandfather of our fellow citizen of Cove, Uncle Nat Allen".[11] No wonder Aunt Grace thought the ancestor hunt would lead to Ethan Allen! Seemed so obvious.
Closer examination of Ethan Allen reveals that he was born 10 Jan 1738 in Litchfield, CT, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker[12] and would have been a contemporary of Moses Allen and could not possibly have been his father. His children did not include anyone named Moses or Peter. Ethan was the oldest child in his own family and had younger brothers named Heman, Heber, Levi, Zimri, and Ira.[12] There appear to be no possible cousins or other relations in this family that could connect to Moses Allen of Dutchess County, New York, in any way.
The only possible explanation I have for the confusion of these families is the following. Nat Allen was 78 years old when the first article appeared in the Star. I suspect he did not write the article himself but rather told his stories to a reporter. Perhaps he knew he had a Revolutionary ancestor but had forgotten the name. Certainly Nat was confused as any great, great grandfather of his would have been very old to have served - Moses was his great grandfather and wasn't a young man in 1776 (he was baptized 1 Jul 1739 in Sturbridge, MA).[13] Since Ethan ALLEN was a familiar name, is it possible that a reporter suggested this name to Nat? And then of course when the second article appeared, it was further embellished.

So, yes, we have our traditions. There really WAS a Revolutionary Ancestor. Just not the expected ancestor. And, once again, don't believe everything you read!

[1] James A. Roberts, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State (Press of Brandow Printing Company, Albany NY, 1898), 241.
[2] O. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement: Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, and Morris' Reserve (William Alling, Rochester, 1851) 202, 204.
[3] 1850 US Census Indiana. Digital images online by subscription at GenealogyLibrary Online
[4] H. C. Bradsby History of Vigo County Indiana with Biographical Selections, (S. B. Nelson & Co., Publishers, Chicago, 1891) 261.
[5] DAR applications. Chloe Esther Lee Little Daly #315374; Marie Little Pinkerton #314375 - gg granddaughters of Moses Allen
[6] Vigo County Marriage Record from Marriage Book Dated 1818-June 1853.
[7] Vigo County Probate Order Book Vol. 1; 19 Oct 1818 - 22 Nov 1832: Complete Probate Order Book Vol 1; Sept 1829 - Nov 1836. Microfilmed by LDS, #1392535.
[8] U.S. Population Census 1850. Polk County, Arkansas. NARA 432, Roll 29.
[9] "An Old Citizen Passes Away" The Mena Star, Mena, Arkansas, 10 October 1901, page 8, column 3.
[10] Peter B. Allen Will, County Clerk's Office, Polk County, Arkansas.
[11] At least one if not both of these articles from The Mena Star, Mena, Arkansas, have been reprinted in issues of the Society's Newsletter.
[12] John Spargo, Notes on the Ancestors and Immediate Descendants of Ethan and Ira Allen, (Bennington, Vermont, 1948) 8-10.
[13] Frank J. Doherty, The Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Vol II Abbott to Burch, (Pleasant Valley, NY 1993) 154-158.

Follow Up Note: Peter B. Allen certainly did serve in the War of 1812. He was a Lt. Col. rather than a Brig. Gen. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Queestown Heights. I'll save his story for another time.


  1. Your article made me smile, because there was a tradition in my Allen family, just as in yours, that we were descendants of Ethan Allen. My mother (born Janet Allen) had a number of maiden aunts who were hoping to join the D.A.R., and spent years trying to prove that we had a connection to Ethan. Of course it turns out there is none... we are New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Ohio Allens, not New England Allens. But just as with your family, other connections have turned out to descend from veterans of the Revolution. I am pondering whether I should apply to the S.A.R.

    1. Tom - in your post you mentioned that your Allen family is from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I believe my Allens might be part of the same family. My 4gr-grandfather is Jesse Allen b. 1754 in Morristown, NJ, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was an earlier settler in Bradford County, PA. Sources state that he is a nephew of Ethan Allen, but dates/places don't support that data, and I believe it to be incorrect. I've searched for years trying to find additional information on his family, and can find nothing concrete. I'd be very interested in corresponding with you, if you think our Allen families might be related. Thanks, Karen Bree