Early Allens of Ripley County, Indiana

Who were the early Allens of Ripley County? Who were their parents? They left descendants, many of whom became genealogists and sought these answers, but the roads seem to dead-end in the early 19th century. I don't have the answers either, but decided to organize the basic known facts into a web page.

It's frustrating to search for a name like ``James Allen'' -- there's just too many of us -- so when I find a new genealogical search engine I look for my 4-great grandfather Montgomery Allen. Montgomery isn't too rare of a middle name, but seldom shows up as a first name. In fact there appear to have been only three Americans named ``Montgomery Allen'' born in the 18th century. All three moved from NE Kentucky to Southern Indiana. That's how I got interested in the early Allens of Ripley County.

Cast of Characters

Montgomery Allens
Name - Birth year BirthplaceDeathFatherWife
Montgomery-1766VirginiaMonroe Co., 1835Robert Allen, Jr. Martha Allen
Montgomery-1793Bracken?, KYRipley Co., 1863??? Nancy Robinson
Montgomery-1795VA or KYIndiana?, 1835?Montgomery-1766 ???
Montgomery-1807Pennsylvania??? ??? Mary A.
Montgomery-1829Ripley Co., INRipley Co., 1867Montgomery-1793 Mercy Jane Miller

Montgomery-1766 had at least some contact with Ripley County -- one of his sons (Robert N. Allen) married there in 1826. This helps support the idea that his son Montgomery-1795 lived in Ripley County. (There is a Montgomery Allen with children in the 1820 Ripley Co. census, but the first child of Montgomery-1793 was supposedly born 1822.)

(The tombstone of Montgomery-1793 implies he was born 1790 and some genealogies show that.)

Montgomery-1807 doesn't enter our story; he may appear in the 1830 census of Cumberland Co., Penn. I note him just to avoid future confusion.

[Thanks to Wanda Smith Ballard for bringing Montgomery-1795 to my attention.]

Was Montgomery-1829 actually ``James Montgomery Allen''?

Let me start this story in the middle. Montgomery Allen (b. 1793) appears in the 1840 Ripley County census, apparently with a wife, two sons and three daughters, but this early census did not provide names. In 1850 the household comprises just four people: Montgomery (age 57), Nancy (age 57), Montgomery Jr. (age 21), and Jane (age 16). The oldest son -- certainly named John -- was gone then; he'd married in 1842 at age 20.

Although some daughters are unaccounted for, there seem to be just the two sons, with the second named after his father. However Ray Novak's family records show a son named James who married a Mercy Jane Miller. (Later widowed, she married her brother-in-law: ``John Allen remarried to Mercy Jane Miller Allen, wife of James Allen a brother of John Allen.'')

We have three main sources of information for this Allen-Miller family: Ray Novak (RN), Judith Hesselberth (JH), and the 1860 Ripley County census. Look at the following table and see if you agree with my conclusion:
The second son was named James Montgomery Allen and usually was called by his middle name.

One (?) Family of Ripley County, Indiana ca 1860
Are ``James'' and ``Montgomery'' the same man?
source = RNsource = JH1860 census
(d. bef. 1871)
(b. ca 1829)
WifeMercy Jane
Mary Jane
(b. ca 1836)
Mercy J.
(b. ca 1835)
1st childEdward James E.
(b. 1852)
James E.
(age 4? 7?)
2nd childMary Florence
(b. aft. 1853)
Mary F.
(b. ca 1856)
3rd childSadie Sarah Ann
Sarah A.
(b. 1860)
4th childFlora [B.] - -
5th childGeorge George W. (b. after 1860)

JH shows a husband (Ed Jackson) for Florence and a husband (James Monroe Mitchell) for Sarah Ann. (Their granddaughter married a Hesselberth, presumably why JH is interested.)

(A Jackson genealogy on the Internet, otherwise similar to RN for our purpose, shows Flora as Flora B. marrying Stephen Douglas Jackson in Kentucky 26 Sep 1876, but this may be a mistake as another genealogy shows a marriage between two people of the same names, but of quite different place and time -- that Flora B. Allen was born 26 Sep 1876.)

The similarity between the households of James and Montgomery is far too close to be coincidence, especially the wife's name, Mercy J. (The census and Pat Curtis show her born in Indiana, while JH has Mary Jane born in Bavaria, Germany.) Perhaps ``James E.'' was ``James Edward'' and, following his father's practice, went by his middle name. ``Mary F.'' might even be Florence.

This Montgomery Allen wasn't my original mystery, but it is interesting to discover that his real name was James Montgomery Allen. Perhaps that was his father's name too, and his father's origin is a mystery.

[Thanks to Ray Novak, Judy Hesselberth, and Pat Curtis for their information, and to Ancestry.com for providing the 1840, '50 and '60 censuses. By the way, Judy has a photograph taken circa 1882 showing Mary Jane Miller Allen along with four of her children and two of their spouses. I intend to ask her permission to show it here.]

Were Montgomery-1793 and Montgomery-1795 the same person?

This question arises inevitably. For one thing, we expect two Montgomery Allens to appear in the 1830 Ripley County census, but there are zero. It's easier for one man to ``disappear'' in the census (especially if he is there, but under the name James) than for two to disappear. (Montgomery isn't ``hiding'' in Kentucky or elsewhere in Indiana, either, if the Ancestry.com census index is to be trusted. There is a Montgomery Allen in Monroe County, but that's Montgomery-1766. Only one other Montgomery Allen appears in the Ancestry.com census index for 1830; he is an age appropriate only for Montgomery-1807.)

It also seems odd, since ``Montgomery Allen'' is a rather rare name, that there would be two unrelated men of this name, both in NE Kentucky during the 1790's, who both moved to Ripley County. Montgomery-1795 could not have had a legitimate first cousin also named Montgomery -- the grandchildren of Robert Allan seem to be thoroughly enumerated.

Several dates would have to be in error, if the two Montgomery Allens were the same man, including the age indicated in the 1820 census. (But Montgomery-1795, the first of nine children, might have had reason to mislead if he was really born a few years earlier: his parents married about 1794.) I have almost no information on my 4-great uncle Montgomery-1795 except year of death: 1835. Perhaps that's even wrong; his father died that same year and maybe this got conflated. (On the other hand, a multiple death in 1835 would not be unusual: the region had a cholera epidemic that year.)

If Montgomery-1795 was indeed Montgomery-1793, was his name ``James Montgomery Allen''? Names of relatives offer conflicting clues: He had a brother, James Madison Allen who died 22 Nov 1824 at about the age of 22. He also had a nephew born 1842, whose name was James Montgomery Allen. (This man was a Kansas State legislator in 1874.)

Despite all this, I guess Montgomery-1793 and Montgomery-1795 were probably different men. But it would be nice to find some further evidence to settle the issue once and for all.

Possible Relatives of Montgomery-1793?

There are several Allens in early Ripley County who are believed to be close relatives of each other, although the only parent's name known with much certitude is that Sarah was Burl's mother.

Cast of Characters

Some Early Allens of Ripley County
A mother and, probably, two of her sons:
Sarah (widow)ca 1780?-ca 1822??NN Allen
Burlca 1806-aft. 1871VA?Ann Adamson
Wilford1809-1867Boone Co., KY ?Mary Ann & Sarah P.
Following three households were all next-door neighbors in 1840.
Montgomery1793?-1863KYNancy Robinson
Merrit1809-1860+KYElizabeth Robinson
Jamesca 1817-?KYRosilla

(There are two Sarah Allens shown as heads of household in the 1820 Indiana census. The other Sarah appears in Washington County, where she was widowed ca 1819 by Elisha Allen; their offspring are shown elsewhere and do not appear to match any Allens of interest to us.)

A document shows Burl as son of Sarah, and it is supposed that Wilford and Burl were brothers. (Burl had a grandson Wilford and Wilford had a grandson Burl -- thus the guess that Burl and Wilford were brothers.) It is also guessed that Montgomery and Merrit were related to each other and probably to Wilford and Burl. (Both Wilford and Merrit had daughters named Mahala.)

I got my hopes up when I came across a record showing Wilford's birth in Boone County -- its 1810 census has been preserved. Unfortunately it shows but two ALLIN households, and neither has a young boy.

[Thanks to Barb Boese for much of this information.]

But How Can We Connect the Dots??

The 1820 and 1830 Ripley County censuses each show only two Allen households. Three of these are shown in the following table. A fourth household appears unrelated -- Eli Allen of 1830 (M 30+, F 40+, F 30+, F 15+, F 10+, F 0+, 2x M 10+, 2x M 5+).

(There is also a ``James McAllae'' in the 1830 Ripley census which may warrant checking: is the actual reading ``James M. Allen'' ?)

The 1840 Ripley County census shows at least eleven Allen households, including four Allens mentioned in the previous table (Wilford, James, Merit, Montgomery) but only the Montgomery household from 1840 is shown in the following table.

Can anyone make sense of this? The simplest explanation is that these are four different households, with Montgomery-1795 shown in 1820, Montgomery-1793 shown in 1840, and both Montgomerys somehow in hiding for the 1830 census! Perhaps that is the most likely and correct explanation, but I can't help thinking there's some hidden relationship here.

In fact, three of the housholds may all be the same! We've deduced that Montgomery-1829 was actually ``James Montgomery Allen'' -- perhaps his father also used that name. Perhaps Montgomery-1793 and Montgomery-1795 were even the same person after all. The children in these housholds don't match very well, but perhaps James M. and Nancy Allen operated an orphanage. (Very unlikely, but what is the solution?)

Four early Allen Households of Ripley County

(How are they related?)
Allen     Households
Birth Year1820 Sarah 1820 Montgomery 1830 James 1840 Montgomery
1775 - 1790 Sarah   female  
1790 - 1795     James (aka Montg'y ??)
1795 - 1804 male
1802 - 1810Burl
1810 - 1815female
1815 - 1820male
1820 - 1825   male
1825 - 1830female James/Montgomery
1830 - 1835   Jane
1835 - 1840  

Disparent age ranges in the censuses explain the table structure. Only the head of household is named in the census; the other names are guesses.

Note that both the Montgomery of 1820 and the adult male living with Sarah in 1820 are slightly too young to be Montgomery-1793. Also, if James 1830 was the Montgomery Allen household, then Montgomery, Jr. has either his age or sex misrecorded. However the original census may have had errors, and I may have introduced some -- the numerals in the 1830 James record were hard to read.

{Thanks to Ancestry.com for making the entire U.S. census available on-line.]

Table of contents
Allen chart
Givens chart
Census data
Robert's bio
Shelby branch
Monroe branch
other families
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