My cousin is the fourth man in this family to bear his name, and those four generations of Johns are the exact measure of my Allen lineage. When Graham Allen married Mary Brown in Charles City County, Virginia, on 22 June 1876, she was six months pregnant with a white man’s child. We know nothing of the circumstances of conception, and nothing of the man’s identity beyond the Y-haplotype — R1b1b2a1a1 — that my uncles and cousins carry. [Update: I have identified John C. Allen‘s father.] Graham adopted Mary’s baby boy at birth, gave him his name, and reared him, as far as we know, with no distinction from their later children. So. We are Allens.
Graham Allen was born about 1852 in Prince George County, Virginia. His first marriage records lists his parents as Mansfield and Susan Allen. His second, as Edmund and Susan Allen. I have found no other trace of Edmund/Mansfield. However, in the 1870 census of Brandon, Prince George County, laundress Susan Allen, 50, and sons Alexander, 20, and Graham Allen, 17, appear in #14, the household of Anthony Shackleford, 26, farmer; wife Fannie, 24; and son Willie, 1. Also living in the house was Mary Hill, 23. I don’t know if the Allens, Shacklefords and Hill were related, or if they were related to two households of Allens listed nearby: #16, Harry Allen, 47, wife Abba, 43, Richard, 19, Augustin, 17, Assia, 13, Robert, 9, and Mary, 6; and #20, Joseph Allen, 42, wife Lucy, 37, and children Mildred, 8, Joseph, 6, and Willie, 1. However, an intriguing Freedmen’s Bureau document links those Allens and the Shacklefords:
“I have the honor to request transportation for the following named persons to their former homes, and to find employment,” wrote Samuel C. Armstrong, Superintendent of the Freedmen’s Bureau 1st District (and founder of Hampton Institute, which educated a dozen Allens between 1927 and the present.) Among those to be transported, Harry and Abbie Allen and their children and Anthony and Fanny Shackleford. City Point, in Prince George County, had been headquarters of the Union Army during the siege of Petersburg in the Civil War. The Allens and Shacklefords likely were refugees, so-called “contraband,” who fled their owners during the war to join a large camp near Fort Monroe. (For recent news of archaeological digs at the former Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton, see here.) Though none has surfaced to date, I will continue to look for links between these families and Edmund or Susan Allen.
Other than Graham and Mary’s marriage license, I have no other record of the family in the 1870s. (An Alexander Allen married Mary Wallace on 15 February 1872 in Charles City County. This Alexander was 30 years old and the son of James and Sophia Allen. Thus, he is not Graham’s brother.)
In the 1880 census of Harrison, Charles City County, 26 year-old farm laborer Gram Allen’s household includes wife Mary and children Nannie, 5, John, 3, and Emma, 1. I suspect that Nannie was Mary’s child by a previous relationship, but I don’t know. In the next few years, Mary gave birth to a son Willie, who died of burns in October 1885. (Graham Allen, who provided information, is listed on the boy’s death certificate as father, but the mother’s name is given as Sarah. A misunderstanding? A mistranscription? And “outside” child?) A month later, Mary gave birth to Alexander Allen. Two years later, in December 1887, Graham Allen reported the death of Mary Allen, age 30. Graham’s relationship to the deceased was not stated, but this was not his wife. In 1892, Mary Brown Allen gave birth to her last child, son Edward Noble Allen. In 1896 and 1899, daughter Emma Allen gave birth to sons Milton and Junius Allen in Charles City County. I do not know their fathers.
On 18 Aug 1898, at Charles City County Courthouse, Graham Allen filed a deed for the purchase of two parcels on Hyde Road, one 12 acres and the other 2 3/4 acres, from A.H. Drewry et ux. A plat filed with the deed shows a roughly trapezoidal lot 2 1/2 miles from Rolands Mill, surrounded by the land of Sarah Jones, Edward Jones, Frank Martin, and Peter Jefferson.
In the 1900 census of Harrison, Charles City County, Graham Allen is listed with wife Mary, sons Alexander and Edward, and grandsons Milton and Junius. (I believe they were Emma Allen’s sons.) Mary was illiterate, but Graham could read and write. Mary reported 4 of 8 children living. (John, Emma, Alex and Ed, living; Nannie, Willie and who, dead?) As detailed here, John had moved to the city by the late 1890s and married Mary Agnes Holmes in 1899.
On 3 Apr 1901, Emma Allen, 22, married widowed laborer Stephen Whorley [Whirley], 32, son of Stephen and Patsy Whorley. W.E. Carter performed the ceremony at Graham Allen’s residence.
On 11 March 1902, at Charles City County Courthouse, Graham Allen filed a deed (book 17, page 437) for the purchase for $16 of 2 3/4 acres in the Grafton tract from Mary Harrison Drewry. The sale was made 27 Feb 1902, and the tract was located 4 miles northwest of Drewry’s Mill. Two years later, he filed a deed or the purchase of 4 1/2 acres in Turkey Trot from M.E. and W.E. Stagg and in 1909 filed another (book 20, page 165) for the purchase for $12 of 2 1/4 acres in the Bishops tract, west of Old Hyde Road in Turkey Trot, bordered on the east by Graham ‘s own land and True Reformers and on west by Peter, James B. and Elvina Jefferson and M.E. Stagg.
In the 1910 census of Harrison, Charles City County, on River Road, farmer Graham Allen is listed with wife Mary and son Edward. (Where were Milton and Junius?) Mary reported 4 of 9 children living. (Eight children, or nine?) Also on River Road, farmer Steaven Whirley, wife Emma, and children Royal, John, Samuel, and Graham. Royal and John were Stephen’s children by a previous wife, and the family lived next to Samuel and Mary E. Whirley, Stephen’s brother and sister-in-law. (River Road is now State Route 5, or John Tyler Memorial Highway.)
Mary Brown Allen died 1 Apr 1916, aged 67 in Harrison township, Charles City County. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Amelia County, Virginia, to James Brown and Catherine Booker, both born in Virginia. She was buried 2 Apr 1916, and Junius Allen of Roxbury was informant for the certificate.
On 22 Nov 1917, in Roxbury, the widower Graham Allen, 58, widow, born Prince George County, resident of Charles City County, son of Edmund and Susan Allen, married Lenner Charles, 32, born Charles City County to William and Lucy Charles. The couple appear in the 1920 census of Harrison, Charles City County on Kemmiges Road with a five year-old daughter named Sallie. (Was she Graham’s child?)
John, Edward, Milton and Junius Allen registered for the World War I draft:
- JOHN CHRISTFUL ALLEN. Born 25 Dec 1876. Resided 2107 Marshall Avenue, Newport News VA. Laborer, Hampton Roads Stev. Co. Nearest relative, Mary Holmes Allen (wife). Medium height, stout build. Brown eyes, grey hair. (Signed “John Christful Allen” in the same hand as rest of the card. A duplicate card shows the signature in a different hand, presumably John’s, as “John Christopher Allen.”)
- EDWARD NOBLE ALLEN. Born 17 May 1888, Charles City County VA. Resided 6724 1/2 – 24th Street, Newport News VA. Laborer, C&O Railway, Newport News. Supports father. Medium height and weight. Brown eyes, black hair. “Three fingers missing on right hand.”
- MILTON ALLEN. Born 22 Nov 1895, Roxboro, Charles City County VA. Resides 318 N. 18th Street, Richmond VA. Laborer for Clarence Cosby, Richmond VA. Single. Signed Milton Allen. Registered 5 June 1917. Also,
- MILTON ALLEN. Born 20 Aug 1896, Richmond VA. Resides 1011 N. Lafountaine, Kokomo, Ind. Employed by Willis White, Kokomo, Ind., USA. Nearest relative, Ed Allen, address “don’t know.” Tall and stout. Black eyes and hair. Signed with an X. Registered 5 June 1918. (Is this the same man who registered in Richmond the year before? If not, which is the right Milton?)
- JUNIUS ALLEN. Born 22 Feb 1899. Resides 1752 Ivy Ave., Newport News, Warwick VA. Carpenter, Boyle-Robertson Co., Newport News VA. Nearest relative, wife Margaret Allen. Medium height and weight. Black eyes and hair. (He was barely literate and signed his name something like ‘Juily Allen.’)
I have not found a card for Alexander and assume he died before the war. Edward actually served; I don’t know about Milton and Junius.
In the 1920 census of Harrison, Charles City County, on Kemmiges Road, Stephen Whirley, farmer, is listed with wife Emma and children Samuel, Graham, Matilda and Susie. John and his family remained in Newport News, as did “Junnus” Allen and his wife Margaret, with brother-in-law Samuel Johnson, at 1752 Ivy Avenue. Junius worked as a transfer drayman; Samuel as a bricklayer at the shipyard. Edward may have been living and working in Washington County, New York. Milton was definitely gone. In the 1920 census of Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana, at 1011 North LaFontaine Street, there is a listing for Virginia-born Milton Allen, single, age 21, living as a roomer in a household headed by Myrtle Harston. Milton worked as a laborer in a stove factory.
On 10 January 1928, Graham Allen died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of about 74. According to informant William Webb, Graham was born in Charles City County to unknown parents and left a widow, Lena Charles. He was buried at New Vine Church on 14 January 1928.
In the 1930 census of Harrison, Charles City County: Emma Whirley and daughter Susie were listed “cook-private family” in household of Eugene A. Dietrich, a German-American grocery merchant. I have not found Edward, though I believe he was living in Charles City County. Nor can I locate Milton and Junius. (There is a Junius Allen listed in Newport News city directories in the 1940s, but I am not certain they are the same man. There is also a Junius Allen listed in the 1902 directory, which definitely is not Emma’s son, so I am cautious.) At least one of Emma’s children had gone North by this time and is found with her daughter in the 1930 census of Baltimore, Maryland, living with her half-brother. At 1314 Mulberry Street, rented for $40, are listed John W. Whirley, 31, wife Susie, 28, sister Matilda, 20, boarder Sam Bradley, 30, and niece Dorothy Whirley, 1. John worked as a laborer in a car shop; Matilda as a laundress in a laundry; and Sam as a hospital waiter. All were born in Virginia except Susie, who was born in South Carolina. On 24 Dec 1930, in Charles City County, Graham Whirley, 22, laborer, son of Stephen Whirley and Emma Allen, residing Roxbury, married Arnether A. Harris, 20, daughter of John A. Harris and Mary Jefferson, residing in Providence Forge. I have not found Samuel Whirley in 1930.
Edward N. Allen died 25 Jan 1933 at the Marine Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, of aortic aneurism and valvular heart disease. Based on information he provided as a patient, Edward’s death certificate reported that he was born 17 May 1890 to Graham Allen and Mary Brown of Virginia and resided at RFD#2, Box 66, Roxbury, Virginia. Edward was buried 30 Jan 1933 at Hampton National Cemetery, in section Fii, Site 6459-A.
In 1935, Samuel Whirley made a splash in Fredericksburg, Virginia, newspapers after being on the lam for a year on larceny and false pretense charges. It’s not clear whether this one-armed man was Emma Allen Whirley’s son, but an article noted that he had spent time in Baltimore while on the run.
In the 1940 census of Hopewell, Virginia, at 601 Maplewood Avenue, Graham Whirley, 25, a chemical plant laborer, is listed as a lodger with Andrew and Lena Joyner. There is no sign of his wife. On 21 January of that year, in Charles City County, his past behind him, Samuel Whirley, 37, born in Charles City County to Stephen Whirley and Emma Allen, residing Petersburg, married Alice Howard, 23, born Charles City County to Laura Howard. The rest of the Whirleys — Emma, Susan, Matilda — are nowhere to be found, though I know they were living. Similarly, of the Allens, I can only place John and his children.
I lose the thread of my great-grandfather’s extended family after 1940. I’ve written of my brief and unsatisfactory telephone conversation with Dorothy Whirley in 1996. She had no children, nor did Edward Allen, but it’s hard to believe that none of Graham’s sons, save John, or his grandchildren by his daughter Emma, have contemporary descendants.