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A Family Secret

Richard Allen is a son of John Allen born in Montgomery Co., KY in 1797 and my 4th great-grandfather. The Allen Family of Eastern Kentucky published by the Magoffin Historical Society in 1989 says this on page 564;

"FROM JOYCE PERREAULT:  "Richard Allen's father came to America from Wales in the mid 1700's.  Richard Allen was born in North Carolina in the late 1700's and came to Kentucky via Wytheville, Wythe Co., Virgina, according to his great grandson, Grover Cleveland Allen."

During later exchanges with other descendants of Richard Allen, a different and darker version of this story emerged. This version had Richard quickly leaving Wytheville on the run after getting in trouble with the sheriff, possibly even shooting him. This descendant said she was so convinced of the story that she makes a donation each year to a children's home in Wytheville.

This was before our research showed Richard was born 1797 to John and Ann (Griffin) Allen in Montgomery Co., KY and grew up there. As far as we know there isn't any way that Richard could have gotten in trouble in Wytheville, which is 300 miles away.

However, often times such stories have some element of truth or may even involve someone else. The Wales part of this story probably pertains to Richard's father-in-law Daniel Williams and his line.

Since we cannot be certain at this time where Richard's father John Allen was living prior to showing up on Fayette Co., KY's 1788 tax list, it is conceivable he has the Wytheville connection.

Although Wythe County was formed in 1789, Wytheville as a town didn't exist until 1839. It had been founded in 1792 as Evansham. In any case, if John Allen had been there, it would have been before 1788 when it was still Montgomery Co., Virginia.

The "Annals of Southwest Virginia" has nearly 200 pages devoted to early Montgomery Co., VA records. During the Revolutionary War years there were some interesting court proceedings. Quite a few men were put on trial in Montgomery Co. for "maintaining the authority of the king". Some were found guilty of treason, but most were either fined or had to pay a large security for a year. The sheriff is mentioned many times as far as collecting fines, securities and costs; and needing a bigger jail.

On page 709, "At a Court convened and held for Montgomery County May 5th, 1779..."

Pages 710, "On a Prosecution against Daniel Allen for maintaining the Authority of the King of Great Britain same Jury against O'Gullion, returned verdict that he is not guilty of said Charge, and that he go thence acquitted."

Page 711, "On a Prosecution against John Allen for maintaining the Authority of the King of Great Britain and Levying War against the People of this State a Jury sworn (the same as against Daniel Allen) and returned their verdict that he should give Security for his good behavior whereupon the Court were of the opinion that he give Security for his good behavior for Twelve months and a day, and the sd. John Allen in open Court acknowledged himself Indebted to the Commonwealth one thousand pounds, and Lawrence Kettering and John Hunshell his Securities in the sum of 500 hundred each to be levied of their respective Lands and Chattels, and the Commonwealth rendered Yet upon as Runner."

I didn't find anything further about John or Daniel Allen, nor did I find anything said about anyone leaving the county without posting securities. Based on the family story that Richard left Wytheville in a hurry or was on the run, one can't help but wonder if his father John left without posting his security or maybe not all of it. I would suspect quite a few loyalists or Tories quickly left Montgomery Co., VA for the wilderness rather than pay, and maybe that was fine with Virginia's patriots.


fort boonesborough settlers



Daniel Boone's 1775 Wilderness Road ran through Montgomery/Wythe Co., VA








The Tories were concentrated at Big Walker Mountain about 5 miles from today's Wytheville. One report said more than half the settlers in Montgomery Co. were Loyalists or Tories. Another source said 168 Loyalists in Montgomery Co. were tried between 1771 and 1781. Some were lynched under authority of Judge Charles Lynch; hence the term "lynching".

fort boonesborough settlers



Big Walker Mountain, Wythe Co., VA May 2002








Coincidentally, a Samuel Denney was brought into court a few months earlier for stealing a cow. That was likely to be more Loyalist vs Patriot animosity. Both sides harassed and stole from each other. There is a Samuel Denney on my list of Lulbegrud founders, because he is mentioned in the minutes as Brother but never as being received; like John Allen, Richard Griffin, Edward Williams and a dozen others.

If our John Allen was a former Tory living among what mostly seemed to be Patriots in KY, it is easy to see how this would have been a family secret. It's possible he quietly or secretly blended in with other groups of settlers on the move. The Wilderness Trail started at Ft. Chiswell, also near Wytheville, and went on to the Holston at Bristol, TN.


fort boonesborough settlers



Lead Mines Historical Marker, Wythe Co., VA









The Traveling Church was especially fearful of the outlawed Tories in the region between Ft. Chiswell and the Holston. If our information about Hannah being born in TN in 1787 is correct, John might have lived in that Holston corner of TN from 1779 to 1787. It doesn't seem like anyone in that locale would have been friendly towards any known Tories, either. But, all of the Tories in Montgomery Co., VA had to blend in somewhere after the war.

It's hard to say if the above John Allen is our John or not. But it certainly does bear a resemblance to the old family story, as well as the Grover Cleveland Allen story about Richard coming through Wytheville at an early age. It may have been Richard's Aunt Catron or Sally that came through Montgomery/Wythe County at an early age.

There appears to be a John Allen still on the personal and land tax lists for Montgomery County in 1782. There seems to be a spelling or readability issue, so it may not be a John Allen at all. It could also be a different John Allen. It seems the name John Allen pops up everywhere.