Biography of Albion Brainard Allen
For more than three decades a resident of Amherst, Hampshire County, and one of this town’s most active and substantial business men, Mr. Allen’s operations as a builder have contributed very materially not only to the development of his own community, but to that of numerous other New England towns. On his father’s side he is a member of an old family whose name is very frequently met throughout the United States, where it is represented by many distinct and separate families. Its use arises from the Christian name Allen or Alan, which is very ancient and has many variations in spelling, a characteristic which the family name also possesses. There are no less than fifty-two coats-of-arms of separate and distinct families of Allen in the United Kingdom, besides twenty others of different spellings. There were more than a score of emigrants of this surname from almost as many different families who left England before 1650 to settle in New England and many of their early descendants have been identified with the formative period of New York history, from which region many able and worthy representatives of the family have come to many parts of the United States.
Albion Brainard Allen is a representative of the eighth generation in descent from one William Allen, through the latter’s son William, the second William’s son John, and John’s son William. This William Allen of the fourth generation is thought to have been a cousin of Ethan Allen and of Major General Ira Allen of the Revolutionary War, the latter one of the founders of the University of Vermont at Burlington, Vermont. William Allen, who had come from Massachusetts to Vermont at an early date, had nine children, one of whom, Isaac Allen, was the great-grandfather of Albion B. Allen.
Isaac Allen was born July 4, 1766, and lived in Northern New York, where he died at Beekmantown, February 24, 1845. He married Sally Bedlow, who died September 13, 1851. They were the parents of ten children: Sally; Ira B., of whom further; Eri; Hannah; Chloe; George W.; Erastus; Ann Eliza; Isaac C.; and Nathaniel H.
Ira Bedlow Allen, born in Northern New York, December 20, 1792, was a farmer and also operated a lime kiln. He fought in the War of 1812 and died at Champlain, New York, April 3, 1885, having married early in life, Zerniah Tennant, born in Shelburne, Massachusetts, died in Champlain, New York. They were the parents of seven children: 1. Mary, married Barber. 2. Chloe, married Arthur Douglass. 3. Sarah, married James Douglass. 4. Cornelia, married Austin Leonard. 5. Lydia, married Stearns. 6. Esther, married Nathaniel Brainard. 7. Ira Tennant, of whom further.
Ira Tennant Allen was born in Chateaugay, New York, in 1825. His father acquired land by grant in Mooers, New York, and was a pioneer settler of that region. His property of some loo acres was cleared by him in the pioneer manner, the trees being cut down and burned,, he and his family living in a log cabin. His only son, Ira, farmed this land during his earlier life, but later went to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he worked at the machinists’ trade for the Washburn Company. Still later he engaged there in the grocery business. He was a deeply religious man and founded the Free Will Baptist Church in Allensburg, New York, established its Sunday school and acted as its superintendent. In 1896 he removed to Amherst, Massachusetts, where he died, November 30. 1902. He married Jane Wakefield, born in Thompson, Connecticut, in 1827, died in Amherst, May 30, 1911 ; a daughter of David and Maria (Harris) Wakefield They were the parents of five children: 1. William, who died in infancy. 2. Nellie M. 3. Sarah E., married William J. Fisher. 4. Albion Brainard, of whom further. 5. George S., at times associated in business with his older brother and married to Elizabeth Davis, their two children being Albion Davis and Elizabeth.
Albion Brainard Allen was born in Mooers, New York, July 23, 1864, and was educated in the select schools of his native region. He worked on his father’s farm and in the hop yards until he was twenty-two years old, teaching school at times beginning with his sixteenth year and also learning the carpenter’s trade. At the age of twenty-two he attended the State Normal School, at Potsdam, New York, where he took the classical course. He then taught for a year at the Normal School and later had the school at Allensburg, New York. Eventually he became interested in building, architectural work and engineering.
In 1892 he removed to Amherst, Hampshire County, and there formed, with his younger brother, George S. Allen, the firm of Allen Brothers. They engaged in building and construction work, much of their work being for the Boston and Maine Railroad Company, for which they built bridges, power houses and railroad stations over the entire system. In 1911 he withdrew from this work and removed to Millers Falls, Franklin County, where he became president and treasurer of the Art Stone Company, manufacturers of artificial stone. In 1914 he severed his connection with this company, returned to Amherst and resumed again his building and contracting business in association with his brother, the latter, however, withdrawing later since which time Mr. Allen has carried on the business for himself. His operations from 1914 on have been very extensive, and many important buildings in various parts of New England have been erected by him during the last decade, including the majority of the buildings of the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst; the Chemical Laboratory, several fraternity houses, and other buildings at Amherst College; State Bridge and Hospital at Springfield, Vermont; Roosevelt School at Keene, New Hampshire; a large school at Gardner, Massachusetts; bridges erected by the State of Massachusetts at Ashland and Lester; and his own residence in Amherst which was designed by himself as early as 1904. During the World War he was a member of the Federal Advisory Board of Vocational Education.
In spite of the heavy demands on his time and energy made by his extensive business activities, Mr. Allen has found it possible to give much attention to public affairs. A man of strong civic pride and deeply interested in the welfare of his community and its inhabitants, he has put his great energy and ability and his wide knowledge and experience freely at the service of his fellow citizens. He has served for ten years as a member and as chairman of the Amherst School Board, for three terms as a member and, at times, as chairman of the Finance Board, and has also been chairman of the Board of Water Commissioners, being associated in civic affairs with the late Congressman-elect George B. Churchill. In 1924 he was elected a representative to the State Legislature, where he became a member of the committee on street railways.
Mr. Allen married (first), in 1904, Mary Belle Hager, of Westminster, Worcester County, daughter of Joseph and Arabella (Sargent) Hager. After his first wife’s death in 1915 he married (second), in 1914, Edna E. Shepard, of Westminster, Worcester County, daughter of Dr. W. H. H. and Jennie (Hill) Shepard. Mr. and Mrs. Allen are the parents of one child, Roger Shepard Allen, born April 11, 1918. The family home is located at No. 525 South Pleasant Street, Amherst.