Allen, Joseph Henry, was born August 21, 1820, in Northborough, Worcester County, where his father (Joseph, born in Medfield, 1790, on the old homestead at Castle Hill, occupied since 1649 and still by the Allen family) was settled as minister of the town in 1816, and remained pastor of the First Parish till his death in 1873. His mother (Lucy Clark, born in Hingham, 1791, died 1866) was daughter of Prof. Henry Ware of Harvard University (1805-1845). He is seventh in descent, by the maternal line, of a series of Massachusetts Congregational ministers, including Thomas Clark, Chelmsford; John Hancock, Lexington; Nicholas Bowes, Bedford; Jonas Clark, Lexington; Henry Ward, Hingham; Joseph Allen, Northborough. The Allen family has been remarkable for the number of teachers and preachers born to the blood.
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The early education of the subject of our sketch was received in district schools and country occupations until the age of thirteen. He entered Harvard College at sixteen, having had little or no regular preparatory instruction, and was graduated in 1840, third in his class—the first rank being held by Prof. John B. Henck, the second by Judge George P. Sanger. Graduating from the Harvard divinity school in 1843, in Washington, D. C., 1847, and in Bangor, Me., 1850. Leaving Bangor in 1857, he was till 1863 engaged in private instruction at Jamaica Plain, then till 1866 in a parish charge in North-borough; since 1867 he has resided at Cambridge.
He was for twelve years (until its discontinuance at the end of 1869) connected with the “Christian Examiner” as literary editor, editor-in-chief, and joint proprietor; then for eight years engaged in private tuition, and in editing the “Allen & Greenough Classical Series” (Ginn & Co., Boston). In 1877 and ’78 he had charge of the Unitarian church of Ann Arbor, Mich., and was then appointed lecturer on ecclesiastical history in Harvard University, which post he held till 1882. In 1883 and ’84 he was engaged in professional work in Ithaca, N. Y., spent part of 1885 in California, and has since 1887 been editor of the “Unitarian Review” (George H. Ellis, Boston). He was, in August 1881, delegate of the American and of the British and Foreign Unitarian Associations, at the session of the supreme consistory of the Unitarian churches of Hungary, held in Kolozsvar (Klausenburg), Transylvania.
Besides various fugitive addresses and reviews, including a series of articles on national questions written for the “Christian Examiner” during the civil war, his published volumes are: “Ten Discourses on Orthodoxy” (1849, second edition, 1889). “Memorial of Hiram Withington” (1849), “The Great Controversy of States and People” (1851), “Hebrew Men and Times, from the Patriarchs to the Messiah “(1861, second edition, with critical introduction, 1879, Roberts Brothers), Fragments of Christian History to the Foundation of the Holy Roman Empire” (1880), “Our Liberal Movement in Theology” (1882), “Christian History in Its Three Great Periods” (3 volumes, 1883, “Outline of Christian History, A. D. 50-1880” (1884), and the “Allen & Greenough Classical Series.”
Prof. Allen was married in May 1845, to Anna Minot Weld, a descendant of Thomas Welde, first minister of Roxbury, and sister of the late Hon. Stephen M. Weld. Of this union are five children: Richard Minot (Ames, Neb.), Gardner Weld (M. D., Boston), Russell Carpenter (El Cajon, So. California), Lucy Clark (Mrs. Charles S. Gage), and Mary Ware.