By 1866 Richard Allen moved to Hartford City, further east on the Ohio River but still in Mason county, and opened his own grocery. The Birth Register for Harriet, born 24 August 1866, shows her birthplace as Hartford City, and his occupation as merchant. According to researcher James Love, Richard bought the Harper & McCoy general store a few years later and became a prominent businessman and town council member in Hartford.
Richard was Postmaster of Hartford for 12 years around 1880. His son, Richard Jr., for a time had the job of hauling the mailbag to the nearby Ohio River where the boats picked it up and carried the mail upriver. If Richard became distracted and took too long, which he said happened often, he would get into serious trouble for delaying the boats or missing the pickup. Later the mail was carried by the B&O railroad.
Richard Joseph Allen was a Republican from 1856 until his death. “He was not a politician, but nonetheless the neighbors knew his political faith,” wrote Maud Allen Thornburg in a letter dated 29 October 1968. “And one time when the election went against his beliefs, his neighbors came to his door with bells, horns, and tin cans to rattle – a rabble-rousing crowd of natives. My grandfather opened the door of his home and so the crowd should hear called loudly to his wife, Emma, who was sitting close by, ‘Em, Em, if you want to see the rakins and scrapins of ‘ell, come here.’”
Richard and his family lived comfortably next to the thriving store. They had a Mason & Hamlin organ in the parlor, where the floors were covered with Brussels carpets. “In their sitting room they had a round table of flower catalogues and magazines,” wrote Maud Allen Thornburg in a letter to Frank Thornburg Jr. on 11 April 1968. “Also a bookcase with glass doors reaching to the ceiling filled with books, some of which I thought were rather dry.”
Richard owned his house and store and never owed a debt. He purchased for each of his children a store of their own in any city they chose. He collected Indian and Mound Builder relics and artifacts, and some of the old coins he was so fond of were actually purchased from the British Museum in London. After visiting the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and carefully inspecting their collection, Richard said theirs was no better than his.
“Grandpa was lord of the manor and Grandmother his devoted companion,” wrote Maud, daughter of first son Alfred Allen. “Grandma had her flower garden and often kept a very lovely rose or some other flower in bloom to take to a sick neighbor. They walked together and took trips.”
“Grandpa and Grandma visited the World’s Fair in Chicago and brought back books for us children and a china dish to my mother and linen handkerchiefs to my father,” wrote Maud. “The books were youthful stories when we were young and later poems or novels such as East Lynn. To my brother, Fred, he sent a book entitled, ‘The Last Days of Pompeii,’ Christmas 1898.”
Books were a passion for Richard. Maud wrote that she remembered seeing a book always open on the counter where her grandfather would return to reading as soon as he had time. Biographies and anything on the origins of man were his favorite subjects. He was fond of quoting Tennyson and the contemporary agnostic orator Robert G. Ingersoll.
Richard and Emma Allen were lifelong Free Thinkers. The editor of Free Thought Magazine considered Richard to be “an earnest patron.” They believed religious dogma that forced a person to ignore or resent scientific and reasonable thought was misguided, and that God could exist outside the confines of strict Biblical beliefs. Free thought clashed with orthodoxy, causing the religious leaders to blast it as anti-religious and even atheistic.
On 21 December 1904, Richard wrote his son-in-law, Joseph McKee, who was living in Seattle. “I see in yesterday’s Times Star that last Sunday the Rev. Biglow of Cincinnati and the Rev. Lyman Abbott preached on the same subject. They say that God is an ever present force, manifest in all the workings of nature, not an absentee God, but nearer to us than our own hands and feet. One Eternal Energy in and through everything.”
“He said, ‘I no longer believe in a first cause. Science, Literature and History all concur in one Eternal Energy.’ Joseph, this is exactly what you have heard me say for a long time. The fitness of things is not design, it is adaptation, most wonderful and eternal. Man is a creature, not a creation.”
According to Richard, Emma believed the best life was one that did the most good. In 1869 Richard joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a social organization with its roots in England. It provided the closest thing to charitable welfare services that could be found at the time. It was the first organization to accept both men and women, but it is not known if Emma was an actual member.
On 15 December 1901 Emma died peacefully at home in her daughter’s arms. Richard wrote a moving letter to H. L. Green, the publisher of Free Thought Magazine, and it was published in the February 1902 edition: “When I think how gentle, kind and patient she was, and considerate all these years she has walked by my side, I want to make her sweet and gentle disposition the guiding star of my life.”
“She was the only woman I ever loved,” he wrote. “She was always faithful, honest and true. Never, no never, did a wrong thing to anyone. I feel now that I would go with her.” Emma was buried in the cemetery at Letart Falls in Meigs County, Ohio. Richard chartered a steamboat to take everyone from Hartford to the cemetery in Letart across the river.
PUBLISHED LETTER BY RICHARD
After Emma’s death, Richard’s daughter Sarah Lynn Allen looked after him. Sadie, as she was known to the family, never married, and so stayed with Richard. She helped him raise the two orphan daughters of his deceased son, William Lamsdale Allen, until his own death.
Richard became ill in his store one day and was carried to his adjoining house. He always wanted to “die in the harness” so it was a blessing when on 17 January 1914 he died very suddenly. He was buried next to Emma at Letart Falls. He left the house and store to Sadie so she wouldn’t have to live with one of her sisters.
Sadie wrote her will in 1928. She lived with her niece Erma and husband George Kellenberger in 1930, while she worked as a clerk in a telephone office. After several years of ill health, Sadie died on 17 May 1934 in Charleston’s Mountain State Hospital. The death certificate lists as the causes Pneumonia, Myocarditis (or degeneration of the heart muscle) and Chronic Nephritis (or inflammation of the kidney). Sarah Lynn Allen was buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston.
WILL OF SARAH LYNN ALLEN
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