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Biography of Col. Allensworth

The founder of the town site of Allensworth, Colonel Allen Allensworth, was born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 7, 1842. In the spring of 1854 he was sold “down river” for having attempted to learn to read and write, something Blacks were prohibited by law from doing in the south.

In 1855, at the age of thirteen, Allen Allensworth decided to run away because of the harsh treatment he received at the hands of the plantation’s overseer. He was discovered, however, and sold at auction to a slave dealer in Henderson, Kentucky, for $960.00. He was again taken “down river” to Memphis, Tennessee, put in a “slave pen”, and put up for $1,200.00. He was confined to a “niggerpen” with more than 1,000 other slaves. He was eventually purchased by Fred Scruggs, a horse and slave trader, to be trained as a racehorse rider. Scruggs moved his horses and slaves to Louisville in anticipation of the upcoming horse races, but when the Union forces neared Louisville, the races were canceled. Allensworth fled behind the Union lines and was permitted to work as a “nurse” attached to the Hospital Corps of the 44th Illinois.

After the war, he and his brother established and successfully operated two restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri. During this time, Allen also managed to complete his formal education.

In April, 1863, a Black soldier urged Allensworth to use his influence to secure the appointment of Black chaplains of Black regular army regiments. In 1871, Allen Allensworth became a minister. Learning that the chaplain of the all-Black 24th Infantry would be retiring, Allensworth was appointed April 1, 1886, by the President as chaplain of the 24th Infantry with the rank of Captain. One year later, he met and married Josephine Leavell, a young school teacher and talented pianist and organist.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, he was stationed at several camps in the United States and the Indian Territory and participated in the Spanish American War and the Philippine Liberation. Not only did he take care of the black soldiers’ spiritual well-being, but he was also responsible for teaching them English and seeing to “their moral education and entertainment.” Allensworth retired from the military after a successful career in 1906. At the time of retirement, Allensworth held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was both the highest ranking chaplain and the highest ranking Black officer of his time.

After retiring, Colonel Allensworth traveled extensively throughout the mid-western and min-eastern states lecturing on the need for Afro-Americans to initiate programs of self-help so that they might become economically, socially, culturally, and politically self-sufficient.

Noticing that hundreds, if not thousands, of Blacks were migrating to California to avoid the de jure segregation policies and practices of the south and the de facto discriminatory policies and practices of the north, Colonel Allensworth also decided to go west. He moved to Los Angeles to establish a viable community, a dream he had nurtured for many years as a result of his own experiences and those of other Afro-Americans of the most vile forms of discrimination. He was touched by the condition of black people, with whom he was surrounded, and his pity, his indignation at the injustices they had to endure, his zeal for their relief and improvement, and his remarkable self-control under many provocations made him a valuable citizen.

Colonel Allensworth and his colleagues were convinced that the only way blacks would be able to live with some semblance of freedom and dignity was to build their own town. They hoped to create a place where blacks could own property and otherwise achieve their full economic potential, free from discriminatory laws and practices of the time.

Hearing that land was very rich and readily available in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley, Colonel Allensworth investigated and found the land to be extremely fertile, land costs reasonable, surface water abundant and underground water tables exceedingly high.

1n 1908, Colonel Allensworth and his friend, Professor William Payne, an educator, joined Dr. Peck, an AME minister, Mr. Palmer, a Nevada miner, and Mr. Mitchell, a Los Angeles realtor, to form the California Colony and Home Promoting Association (CCHPA). The group finally settled on a site midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco with plenty of inexpensive farmland and several artesian wells. When the California Colony and Home Promoting Association filed the Allensworth township site plan with the Tulare County Recorder on August 3, 1908, it represented both the culmination of years of prior planning and organization and the start of what was to become the present town of Allensworth. with the filing the community, which was officially nmed Allensworth after the Colonies founder, became a reality.

 

Dates in Col. Allensworth's Life

· Born in slavery April 7, 1842 in Louisville, Kentucky
· In 1854, Allensworth was sold down rive for attempting to learn to read and write
· Allen Allensworth was purchased by Fred Scruggs and trained as a racehorse rider in 1855
· April, 1863, joined the United States Navy
· On April 4, 1865, Allensworth was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy
· About 1870, Allensworth began religious studies
· April 9, 1871, Allensworth was ordained a minister
· March 12, 1883, Allensworth was certified as a teacher
· November 20, 1884 he applied for appointment as U.S. Army Chaplain
· April 1, 1886 he was appointed Chaplain to the 24th Infantry with a Captain’s rank
· On April 7, 1906 Allensworth retired from the U.S. Army as Lt. Colonel, the highest rank ever achieved by a U.S. Army Chaplain and the highest ranking black officer of his time
· In 1906 he moved to Los Angeles
· He founded the town of Allensworth in 1908
· September 14, 1914, Col. Allensworth killed by motorcyclist while visiting Los Angeles.

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