Ira H. Allen

Ira H. Allen

From the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, edited by Abby Maria Hemenway. Irasburgh Chapter: By Rev. Thomas Bayne.  Published by Claremont Manufacturing Co, 1877. Pg 255-259.

From the sermon of Rev. Thomas Bayne Delivered at the Congregational Church, May 2, 1866

Ira Hayden Allen, son of General Ira and Jerusha (Enos) Allen, was born in Colchester, Vt. July 19, 1790. The history of his ancestry forms a prominent and important chapter, in the annals of this commonwealth. The Allens were amongst the principle founders of the State of Vermont, and contributed much towards the independence of the United States. Gen. Ira Allen took a very conspicuous and efficient part in the early settlement of Vermont, and during the period of the Revolutionary war, rendered the nation signal aid. As member and secretary of the council of safety in 1777 he concerted and by his invincible energy carried out the measures which resulted in the triumph of the federal arms at Bennington, the capture of Mount Defiance and Lake George Landing.

In the year 1795, General Allen, intending to take a voyage to Europe, was commissioned by the governor of the commonwealth- Thomas Chittenden- to endeavor to procure a supply of arms for the State. There was at that time a scarcity of arms. None could be purchased in the United States or borrowed from the government for the equipment of the militia. General Allen effected a very advantageous contract at Paris with the French minister of war, for 20,000 stands of arms furnished with bayonets, and 24 brass four-pounder field-pieces, with utensils for their use. These were shipped on board the “Olive Branch,” then lying on the port of Ostend, whence she sailed on Nov. 12, 1796. This vessel, sailing on the high seas, was, in defiance of express stipulation in the treaty of 1794, between Great Britain and the United States, and in defiance of all international law, captured Nov. 19, 1796, by captain Gould, of the ship Audacious, an English seventy-four, and carried into Portsmouth, in England. The cargo was condemned as a lawful prize Oct. 8, 1797, but, on appeal, the court of admirality [sic] decreed the restoration of said cargo, Feb. 9, 1804, thereby acknowledging the injustice and unlawfulness of the seizure and condemnation. In these proceedings of the British government, there was not only great wrong done to the rights and dignity of this nation; there was also the infliction of grievous injury to General Allen’s personal interest and property. General Allen was adjudged, by decision of the court, to pay costs and charges!

But this was the smallest part of his vexation and loss. When he sailed for Europe, the titles of more than 200,000 acres of lands, with many buildings and extensive improvements, were vested in him, in fee simple, in his own right and that of the heirs of deceased friends, on whose estates he had acted as executor, and some of the heirs were not of age and the estates were not settled at the time of his departure. But on his return, scarce an acre of these lands could be found, without another possessor, by vendue titles, or others obtained while he was, by intrigue, detained in Europe. When he returned to this continent, he was virtually and unjustly made an exile from his family and home, since in order to avail himself of immunities his own State failed to give him, he took up residence in Philadelphia, where he died, and, in consequence of the events above narrated, leaving his family nearly destitute of means other than a home in Colchester, Vt.

These particulars I have outlined as necessary to a just idea of the circumstance and situation of our deceased friend, at the outset of his career.

O the incidents of his [Ira H. Allen] earlier years I am not informed. He pursued collegiate studies at the University of Vermont. He was obliged to relinquish collegiate studies at the close of his sophomore year, 1810, on account of ophthalmic weakness, which had become seriously aggravated by his application to study. This weakness of the eyes continued to afflict him, to some extent, in subsequent years. To Mr. Allen’s sole care was committed his widowed mother and aged grandmother. The duties and responsibilities, involved in this relationship and trust, extending over many succeeding years, he discharged with devoted affection and exemplary fidelity, deferring his own settlement in domestic relations, that he might give his undivided assiduity and care to the guardianship and happiness of his venerated mother.

After the cessation of his studies in Burlington, he was clerk in Swanton. He next assisted his cousin, Heman Allen Esq., in his business in Highgate. Subsequently followed his removal to Irasburgh, which was ever afterwards his permanent, life-long residence. His removal to this town was the result of circumstances connected with his mother’s estate. When Jerusha, eldest daughter of Gen. Roger Enos, engaged herself in marriage to Gen. Ira Allen, the father of the affianced bride required, in accordance with the usages of those days, a marriage settlement for his daughter. Very much as a matter of form and honorable custom, the township of Irasburgh, then a primeval wilderness, was deeded to her as such settlement. As to actual value, to use Mrs. Allen’s own words, she did not, at that time, consider it worth a rush. In 1814, Mr. H. Allen proposed to his mother to visit this town and ascertain whether it was worth any thing; designing to be absent from home but for a few days. On his arrival, he found some two or three families occupying land under a lease from the agent of Mrs. Gen. Allen, and a dozen or more who had located themselves on lands, irrespective of any right or title. A Mr. Parker had erected a set of cheap mills. The saw-mill had been used for sawing up the pine lumber, cut down by squatters from Mrs. Allen’s lands. A large quantity of the boards thus manufactured and appropriated, Mr. Ira H. Allen found piled up in the mill-yard. His first step was to claim these boards, in behalf of his mother. Instead, however, of enforcing legal rights, which could have been easily sustained, he concluded his settlement of the matter, by allowing the parties an equitable compensation for their labor in procuring the lumber from the forest. After a stay here of three months, instead of a few days, he returned to Colchester, informed his mother that the property in Irasburgh was worth taking care of, and that if she would give him a portion of it, he would come here and himself manage the estate. His offer was accepted.

These events I assume to have occurred in 1814; as Mr. Allen’s first vote on record in this town is dated in September of said year. He was thus, about 24 years of age when he became an inhabitant of Irasburgh. At this date, his entire property or capital consisted of a horse and single sleigh, a respectable wardrobe, his library, a silver watch, $40 in money, and- what was best of all- his education and his principles.

From the time Mr. Allen decided on making Irasburgh his permanent residence and his home, he gave his earnest attention and most strenuous endeavors to the interests of the town. The lands were leased for the annual interest on 17s. per acre. Mainly through his exertions, the legislature passed an act constituting this the shire town, on condition that the inhabitants would within a specified time, erect a court-house and jail, to the acceptance of a committee appointed under direction of the State. The buildings were erected chiefly at the expense of Mr. Allen and his mother, and this, for his means, in that early period of his history, involved considerable effort and sacrifice.

The court held its first session in August, 1816. Mr. Allen was appointed its clerk, which office he held from 1810 to 1835, inclusive; when he resigned in favor of governor Crafts, to whom, in his reduced circumstances, its emoluments had become an object of importance.

The want of the commercial facilities afforded by a bank, had been heavily felt, for some years, throughout the County. Here, again, Mr. Allen took a leading part in the procuring of a charter, which was granted by the legislature in 1832, and in the organization of the Orleans County Bank. He was for years a large stockholder at considerable pecuniary sacrifice. He was one of its board of directors, and the most prominent and efficient, from its organization to the time of his death; and was its first president, holding the office from 1833 to 1847, inclusive, 15 years, and again in 1863, ’64, ’65, and to the date of his decease. He served the bank without compensation, and in both his official relations managed its affairs with a financial ability and success, that gave the institution an honorable and established reputation for soundness and stability, maintained, inviolate and undisturbed, the public confidence in its solvency, through all the successive commercial crises which have swept over the nation, carrying financial disaster and ruin to corporations and individuals and its bills never suffered any discount from the value expressed on the face of them.

His townsmen honored him with every office in their gift; or, to speak more justly, honored the offices, by choosing him to fill them. He was town clerk in 1816 and 1817; selectman from 1820 to 1826, inclusive; town representative in 1818, ’19, ’20, ’22, ’23, ’27, ’35, ’37, ’38, and ’40. The records show that he was frequently town treasurer, and continually appointed on committees indicative of the unbounded confidence of his townsmen in his integrity and ability. He held the office of judge of probate in 1822, for the accommodation of a friend- a brother of the Hon. George Nye, who was disqualified from holding it by the possession of a United States’ appointment; and, on the expiration thereof, Mr. Allen resigned the probateship [sic] in his favor.

He represented the County in the council from 1828 to 1832. He was elected to the council of censors in 1848. He was appointed governor’s aid-de-camp with the title of colonel; in what year I have not at hand the means of ascertaining. It was by his title of colonel he was most generally known throughout the State.

In his public life and as a legislator, he not only won the golden opinions of his friends by his high-toned principles and his abilities; but, also, in those periods when political and party feeling ran high, he disarmed, by his incorruptibility, moderation, and sound sense, the passions of political opponents and constrained their respect and confidence. Had he been ambitious of the distinctions of public life, he might have enjoyed them to a still larger extent.

Jan. 13, 1842, he married Sarah C. T. Parsons, of Highgate, a lady of great amiableness, benevolence and worth. She died Feb. 29, 1844. July 8, 1848, he married her sister, Frances Eliza. The growing up of his children to maturity; the watching of the development of their mind and character; the direction of their education; plans for their future career; and the invasion of sickness and death in his family, gave him to know human life, in its various phases of joy and sorrow- of hope, anxiety and care.

And, at length, his turn came to die. For some months past, we observed that age was beginning to write, very sensibly, its impression upon his form. On Saturday afternoon, the 21st of April, he took to his couch. He had been out of his usual health for some days before. Medical skill was utterly unavailing for his restoration. On Sunday at the stroke of three, he died without a pang. The gentleness of his disease and the peacefulness of his death were in meet harmony with the placid and tranquil tenor of his life. He was in his 76th year.

His character needs no eulogy. His claims upon our appreciation and esteem will be even more deeply felt and recognized, when his memory and name have been hallowed by his decease and by the lapse of time. The fair fame of his manhood was unsullied by youthful improvidences, vices, or follies. He was marked by singular correctness of manners. His filial piety was most tender and faithful and endearing. In his domestic relations he was an affectionate husband and loving father. When, in the middle or later periods of his life, he had accumulated a large amount of wealth, he gave no outward manifestations at least, of the faults which are usually found associated with affluence. He was eminently free of haughtiness, and the spirit of dictation or oppression.

His integrity was never questioned. His book-accounts were kept with an exact and faultless accuracy; thereby precluding misunderstandings, difficulties and strifes [sic]. No poor or honest person was ever harassed by him for payment of his dues. A man who was striving and struggling to make headway in the world, had, practically, an unlimited pay-day, and was allowed to discharge his payments in the mode most convenient for him.

To his friends, who sought his advice, he was a valuable and safe counselor, because, in his replies, he offered not those views and suggestions, which he might suppose would be most probably or surely harmonize with the wishes and aims of those soliciting his council; but expressed the sentiments and convictions of his own independent and unbiased judgment.