If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.Numbers 14:8
Over 26 years, from 1873-1899, my great grandfather, Henry Allen, had thirteen children, an incredible baker’s dozen. He began having children at the age of twenty and didn’t stop until he was forty-six years old. By that time, he also had five grandchildren. And as his older offspring married and had youngsters of their own, his younger children became aunts and uncles at an early age and never lacked for childhood companionship.
He was also the product of a large family, for his parents raised around twenty children too. And his family was a tight-knit group that remained close throughout his lifetime.
On July 29, 1874, Henry married Theresa (Tacy) Payton in Graysville, Monroe, Ohio. The couple was married by Reverend Charles Clancy at his home. Over the years, the family had seven children: Paulina Pearl (1873), Sarah Viola (1875), Elijah (1877), Benjamin Franklin (1878), Maud (1879), John Henry (1883), and Mary Ida (1885). Sadly, after her last pregnancy, Tacy had complications while giving birth and died shortly after delivery.
After Tacy passed, her sister, Tamer (Anna), stepped in to help Henry with his family. Three months later, Henry’s father, David Allen, prepared to move to Colorado. Before leaving, an older son and nephew, David Allen and John Watson, traveled to the west to Colorado and told his father that they had the found “the land of milk and honey.” Soon after, the patriarch of the family and eleven of his children, along with their families followed him, forty-two family members decided to join him in his journey.
Before the families headed west, Henry asked Anna to marry him. My great grandmother took her sweet time while carefully making her decision. She held up the moving party for five days before she said, “I do.” The couple finally married on April 1, 1885, in Graysville, Ohio.
At last the families headed to the Rocky Mountain state with their belongings, wagons, and livestock loaded on a railroad train. When Henry and Ann left Ohio, the couple had six children, all under the age of eleven years.
The journey was not an easy one. Some walked. Others rode horses or traveled in the wagons. Some women were pregnant and suffered morning sickness during their expedition. One youngster, Henry’s son Lige, was nine years old when he made the trip. He was in charge of herding the livestock. To save his only pair of shoes, he walked barefoot along the trail. The baby, Mary Ida, was nearly three months old.
One favorite cousin, Nina Allen Campbell, proudly displayed a pie safe that made the journey to Colorado. She stated that in the evenings when the pioneers made camp, they would flip the cabinet on its back and use it for a makeshift bed for the infants that traveled in the wagon train. Each shelf made the perfect cradle for the children.
One night after making camp, a band of Native Americans frightened the travelers as they raided their camp. Henry’s niece, Molly, recalled the frightening experience and worried for their safety. No one was harmed, but when the group left, they also took her parent’s prized black stallion. That was a loss for the family, for the Allen Clan valued their horses.
Once they reached Evans, Colorado, they loaded their fourteen wagons and headed to Meeker, Colorado. They arrived in July. According to one family member, the Allen Party with their carts and supplies were one of the largest single parties to enter the White River Valley. The Allen party wintered there, living in their wagons until summer arrived.
The following summer, while some stayed in Meeker, others decided it was too cold. Besides, the farmers in Rio Blanco County were dry farmers, and the Allen’s irrigated their land. The next summer, many of the family members headed towards Hotchkiss, Colorado.
Their journey had its share of problems, but the Allen Family found a way to overcome each obstacle. When they came to the Flat Tops to the south fork of the White River, they had to lower their wagons and livestock from the mesa to the river below. The Allen party used ropes and wild grape vines to complete this undertaking. For many years, the old cedar trees on top of the cliffs bore the scars from the rope burns and the scrapings of the wagons. Family members mentioned that for many years, the wagon ruts were visible on the old trails that led them to their new homes in Delta County.
The families settled on Roger’s Mesa about three miles northwest of Hotchkiss, Colorado. The Allens helped survey and dig the ditch to transport water to the mesa. To this day, it is still called the Allen Mesa Ditch, for, at one time, the land they settled was called Allen Mesa. The Allens taught their neighbors how to irrigate the land for farming. Some of the family members also began to raise sheep, including Henry and some of his sons and grandsons.
Today, some of the Allen’s stayed in Hotchkiss, and some families never ceased to raise sheep on the lands owned by the pioneers that settled on Roger’s Mesa. Still, other family members have remained scattered throughout Colorado. This Rocky Mountain state has tugged at their hearts while the Allen ancestors have continued to live in the “land of milk and honey.”
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