Some more information about the first elected Sheriff of Henry County, Robert Allen is provided below.
By: Margaret Owen Thorpe, great-great granddaughter
- Served as Sheriff from 1836 to 1840 and from 1844 to 1848.
- Served one term, 1856, in Missouri State Legislature.
- Allen was born in Green County, Tennessee, November 07, 1807. He came to Henry County from Buncombe County (Asheville), North Carolina, in 1835 with his brother George J. Allen, his father James, his wife Matilda Barnard, and his three oldest children.
One 19th century biography says of him:
“He had an indomitable will and an energy that never flagged. Though a Whig in politics, he was distinguished for his Jacksonian determination and courageous disposition. It is said of him that while sheriff, “no criminal ever made his escape.” He would follow them even to Texas, the then dumping ground for all criminals, and bring them back to justice. He was as keen on the trail of such a one as a bloodhound, and a hundred more times dreaded by criminals. A model citizen, a humble Christian gentleman of practical business sense, cheerful and superior judgment, he was one of those unassuming characters who, when aroused, exhibited a lion’s strength and courage.”
“He knew no such word as fail; it was not in his vocabulary. He was of low stature, chunky build, large head, piercing eyes, and an honest countenance; rather a fine voice and a rapid talker. When I knew him, he lived on his farm near Calhoun; rode a large mule and always went in a long trot. In our ramblings through life, we have always been able to find somewhere a counterpart to some one whom we had selected as a distinguished factor in the community where we had lived; but in my intercourse with the people of many cities and states, I have never seen but one “Bob Allen”, and none other but Henry County soil could develop such a product of honesty, courageousness, simplicity, wisdom and patriotism.”
Another sketch of Allen was written in the late 19th century by General Benton G. Boone. Boone wrote this sketch for the Clinton newspaper and collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack suffered while on the way home from delivering it to the paper. Boone wrote:
“There is no name in the ancestral list of Henry County pioneers to whom their posterity is more largely indebted for the splendid fruits of the labors of the early and primitive settlers and pioneers of this county than that of Robert Allen. It is now more than a quarter of a century since he departed this life, and more than three score years since he first came to and settled in Henry County. His life and labors here constitute a prominent and permanent part of those splendid achievements in the social and material growth and development of our history which confers so much lasting honor and beneficence on Henry County and the commonwealth of Missouri. Mr. Allen was born November 7th, 1807, in Green County, Tennessee, and removed thence, in his boyhood, to North Carolina, and from that state came to Henry County, Missouri, in 1829. He was the first Sheriff of this county, and served four terms in that capacity, and enjoyed a State wide reputation as being one of the most efficient Sheriffs in the State. He was small in stature, compactly built, keen gray eyes, rather shrill voice, and of indomitable energy and perseverance, of iron will and nerve, and of superb moral and personal courage. Many and interesting were the incidents “Of Field and Blood”, of his official life as he traversed the then comparative wilderness from Jackson County to the Arkansas line, in the execution of his official duties; whenever he went in search of a fugitive from justice he invariably returned with his culprit. His personal industry and energy was remarkable, and his physical endurance marvelous, the typical characteristics of the early pioneers of the West. He was genial in disposition, positive in his conclusions and optimistic in his philosophy, and never “sold the truth to serve the hour.” He belonged to the Old Whig School of politics and his Presidential vote was for John Quincy Adams in 1828; and thereafter he voted for Henry Clay in 1932; W. H. Harrison, 1836, and 1840; again for Clay in 1844; Taylor in 1848; Scott in 1852: Fillmore in 1856; Bell-Everett in 1860; (several lines missing)…Horace Greeley in …;….statesman was the “Great Commoner of the West”, Henry Clay. He was an ardent, firm and resolute Unionist, and opposed alike the extremist of the North and the ultraist of the South. He was an active and prominent advocate and promoter of the liberal Internal Improvement system of the state and did much to advance and promote its material development and gave liberally of his time and means to the up building of the Free School system and the Eleemosynary institutions of the State.
He was one of the projectors of the Tebo and Neosho Railroad, now the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas, and was a member of the first board of directors of that corporation.
In 1856, Mr. Allen was elected on the Whig ticket to represent this county in the 19th General Assembly, Mr. A. L. Armstrong, father of Hon. H. H. Armstrong and A. L. Armstrong, the druggist, being his competitor (long list of fellow members of the 19th General Assembly omitted).
There were three members [of the 19th General Assembly] named Allen – Stephen C. Allen, of Harris; Robert Allen, of Warren, and Robert Allen, of Henry. I [General Boone] served 18 years afterwards, in the 28th General Assembly with two of Mr. Allen’s associates in the 19th General Assembly (names omitted).
Although Mr. Allen served only one term in the Legislature, he nevertheless served under two Speakers, and four Governors: Price, Polk, Hancock, Jackson and Robert M. Stewart (explanation of these 4 omitted).
Mr. Allen was admitted to the bar after the expiration of his term as Representative, and practiced in Clinton for several years under the firm name of Robert Allen & Co., having associated with him at different times Judge James Parks, of this city, and who is his son-in-law; Judge Paul F. Thornton, now a banker at Austin, Texas; William T. Thornton, afterwards Governor of New Mexico, and James B. Gantt, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this State. He is the maternal grandfather of Peyton Allen Parks, of this city, whose paternal grandfather, Peyton Parks, also represented this county in the 13th General Assembly in 1844…Mrs. James Harris, Mrs. C. C. Dickinson, Mrs. Samuel Milton, and their brother Peyton A. Parks, are the only ones whose maternal and paternal grandfathers have represented this county in the State Legislature.
Mr. Allen was a typical representative of that self-reliant and sterling class of the early and primitive settlers of Henry County, who followed the ground and sowed the seed from which has sprung our present civilization and prosperity, and whose names and achievements are inwrought in our national foundations, and adorn the best of most substantial pages of our county’s history.
He died in this city January 19th, 1875, closing an honorable and useful life, worthy of imitation and veneration, and the resultant fruits of which posterity is now the beneficiary.”
Additional History of the Sheriff’s Office:::
From 1841 to 1844, William Rensselaer Owen, who would, in 1853, become Robert Allen’s son-in-law, also served as Sheriff of Henry County, He was probably a “political protégé” of Allen’s. His term as Sheriff is notable for the way in began, in shades of Bush-Gore, 2000. However, he was evidently more shrewd that Al Gore, as reported in History of Henry County:
“At the election in August, 1841, William R. Owen and Philip J. Buster were candidates for the office of sheriff and collector. Buster got the certificate and Owen at once entered protest, and contested the election. The suit was decided in favor of Owen, who took possession January 1, 1842, Mr. Buster retaining the office only a little more than three months. But the peculiarity of the case came out when Mr. Owen coolly brought in his bill against the county, of $161.43, as the amount it cost him, as he said, to secure his just rights. The county court slightly demurred to this, in fact refused downright to pay a penny of it. This, of course, precipitated matters, and Mr. Owen’s attorney promptly asked for a writ of mandamus, to compel the county court to fork over the money for this bill of costs. This seemed to the court a pretty hard case, and they called in their legal adviser and consulted upon the course to be pursued, and it was thought best to join issue and let the circuit court they the case. They made the following rejoinder:
“The circuit court of Henry County, in answer to said writ of mandamus for cause of non-payment of the sums certified to be paid, say, that the cost accrued in the contested election between William R. Owen and Philip J. Buster, for the sheriffalty of said county, to which suit the county nor this court was a party, nor, as the court conceives, are in any way interested in the event thereof, therefore they conceive that they are neither equitably or legally bound to levy the same amount upon the county for payment. Which answer is ordered to be certified to the circuit court.”
The suit was decided, nevertheless, against the county, and they paid the $161.34, and as the judgment added “the cost of this suit.”
In April, 1853, Owen married Allen’s daughter Laura. They left shortly thereafter for California and never returned to Henry County.
(Information gathered and organized by Margaret Owen Thorpe, great-great-granddaughter of Robert Allen and great-granddaughter of William Rensselaer Owen. She admits to being “of low stature, chunky build and a rapid talker”. She does not, however, chase criminals nor “ride a large mule”.)