Lieutenant Jesse K. Allen

Updated: Dec 13, 2021


Lieutenant Jesse K. Allen - Oak Grove Cemetery - Hillsboro

Lieutenant Jesse K. Allen, deceased, was born in Kingston, Tenn., September 5, 1828, and, at an early day, came with his parents to Hillsboro, Ill., which was about the time of the location of the county seat of Montgomery County at that point, and when there were but very few houses in the town.



William Allen, the father of the subject, was born in Roane County, Tenn., January 15, 1799, and was married to Mary K. Killingsworth, the mother of Jesse K. Allen to whom were born eleven children - first, the subject of this sketch; second, William A. Allen, for many years a prominent physician in Greenville, Ill.; third, Margaret Allen, now inter-married with Theodore Smith, of Greenville, Ill.; fourth, Aaron Allen, now deceased; fifth, Rufus S. Allen now a physician, employed the General Government in doctoring the Indians; sixth, John H. Allen, now in Kansas; seventh, Emily E., now wife of Charles L. Bartlett, a merchant of Hillsboro, Ill.; eighth, Mollie, now married to Dr. Perkins, of Fredonia, Kan.; ninth, Frank F. Allen, also a physician, Neodesha, Kan.; and tenth, Laura Allen now deceased; and Charles F. Allen, now at Mattoon, Ill. William Allen, the ancestor, was a man in very moderate circumstances, and consequently, his son, Jesse K., was denied many of the advantages enjoyed by his youthful companions.



In his youth, he attended such schools as opportunity afforded, in the town of Hillsboro, and later, when what was then known as the Hillsboro Academy was built, in 1836, Jesse attended such academy as far as means could be afforded him, and it was here he gave promise of the future man. He was here noted for his industry and untiring energy in his efforts to acquire an education. He particularly excelled in mathematics and those studies which called more particularly for the exercise of the reasoning faculties. He was held in very high esteem by the Faculty of the Hillsboro Academy, which was at that period second to none in the State. Lieut. Allen, having finished the school course at the academy, looked about him for something to do. At this time, there happened to be a vacancy in the cadetship from his Congressional District, and, through Gen. Shields and his friends in Hillsboro, and the then Representative in Congress, the appointment to West Point was secured to him, and in 1851 he entered as a cadet to West Point. He remained at the Military Academy for the usual course of four years, and in 1855 graduated with honor and distinction. In this Military School, as in the academy at home, he excelled in the study of mathematics, and he also acquired distinction in civil engineering. After he graduated, he entered the army, being at that time in the meridian of life and vigor of manhood. He was full of ambition, and entered the army with a high resolve to win for himself a name and fame as a soldier. He was appointed Lieutenant in Company B of the Ninth Infantry, and in this capacity served the Government in active service for three years. He had the entire confidence of his superior officers, and was often entrusted with service which called forth special judgment and nerve.


In the winter of 1856, he was entrusted with $3,500 in specie, to be carried from Washington Territory to some point in Vancouver’s Island, in command of fifteen men. They were overtaken in a very severe snow storm, and all his men deserted him but two, and it was supposed he was lost, but in a few days, he, with his two remaining men, came riding into camp, with the funds all safe. Whether as citizen or soldier, he was always reliable, and never disappointed the expectation of his friends. It seemed at this time that a life of activity and usefulness was open before him, and he was surely prepared to enter upon it; but the end came before it could reasonably be expected. About 3 o’clock on the morning of the 15th of August, 1858, in the moment of accomplishing a successful surprise on a camp of Indians, he was shot down, and thus, in his early manhood, and while the dew of youth was on his brow, he was called upon to die the death of a soldier. He died as he had lived – in the line of duty.



The following letter was written at the time by his superior officer:


Headquarters Yakima Expedition

Camp on the Upper Yakima River

August 15, 1858


Major: It has become my painful duty to communicate to you for Gen. Clarke’s information, and that of the Adjutant General of the army, the sad intelligence of the death of Second Lieut. Jesse K. Allen of the Ninth Infantry, who expired at this camp at half-past 2 o’clock to-day. Lieut. Allen died the death of a soldier.


He fell at 3 o’clock this morning, at the moment of accomplishing a successful surprise on a camp of hostile Indians.


There is reason to fear that he was shot accidentally by one of his own men in the darkness of the hour.


I must be permitted here to express my own sorrow for the untimely end of this young officer, and to offer this officially my tribute to his worth. He was an officer of rare energy and zeal, and an acquaintance with our army of seventeen years’ duration, warrants me in uttering the conviction that his place will not again be readily filled in our service. His loss to this command can scarcely be overestimated.


His remains will be taken back to-night to Fort Simcoe by his company commander and personal friend, Capt. Frazer Ninth Infantry, who will take the charge of his effects, required by the regulations. It is perhaps proper to report in this connection that Lieut. Allen’s party (fifteen mounted men), captured in this sad affair twenty-one men, about fifty women and children, seventy head of horses,  and fifteen head of cattle, besides considerable of the Indian property.


Three of the men having been recognized as participants in the attack on the miners, were shot in compliance with my general instructions on the subject.



I am sir, very respectfully your obedient servant.


Signed, R. S. Garnett,

Major Ninth Infantry Commanding

Major W. H. Mackall

Assistant Adjutant General, U. S. A.

Fort Vancouver, W. T.


The remains of Lieutenant Allen were brought to Hillsboro by his parents and relatives, and were interred in Oak Grove Cemetery near his childhood home. Had his life been spared until the commencement of our late civil war, he would have been found battling for the Union, and doubtless, with his energy and courage, would have attained high rank as an officer in our army.

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Jeff Dunn

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