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ALLEN, JOHN KIRBY (1810–1838). John Kirby Allen, founder of Houston, legislator, and backer of the Texas Revolution, fourth son of Roland and Sarah (Chapman) Allen, was born at Orrville, near Syracuse, New York, in 1810. He took his first job—that of callboy in a hotel at Orrville—when he was seven. Three years later he became a clerk in a store. At sixteen he went into partnership with a young friend named Kittredge in a hat store at Chittenango, New York, where his brother, Augustus C. Allen, was professor of mathematics until 1827. John Allen sold his interest in the hat store and followed his brother to New York City, where they were stockholders in H. and H. Canfield Company until 1832, when they moved to Texas.

At the beginning of the Texas Revolution the Allen brothers did not join the armed forces but rendered more valuable, and equally dangerous, service in other ways. At their own expense they fitted out the Brutus for the purpose of protecting the Texas coast and for assisting troops and supplies from the United States to land safely in Texas. When some of the members of the Texas provisional government objected to the activities of privateers under letters of marque, the Allens, in January 1836, sold the Brutus to the Texas Navy at cost. The brothers also served on committees to raise loans on Texas lands and became receivers and dispensers of supplies and funds without charge to the republic. In spite of these services there was considerable gossip and censure concerning the Allens because they were not in the armed services.

In September 1836 John Allen was elected a representative from Nacogdoches to the Texas Congress. While he was serving, he and his brother decided to found the city of Houstonqv. John Allen served as congressman from Nacogdoches and on the president's staff with the rank of major. In partnership with James Pinckney Henderson he operated a shipping business. Allen was never married. He died of congestive fever on August 15, 1838, and was buried in Founders Cemetery, Houston.


William Campbell Binkley, ed., Official Correspondence of the Texan Revolution, 1835–1836 (2 vols., New York: Appleton-Century, 1936). James E. Buchanan, comp. and ed., Houston: A Chronological and Documentary History, 1519–1970 (Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana, 1975). Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas, ed. George Pierce Garrison (3 parts, Washington: GPO, 1908–11). Clarence Pekham Dunbar, Houston, 1836–1936: Chronology and Review (Houston: Business Research and Publications Source, 1936). Jim Hutton, Houston: A History of A Giant (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Continental Heritage, 1976). Marie Phelps McAshan, A Houston Legacy: On the Corner of Main and Texas (Houston: Gulf, 1985). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Amelia W. Williams


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Amelia W. Williams, "ALLEN, JOHN KIRBY," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.