James L. Allen, the last messenger from the Alamo, son of Samuel and Mary (Lamme) Allen, was born in Kentucky on January 2, 1815, the eldest of seven children. His father, a veteran of the Indian wars, had served under Gen. William Henry Harrison. Allen was a student at Marion College, Missouri, when he joined other students to volunteer for military service in Texas. He left the Alamo on courier duty on March 5, 1836, the night before the battle of the Alamo took place. He served at San Jacinto as a scout under Erastus (Deaf) Smith and helped burn bridges behind Mexican lines to cut off their retreat. After the victory at San Jacinto, he returned to the United States, where he stayed for two years. He then settled in Texas, became a Texas Ranger, and served in the companies of Captain Ward and later Capt. Peter H. Bell. In July 1844 Allen took part in an Indian battle at Corpus Christi. In 1849 he settled in Indianola, where he dealt in the stock business and also served for a time as mayor and justice of the peace. In 1849 he married Federica M. Manchan; they raised seven children. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Allen was serving as tax assessor-collector of Calhoun County. He refused to take the oath of allegiance when Union soldiers took Indianola and was placed under guard on Saluria Island, from which he escaped by swimming to the mainland and going to Port Lavaca. In 1865 he moved to Hochheim, where he owned a farm of 260 acres. He was a Baptist and Mason. He died at his home, five miles west of Yoakum, on April 25, 1901.
There was a James B. Allen at the siege of Bexar, and in June 1836 a James C. Allen of Kentucky arrived in Texas as captain and commanding officer of the Buckeye Rangers. Another James C. Allen, also born in Kentucky, came to Texas from New York and participated in the Texas Revolution. Historians have confused James L. Allen with the James C. Allens and perhaps also with James B. Allen.
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Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Muster Rolls of the Texas Revolution (Austin, 1986). Bill Groneman, Alamo Defenders (Austin: Eakin, 1990). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Honor Roll of the Battle: The Complete List of Participants and Personnel on Detached Service (San Jacinto, Texas: San Jacinto Museum of History Association, 1965). Walter Lord, A Time to Stand (New York: Harper, 1961; 2d ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978). Memorial and Genealogical Record of Southwest Texas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1894; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Amelia W. Williams, A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of Its Defenders (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1931; rpt., Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36 (April 1933), 37 (July, October 1933, January, April 1934).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Allen, James L.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 18, 2018