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. They settled in Nacogdoches around 1833 and engaged in land speculation.
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 August 1836 the Allen brothers purchased more than 6,600 acres of land around Buffalo Bayou and founded the city of Houston. In September 1836 John Allen was elected a representative from Nacogdoches to the Texas Congress. He served as congressman from Nacogdoches and was 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 contracted a “bilious fever” (possibly yellow fever or malaria) and died at his brother’s home in Houston on August 15, 1838. He was buried in Founders Memorial Cemetery, Houston. A Centennial marker was erected in his honor in 1936, and a Texas Historical Marker was erected in 1968. Allen Parkway in Houston is named for Allen and his family.