Judge John Allison, son of Sarah Ogilvie and Robert Allison, Jr., was born in Granville County, North Carolina, in March 1791. He and his wife, Naomi (Gillespie), moved with his parents to Bedford County, Tennessee, in 1815, and then to Pulaskie, Mississippi, in 1836, to become cotton planters. Due to financial reverses from the 1837 depression, Allison moved on to Montgomery County, Texas, by 1840. Health problems encouraged another move in 1842, to what is now Horton, Panola County.
When Panola County was organized in 1846, Allison became the first chief justice (county judge) of the county. Pulaski, on the east bank of the Sabine River, became the temporary county seat. Since Allison had come from Panola County, Mississippi, he asked that the new county be called Panola, an Indian word meaning "cotton." Though he is said to have named Pulaski also, a Sabine ferry was called that before he arrived in the area. When his term as county judge ended in 1848 Allison bought John Williams's headright on the western side of the county and established his family on the "Old Grand Bluff-to-Douglas Road." There he put his slaves to work on the farm and opened a store and wagonyard camp for travelers. The community known today as Fairplay developed at the site. Allison lived there until his death, in 1871. The Allisons had five children. They and two generations of their descendants are buried at the Old Williams Cemetery, near Fairplay.