Birdwell, Allen (1802–1893)

By: Jennifer Eckel

Type: Biography

Published: March 24, 2008

Allen Birdwell, Texas legislator and farmer, was born on March 22, 1802, in Blount County, Tennessee, son of John and Mary (Allen) Birdwell. By 1809 the Birdwell family moved to an area that would soon become Madison County, Alabama. The family moved again to Lawrence County in northwest Alabama between 1818 and 1824. Allen Birdwell had little or no formal education, but he was taught privately to read and write. One source relates that Allen built a comfortable life farming in Alabama, but in the late 1830s he became liable for the debt of a friend, whom Allen believed had made a fortune trading slaves. He lost almost all of his property. From 1840 to 1842 Allen Birdwell was a member of the Alabama State Militia and rose to the rank of colonel, a title by which he would be addressed for the rest of his life. Allen Birdwell's father John may have moved to Nacogdoches County, Texas, in 1838, and Allen and his wife Lucinda (Ross) followed by 1842.

Allen Birdwell and his children settled permanently on a farm three miles south of Mount Enterprise in what would become Rusk County. Lucinda died about 1844, and Birdwell married Sarah Jane Vannoy on July 29, 1845. Birdwell became a large planter and slaveholder and was prosperous in the years before the Civil War. In his early years in Rusk County Birdwell was a founding member of Mount Enterprise's Baptist church, an active Mason, and represented Rusk County in the Fifth and Tenth Texas legislatures. In addition he invested some of his fortune in one of Texas' early railroad efforts, the Sabine Pass Railroad, but lost his money. He was listed on the board of directors of the Eastern Texas Railroad in 1860.

Although opposed to the idea of secession, believing that Southerners should fight for states' rights from within the Union, Allen Birdwell supported the Confederate cause. A Whig and a member of the American Party (also called the Know Nothing Party) before the war, Birdwell became a strident Democrat due to what he saw as the excesses of the Reconstruction government and the loss of much of his personal fortune due to the emancipation of his many slaves. Col. Allen Birdwell lived out his life on his farm in Rusk County. From his two marriages he had a total of thirteen children, one of whom became a notable physician, and two of whom served in the Civil War. Allen Birdwell died in 1893 at his home in Mount Enterprise and is buried nearby in the Birdwell Family Cemetery.

Frank White Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916). Indiana Isbell Stanley (, accessed August 8, 2006. George Preston Birdwell, letter to his children (, accessed August 8, 2006.
  • Tenth Legislature (1863-1864)
  • House

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

Jennifer Eckel, “Birdwell, Allen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 24, 2008