March 3, 2011
These are my great-great-grandparents Porter and Melinda Allen and three of their children. The little boy in the photo is my great-grandfather Walter Allen, who would later adopt and raise his grandson, my father. Porter’s parents settled in Lawrence County, Mo., sometime in the late 1830s. Porter inherited some or all of the family farm. (I see land records in my future.)
Sometime in the late 1880s, while Walter was still a small boy, he and his father were working out in the fields one day when they were approached by two bearded men. Walter called them “Dutchmen,” but they were more likely immigrants from the nearby German settlement of Freistatt. The men spoke to Walter’s father and offered to buy his farm. Porter named a ridiculously high price (or so he thought). The men spoke to each other in German, agreed to the price and pulled out a large wad of cash.
Just like that, Porter sold the farm. After the sale the family moved into town—Mt. Vernon, Mo. Porter invested the money in the futures market and lost all of it. That branch of the family never owned property again. Porter died sometime between 1900 and 1910 in his late 40s or early 50s. He’s in the 1900 census, but in 1910 his wife, Melinda, is living with their oldest daughter and her family. I’ve not found any death or burial record for Porter. There is a cemetery in the area, Spanish Fort, where many of the Allens are buried. My guess is that he’s there, but no one has found a marker with his name. Melinda died in 1921 and is buried in Mt. Vernon, but Porter isn’t there, either.
I’d love to know why Porter made such an impulsive decision. Did the German men catch him on a bad day? A farmer’s life wasn’t easy. Maybe he thought the sale would provide more for his family. Sadly, it seems that the family, both immediate and extended, never forgave him for selling the farm. But to the extent that they’d bury him in an unmarked grave? I don’t know. Maybe there was no money for a marker. Sometime this spring, Dad and I will have to take a trip to Mt. Vernon so I can make my first courthouse visit and look for some answers. And we’ll stop by Spanish Fort Cemetery to pay our respects to Porter, wherever he is.
Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.