2012-2013 Hall of Fame Inductee
Allen Allensworth was born a slave in 1842 in Louisville, Kentucky. After the third attempt, he escaped from his master in 1862. He joined the 44th Illinois Infantry's hospital corps as a nurse. In 1863, he worked on gunboats and rose to the rank of chief petty officer. He studied at Ely Nonmat School, established by the Freedmen's Bureau, and in 1868, taught at a Freedman's Bureau School in Kentucky. In 1871, he was ordained to the Baptist ministry and in addition to his ministry; he worked as a financial agent of the General Association of the Colored Baptists. He was chosen a Republican elector from Kentucky in 1880 and attended Republican conventions as a delegate in 1880 and 1884. In 1886, he received a commission from President Grover Cleveland as a chaplain in the 24th infantry African American regiment. He served at posts in New Mexico, Utah and Montana.
While in the army, he also established school programs for enlisted men. In recognition of his achievements, he was invited to address the National Education Association at their convention in 1891. He was a senior chaplain in the army when he retired in 1906. When he retired he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, the highest rank held by an African American to that time. In 1908, he moved to California and organized a company to assist African Americans who wanted to migrate there. The company sold lots in the two communities of about two hundred families who were primarily farmers and real estate developers. Six years after the establishment of the town, it became a market center for surrounding areas, and included a post office, railroad station and hotel. Oscar Over, one of the residents, became California's first African American justice of the peace in 1914.
The town began to decline after Allensworth's death on September 14, 1914. He died from complications as a result of being hit by a motorcycle. The town died because of a scarcity of water and the departure of some of the citizens, who obtained work in the San Francisco Bay Area shipyards. The site of Allensworth is now Allensworth State Historical Park. Allen Allensworth was a pioneer and achieved success in many areas of American society. One of his greatest accomplishments is that he was a founder of a once thriving prosperous town.
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