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Allen, Penelope Johnson (1886-1985)



  • Existence: 1886 - 1985


Penelope Van Dyke Johnson Allen was born on 1886 October 27 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to James Whiteside and Sue Cleage Johnson. As a child, Penelope attended the First District School and graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1904. Allen continued her education at the Starrett School for Girls in Chicago, Illinois for one year before moving on to the Western College for Women (now the Western College Program at Miami University after the schools merged in 1974) in Oxford, Ohio for three years. Following her father's death on 1908 March 15, Allen left college, returned to Chattanooga, and became a teacher at the North St. Elmo Elementary School.

Less than a year after the death of her father, Penelope married Samuel Boyd Allen of Knoxville, Tennessee on 1909 February 17. On 1911 July 21, the couple gave birth to Penelope Van Dyke Allen in Knoxville, Tennessee. From 1912 to 1915, the family moved to Tate Springs, Tennessee, where Samuel Allen managed the Tate Springs Hotel. In 1916, they moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where Penelope Johnson Allen was the assistant supervisor of the large caliber area of the DuPont Shell Loading Plant during World War I. In 1923, Penelope returned to Chattanooga, Tennessee and divorced Samuel Allen in 1923.

From 1919 to 1923, Penelope Johnson Allen worked for the Chattanooga News and became an early advocate to the women's suffrage movement in Tennessee. In 1923, Allen took a job as a traveling advertising salesperson with the St. Elmo-based Chattanooga Medicine Company. This gave her an excellent opportunity to visit in her free time old book dealers throughout the South. It was at this time that she became acquainted with the descendants of Chief John Ross and other Cherokee Indians in the Oklahoma area. She gradually ammassed an invaluable collection of books, manuscripts, Indian claims, letters from Indian Agents, and other Cherokee items.

In 1933, Penelope Johnson Allen took a job with the Chattanooga Times, writing a weekly genealogical feature called "Leaves From the Family Tree." Each week she focused on a local pioneer family by tracing the family roots back to colonial times. In 1982, these articles were published in a book entitled Leaves From the Family Tree.

Penelope Johnson Allen was a member of many civic and patriotic clubs. She was a lifelong member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, joining in 1913, and she served as president of the Volunteer Chapter of the the United States Daughters of 1812. She was also a member of the Hamilton County Historical society, the Tennessee Historical Society, the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Chattanooga Area Historical Commission, the National Society of Colonial Dames in America in Tennessee, the Daughters of Colonial Wars, and the Junior League of Chattanooga. She was a member of Thankful Memorial Episcopal church, which her grandfather built as a memorial to her grandmother, Thankful Whiteside. Allen published three books:

Penelope Johnson Allen received many honors for her dedication to historic causes in and around Tennessee. Allen lived the last few years of her life at Life Care Center in East Ridge, Tennessee teaching genealogy and answering questions for all that called for help. She died 1985 January 9, and is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Allen, Penelope Johnson. 1975. Tennessee soldiers in the Revolution. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co.
Allen, Penelope Johnson. 1935. Guide book of Chattanooga and vicinity. Chattanooga: Tennessee Volunteer Chapter of the National Society of the United States Daughters of 1812.
Allen, Penelope Johnson. 1947. Tennessee soldiers in the War of 1812: regiments of Col. Allcorn and Col. Allison. Chattanooga: Tennessee Society, United States Daughters of 1812.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Penelope Johnson Allen papers

Identifier: MS-002
Scope and Contents

This collection contains research notes, correspondence, clippings, histories, photographs, receipts, deeds, and research notes on the topics of Brainerd Mission and the Cherokee Indians that were created or collected by Penelope Johnson Allen primarily from 1933 to 1976. The collection also documents the historian's work with the Daughters of the American Revolution to preserve the cemetery at Brainerd Mission in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Dates: 1772-1990
Found in: Manuscripts