Allen was the elder of two sons and second of eight children of William Allen and his second wife, Mary Lightfoot Allen. He was born on March 7, 1768, at his father's plantation on Upper Chippokes Creek in Surry County. Although his father had been educated at the College of William and Mary and his only half brother, John Allen, may have studied there too, William Allen undoubtedly studied under private tutors but probably did not attend college. He achieved his later success in life through good fortune and good business judgment. The author of an obituary wrote that Allen was "gifted with a very shrewd mind and possessed a vast deal of strong common sense, though he was little indebted to books."
Following in the footsteps of his ancestors, Allen devoted his talents to the acquisition of wealth. Adding to what he had inherited, he purchased other plantations and by 1831 owned more than 26,000 acres and more than 700 slaves. He invested wisely in saw- and gristmills and in a number of other business ventures, among them a spinning and weaving factory in Southampton County, a freight-hauling schooner, the Claremont, that plied the James River, and a drawbridge company in Norfolk. He also owned valuable shares in the Farmers' Bank of Virginia in Richmond and in the Petersburg Railroad Company. Allen became, next to James Bruce, of Charlotte County, one of the wealthiest men in Virginia during the first third of the nineteenth century.
March 7, 1768 - William Allen is born in Surry County.
January 1789 - Mary Lightfoot Allen, the second wife of William Allen, dies.
1802–1810 - William Allen serves in the House of Delegates.
1809 - By this year William Allen is a lieutenant colonel in the militia.
November 29, 1831 - William Allen dies at the Union Hotel in Richmond. He is buried in a vault at the family cemetery at Claremont, in Surry County.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Gregory, E. S., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William Allen (1768–1831). (2018, February 22). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Allen_William_1768-1831.
- MLA Citation:
Gregory, Eve S. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "William Allen (1768–1831)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 22 Feb. 2018. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 29, 2017 | Last modified: February 22, 2018
Contributed by Eve S. Gregory and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.