When you hear the name John B Allen, somehow it brings to mind something familiar! Yes – that’s right. It’s Allen Street. Is that who Allen St. in Tombstone AZ is named after?
You’re exactly correct in thinking that. So exactly who was he? And why was Allen Street, Tombstone Arizona named for this man?
We’ll take you through the essentials of his story. Which began in New England – born in Franklin County, Maine. Not many details are known, except John Brackett Allen was born Oct. 22, 1818. Into a farming family, with 5 siblings. He was in Boston for schooling.
Gold Rush: Westward Ho! To Merchant Land
The California Gold Rush tempted him West.
By the time he got to Arizona Territory, he was 39 years old. First to Yuma, moving on to Gila City’s gold rush. Then 1 year later in Tucson.
He’d tired of endless gold searches. Instead of pie-in-the-sky dreams, he began baking pies! Tucsonans spread the word. His apple pies became the local rage. They started calling him “Pie Allen.”
With his profits, he opened his 1st general store. Then more stores, & branching into other ventures. Farming, ranching, building, bee-keeping. Alleged by some to have made the very 1st AZ Territory homestead claim.
With all his business contacts, it seemed a natural that John Allen got into politics. He sent firearms to Mexican anti-royalists. Promoted moving Territorial capital from Prescott (not popular there!) to Tucson. Capital successfully went to Tucson in 1867.
Allen began holding office. 1st as School District Superintendent on Nov. 18, 1867. Next month appointed Territorial Treasurer, did an excellent job. Deficit eliminated!
Next appointment: Territorial Adjunct General. Sometimes called him “General Pie.” Appointed mayor of Tucson April 15, 1876; elected next term.
At this time, I didn’t take the time to inquire for permission to use the one photo of him. But if you’d like to see his portrait, you can click over to see Pie Allen .
Allen of Tombstone Arizona
Although Pie Allen was a well-known Tucson figure, he still managed to live in at least 8 other So. Arizona towns + Tombstone AZ. When he heard of Tombstone’s silver discovery, he headed that way. Which opportunity? To Millville, silver ore milling site’s 1st town. On May 26, 1879 he’s their 1st Postmaster. The town of Charleston overtakes them & Millville ends up a ghost-town.
So he resettled in Tombstone Mining District’s 1st settlement in 1879. In Watervale he set up a store, sold it when Tombstone townsite was setting up. He moved to Gird Camp: Upper Town (still referred to as uptown by many locals today). And opened the 1st town business: store & boardinghouse in a wood-framed tent.
Upper Town, Tombstone, AT
Tombstone 1880’s Mine Map
Superimposed Over Tombstone’s Originally Surveyed City Streets
Red Arrow points to Westside Mine – Gird Camp
White Circle Shows Allen Street
4-point Star = corner Toughnut & 6th St. Today opposite large parking area,
Go There Now – Look South, up the hill & imagine 1879: Gird Camp!
A deal was made for a townsite survey, including Upper Town & nearby Goose Flats. The claim was filed & recorded in April 1879. The business street in town was named Allen St., since John B. Allen was the 1st tradesman in town. The main thoroughfare through town was Fremont St., as it wasn’t blocked by a gulch.
Pie Allen got in on local politics by promoting town incorporation. Pima County granted their petition on Nov. 1, 1879 – election planned soon. Allen ditched his original Gird Camp operation.
Allen began a store, stable & blacksmith shop. Located at the Southwest corner of 4th & Allen St. It struggled & he sold out to Philip W. Smith. It became the Pioneer Store, & within was Tombstone’s 1st bank.
While living in Tombstone, at age 63, he married teen-aged Lola Tapia. Her mother gave permission, only if she lived in a convent! Still, she had a child, named Molly Mae Allen, born in 1882. But before that, John accused her of adultery, & they mutually filed for divorce. As soon as granted, she married her lover.
Meanwhile, John B. Allen was also in Bisbee, but sold out his partnership there by Spring 1881. He dabbled in many ventures, trying to build up his finances. Went back into some mining, bought & sold land. In the end he didn’t have much.
Unusual Burial for A Historic Figure
When John B. Allen reached 81 years of age, he knew he was dying from cancer, not long to go. To honor him, Tucson locals arranged a testimonial dinner April 1899. Zeckendorf & Co. donated the presentation of a gravesite tombstone for him. William Z. was “a flamboyant merchant” according to the Jewish Museum of the American West. Likely knew Allen via both business & working in the legislature.
Etched in the stone: John B. Allen – Born 1818 – Died 1899 – Territorial Treasurer six years – Mayor of Tucson two terms – A man without an enemy
Allen seemed pleased, & accepted graciously. On June 13, 1899 he was gone. Buried in the Presidio’s 1875’s Court Street Cemetery, among likely nearly 5,000 others there.
Tucson expansion encroached onto cemetery land. Decision made to relocate graves, but apparently only headstones were moved. Historians believe remains were left, reasons unclear. Records not found.
For an obscure reason, John B. Allen’s headstone was moved to the charity section of the Pima County Cemetery, entry on Fairview Ave., Tucson. Yes, his wealth had dwindled at his death. Sadly, his marker doesn’t show the honor of the distinctive positions he held in Arizona Territory, or even in Tucson. It’s said the stone is partially buried, only his name & born/death dates visible. One day we’ll get there to verify.
Pie Allen Historic District
When living in Tucson, John B. Allen resided in a home on South 5th Ave. Those surroundings mark a historic district that now honor him. Tucson did, eventually therefore, honor his memory.
The Pie Allen neighborhood was named for John Brackett Allen. Its primary Southwest boundary begins at the corner of Euclid Ave. & W. 6th St. Even though it’s named for him, we wonder how many people in the area even know who he was!
Some Neighborhood Homes Honor The History
Historical places & events create curiosity for facts about people who roamed the Tombstone area & the Old West. What’s the true story? Can we discover the authentic history?
And we enjoy sharing what we find with you.
We hope we’ll see you in town sometime, (sigh – eventually in the future!) seeing areas where they spent time – back in the 1800s.
Let us know if you’ll be going to an upcoming event! Tell us how you liked any of them, or what you visited here! Just reply to this newsletter for easy input! (Let us know if we can use your comments – & how to credit you.)