James “River Jim” Allen, born around 1824 in Perry County, Kentucky, left an indelible mark on the history of the region. His life, family, and tragic end are woven into the fabric of eastern Kentucky’s past, where the echoes of the Civil War still resonate.
Early Life and Family
Born into the rugged hills of Perry County, “River Jim” married Nancy Louise Roberts in 1843. Their union was prolific, bringing forth 13 children in a span of 18 years. The Allen family, deeply rooted in Troublesome Creek, became a significant presence in the local community.
Confederate Service and Raids
Enlisting in Breathitt County, “River Jim” became a Confederate soldier with the Kentucky Infantry’s 13th Regiment. Alongside his brothers and sons, including Granville, Stephen, and John, he participated in raids on Union sympathizers in eastern Kentucky. The tensions of the Civil War manifested in the tragic death of a neighbor, Richard Sanford Shackleford, during one of these raids in 1864.
Capture and Tragic End
The story takes a dark turn when, in 1864, “River Jim” was captured and killed in revenge for the death of Shackleford. His body, mysteriously disappearing, left a haunting legacy. Speculations abound, suggesting it may have been weighted down and cast into the river or buried in the nearby woods. Regardless, his remains were never recovered.
Family Continuation and Lineage
James D. Allen, born in 1855, carried on the family legacy. In 1876, he married Mary Polly Arnett, marking the beginning of today’s Middle Fork Allens. The couple had numerous children, with Morgan and Wick Allen’s direct lineage dominating the Middle Fork Allen family tree.
Legacy and Burial
“River Jim’s” final memorial can be found in Campton, Kentucky, at White Allen Cemetery, adorned with a Confederate War Monument. His legacy lives on not only in the historical accounts but also in the descendants who continue to shape the Middle Fork Allen community in Magoffin County, Kentucky.
The tale of James “River Jim” Allen is a poignant chapter in the history of eastern Kentucky, highlighting the complexities of family, war, and tragedy during the Civil War era. As the Middle Fork Allens thrive today, the memory of “River Jim” endures, etched into the hills and valleys where his life unfolded.
excerpts contributed by Daniel A. Bellware, adding layers to the narrative of a remarkable family and its enduring legacy.
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