As early as the mid-1700’s, Allen’s Settlement referred to the community that developed behind the protective river bluffs in what is now the Town of Jonesville. Readers must remember, Elkin would develop as a community from Richard Gwyn’s plantation after 1840. There was little more than wilderness between Allen’s Settlement and Salem Colony and the area that would become Wilkesboro …
It was into Allen’s Settlement that patriots from Salem and eastern Virginia marched, en route to joining Tennesseean mountain men in Morganton. Allen’s Settlement and David Allen, in particular, played critical roles in the Battle of King’s Mountain and later battles in the American Revolution. Both David Allen Senior and David Allen Junior were wounded in the Revolutionary War. Young David may have been wounded at King’s Mountain, serving under his brother Captain Adoniram Allen. The elder Allen may have been injured in a later battle while transporting provisions to eastern North Carolina.
Soelle’s Assumption about Allen’s Settlement
In September 1771, George Soelle, an early Moravian minister, made a trip to a squatter’s home in Allen’s Settlement. He observed, “The settlers here are all Irish, a robbed and plundered people, where poverty makes itself at home … My host received me gladly and cared for me as well as he could; milk and cornbread was the fare practically all the time I was there, and not enough of that.” [From the Moravian Records] Recorded in Pascal’s History of North Carolina Baptists: John Pipes invited Moravian missionary, George Soelle, to visit Baptists east of the Yadkin.
Whether or not the Pipe’s home (as a squatter and not a landowner) was indicative of all other settlers’ homes is speculative at best, but one may assume that most early settlers had sufficient provisions to purchase land, to plant crops, to feed their families and to entertain guests — especially visiting ministers.
Yet Soelle’s unflattering assumption will rear it’s head repeatedly in the years to come …..
This description of early settlers may be more accurate:
The Scotch-Irish are stern and virile, noted for hatred of sham, hypocrisy and oppression. the Germans are hardy and thrifty, characterized by love of home and country, tenacious of custom and slow to change. Both were a liberty-loving, God-fearing people, among whom labor was dignified and honorable. A charm about these pioneers is, that their heads were not turned by ancestral distinction. They were self-reliant and mastered the primeval forest, with its hardships and disadvantages. they became adept in handicraft and combated the foes of husbandry in and unsettled region. They were silent heroes who shaped destiny and imbued unborn generations with strength of character and force of will. The early Scotch-Irish preachers taught the creed of Calvin and Knox, and the first place of worship on the east side was Presbyterian. The pioneer Germans were followers of the great central figure of the Reformation, Martin Luther, and the Swiss Reformer, Ulrick Zwingle, and the oldest place of worship on the west side is Lutheran and Reformed.
But back to the development of Allen’s Settlement and Allen’s Iron Works.
As early as 1751, David Allen was involved in a recorded land sale with Allen Gentry. Readers should note that the date on which a land sale is recorded may not accurately indicate when the land was first “claimed” by the purchaser. Recording land ownership required a fee plus the purchase of the land. Early settlers did not often have the money to record land purchases.
Over twenty years later in 1772, Surry County approved 12 men “to lay out a road from Joseph Gentry’s Ferry on So. side River to Fox Knobbs leading to Allens Iron Works [at the Wilkes Co. line] and on No. side to [Moravian settlement of] Salem etc. ”
Iron manufacturing involved operations of different scales — bloomery forges and furnaces.
These small bloomery forges used charcoal and hardwoods, anvils and hammers to produce tools, hollow ware (kettles, pots, etc.), iron bars, nails, wagon wheel rims and other items (such as cannon balls and smaller ammunition). The average early blast furnace produced up to two tons of iron a day, using about 300 acres of hardwoods each year. By 1810, there were 11 forges in the Blue Ridge Mountains — five in Surry County and six in Buncombe County. The peak of iron production in antebellum North Carolina was 1830. The iron works around the state made 1800 tons of pig iron.
Furnaces such as Allen’s on the Big Elkin Creek “were usually constructed on large streams or rivers at points where the water flowed swiftly over abrupt changes in elevation, forming rapids or waterfalls or what were commonly known as mill seats. At these locations, dams were constructed to harness the power of the falling water. Waterpower was needed to turn large water wheels, which in turn supplied power to various pieces of equipment such as bellows and hammers. The bellows were quite large and blew air into the base of the furnace to increase the rate of combustion, so the iron ore and limestone would get hot enough to melt. The use of these bellows led to the term “blast furnace.” Furnaces were also built next to steep banks so that ramps could be erected from the bank to the top of the furnace to assist in the process of loading the furnace. The iron ore, limestone, and charcoal were carried over these ramps and fed into openings in the top of the furnace.”
The State’s Support of the Iron Industry
In 1781, the State approved exempting “Twelve hands which may be employed in that business by David Allen and Company for six or Twelve Months, as they shall think proper, from all Drafts, from all Military Duty, provided such hands enter into that business for six Months at least, and shall continue exempted as aforesaid so long as they shall continue in that services. ”
The North Carolina General Assembly subsequently passed an act in 1788 “to encourage the building of Iron Works in the State.” This act enabled a person to claim three thousand acres of land found unfit for cultivation. It also required the production of five thousand pounds of iron within a period of three years.
Decline of the Iron Production Industry
One reason for the decline in iron production was improving transportation by steamers in the 1830s, followed by railroads opening in the 1840s and 1850s. Transportation obstacles had allowed the domestic industry to grow in North Carolina, but the state iron works couldn’t match the increasing output from Pennsylvania and other states, especially with their access to coal to power their furnaces. But even in 1860, there were 49 iron works in North Carolina.
After the Civil War, the suppressed economy in the South, coupled with depleted natural resources, brought about the industry’s fate. Also, the lack of significant improvements in transportation, and the development of more efficient methods of producing iron in the North did not help. Other factors leading to the decline of the charcoal iron industry in North Carolina included labor problems, due to the collapse of the slave-based economy, and the inability to compete with ironworks in other regions with better quality resources and cheaper production costs due to the availability of coal.
Could the demise of Allen’s Iron Works also be associated with the arrival of Clisby Cobb?
Soon after the end of the Revolutionary War, an injured David Allen sold his ironworks to William Hill in 1786 and left for Georgia (see family history below). Concurrently, Clisby Cobb was released from military duty to work as ironmaster at Allen’s … We do not know how long Hill owned or operated the iron works.
We know from Cobb’s history that upon arrival in Allen’s Settlement, he began to amass land in several counties, finally moving to the Catawba River region where he built at least two iron forges.
David Allen and Early Jonesville
David Allen also was related to founding fathers in Jonesville.
“Mary (CODY? Combs? RIDGE? STACY?), the widow of both David ALLEN (of the Iron Works), and David MARTIN, and mother of Salathiel and Obediah MARTIN (relationship to Sally MARTIN Lewis, if any, unknown) m 3rd Jonathan HAINES. David ALLEN may have been (somehow) kin to Nathaniel ALLIN, 2nd h/o Winnifred Combs, widow of Tory William RIDGE.”
In other transactions from the same reference, David Allen extends his claim to property and access surrounding his Iron Works:
Feb 1772 (NC State Library and Archives. CR092.925.5. Surry Co., NC Road Records 1772-1879. Folder: 1772-1799). Surry County. Feb’y Court 1772. Ordered that the following jury to wit: Samuel RIGGS, David RIGGS, Abrael COBBS, Reuben RIGGS, Admirum ALLEN, Joseph GRAVES, William NALL, John HARDY, John PARKS, David MARTIN, Charles DODSON & Peter GREENSTREAT lay off a road the best & most convenient way from Thomas JONES at Long Bottom on Roaring River to David ALLINS & make return thereof to the next court. A Copy Test. Jesse BENTON, Ck. Ct. (Transcribed by Combs-Cody Researcher George Baumbach) 20 Sep 1779 (Surry NC DBA:346) NC Grant David ALLEN 5 A adj. certain Iron Mine Pitt near Thomas YATES’ at William ISAACS. (Surry County, North Carolina Abstracts, Deed Books A, B, and C (1770-1788), by Mrs. W.O. Absher, SHP, Easley, SC, 1981) 24 Oct 1782 (Surry NC DB:214) 24 Oct 1782 NC Grant David ALLEN 640 A Big Elkin Creek, branch of Yadkin River, mouth Big Elkin at dividing line between Surry and Wilkes Co; agrees line with William CARREL. (Surry County, North Carolina Abstracts, Deed Books A, B, and C (1770-1788), by Mrs. W.O. Absher, SHP, Easley, SC, 1981) 24 Oct 1782 (Surry NC DB:215) 24 Oct 1782 NC Grant David ALLEN 640 A Big Elkin Creek adj. Salathiel MARTIN & Wright DANIEL; N side Big Elkin below Iron Works (Surry County, North Carolina Abstracts, Deed Books A, B, and C (1770-1788), by Mrs. W.O. Absher, SHP, Easley, SC, 1981)
[Contrary to Soelle’s assumption] We can assume that living in Allen’s Settlement was no different than life in other early settlements. According to the collected genealogy of the Allen family, David Senior and David Junior were extraordinary men who not only prospered in their business but served nobly in the Revolutionary War.
The David Allen Family
This is from the third generation of the Edward Allen family:
DAVID ALLEN, SR. (DAVID2 ALLEN, EDWARD “EDMOND”1) was born 9 February 1712/13 in Suffield, CT. He married ANNA ALLEN.
Children of DAVID ALLEN, SR. and ANNA ALLEN are: i. BENJAMIN4 ALLEN. ii. JONATHAN ALLEN. 4. iii. ADONIRAM (TEGES), CAPT. ALLEN, b. 1734, NH, near the Vermont state line.; d. 1838, Laurel Point Cemetery, Clay Co., KY. iv. DAVID ALLEN, JR., b. 1761, Elizabethtown, NJ. Notes for DAVID ALLEN, JR.:
David was born in Elizabethtown, NJ in 1761. He moved from NJ as a child with his father, David Allen, Sr. to Surrey Co., NC. He resided in Surrey Co. prior to the Revolution and served in the Revolution from aid county. He served und er his brother, Adoniram Allen, at the Battle of Kings Mountain. David was wounded at Kings Mountain, but remained in service until Cornwallis was taken. He served eighteen months. After the Revolution, he returned to Surrey Co. and then David moved to Georgia.
David Senior is said to have moved from Georgia to Davidson Co., TN. One letter says he married circa 1780 and that she died about 1841 in Lowndes Co., MS . Next residence was between the Franklin Co. line and the Chickasaw nation. Letter says John L. Allen was a sub-agent of the Chicasaw Nation. then moved t o Lowndes Co., MS with his son, where he lived until his son’s wife died. He moved back to Alabama. Last pension payment was made period from Sept. 4, 1841 to March 4, 1842 at Huntsville, Alabama. Revolutionary War Certificate #6757.
[Refer to the Soelle assumption above and note the presumptions.] The family of David and Anna are living among the Moravians in NC, (Records of the Moravians). In the part of Surrey Co. that becomes Stokes. They were d oing a lot of building in Salem. The boards came from David’s saw-mill. Board s had to be hauled from the Landing Place on the Yadkin to Salem. March 4, 1769, wagons went to the Yadkin for boards for Salem. They had been cut at Mr. Allen’s saw mill, and floated down to Isaac Ferry’s Landing, but could not be hauled out across a field until the corn on it was ripe. In Allen settlement, the settlers were all Irish, a robed and plundered people, where peverty makes its elf at home. Milk and cornbread was the food practically all the time and not enough of that, for they are a fair skin people, to whom no one went, and it was more than 60 miles to the Yadkin. The Scots-Irish were temperament clannish, contentious, hard to get along with, well set in their ways. the prayer attrib uted to them was: “Lord, grant that I may always be right, for Thou knowest I am hard to turn.” Their thrift was proverbial. It has been said that the Scot s-Irish kept the Commandments of God — and everything else they could get their hands on.
August 1775, David Sr. spent five days hauling provisions and baggage for the Regulars on their expedition to Cross Creek at 15 provisions per day. By hauling provisions and baggage for Captain Walton’s company of Minute men when disarming Tories and on expedition to Cross Creek and conduction prisioners to Hillsboro on Dec 7, 1780. The last time older David is heard of; “Mr. Allen visited us this morning for the first and last time since he had been under treatment. In leaving, he expressed regrets that he had not been with us more often, Next day he left for home in a wagon brought by one of his sons.” Taken from Rowan Co., NCCourt Minutes.
Abstract of January 16, 1769 – Road Jury to lay out a road from Mr. David Allen’s Mill on the Great El kin along the East side of the Yadkin River to John Shoode Gentry above the Mor avian Town. Feb. 4, 1771, Road Jury lay out a road from Joseph Gentrue Fery on the South side of Yadkin River to Fox Knobbs leading to Allen’s Iron Works and on the North side to Salem.
There was a Gersham Allen in the first tax list s if Surrey Co. the older David Allen could easily have belonged to the Gersham set of Allen. The elder David Allen was wounded at Bethania in the Battle of Kings Mountain in North Carolina on Oct. 7, 1780 while taking provisions up mo untain to troops. Son, Adoniram Allen, might have stayed longer in New Jersey since his name didn’t appear on North Carolia tax lists until 1771. Adoniram paid for two – could be he married around this time (age was then 37 years). David served under his brother as a private in NC. Troops Lt. Adoniram Allen, Col. Martin Armstrong, Joel Lewis, Malmedy, Benjamin Cleveland and Micajoan Lewis was engaged in battles at Moores Creek Bridge, Sunb