Allen, Henry Clay, was born in the county of Pittsylvania, Virginia, on November 4, 1844, and his parents were James Green Allen and Lavicia Forest Vaiden. His father was a farmer noted for his honesty, his painstaking and practical character, being a kind father and a good neighbor. His paternal grandfather was Welcome Allen, whose wife was a Burton, and his maternal grandfather was Sylvester Vaiden, whose wife was a Chatten.
His early life was passed on a farm, and his mother being left a widow he had to commence the active work of life at the tender age of nine years. He plowed, went to mill and shop, and did other farm work, when he was not at school. Nevertheless, he made the best of his meagre educational advantages, and put in all his spare time on reading. He read history and biography, and tried in every way to improve his mental powers. Any aspirations for a collegiate education were blighted, however, by the breaking out of the War between the States. In March, 1862, he enlisted as a private in the 38th Virginia regiment, Pickett's division, and served three years and one month till the close of the war.
He returned home, and renewed his labor on the farm, and became one of the most successful tobacco growers in his county. In 1893 he was elected a member of the board of supervisors, and remained in that position for six years. In 1897 he was placed on the Democratic ticket for the house of delegates by the county executive committee to fill a vacancy just twenty days before the election; and though he made no canvass, he received several hundred more votes at the polls than two of the regular candidates nominated by the county convention. In the legislature he distinguished himself by a resolution regarding the oyster industry. The auditor's report showed that previous to the session of 1897-98 the oyster industry not only paid no revenue to the state, but often brought the state in debt. Immediately after that session the state began to receive a handsome revenue from this industry, which was due in large measure to legislation suggested or drafted by the special committee appointed under a resolution proposed by Mr. Allen and adopted by the house.
In 1903, Mr. Allen took an active part in perfecting a permanent organization of the tobacco growers of Pittsylvania County as a branch of the Inter-State Tobacco Growers' Protective Association of Virginia and North Carolina. At the first meeting in Danville, against his protest and wishes, Mr. Allen was chosen president, and while filling that office was very efficient and active.
Other positions came to him unsought and unexpectedly. For many years he has been connected with public and private school work, and he is at present one of the directors of the Chatham Savings bank, the oldest and strongest bank in the county.
In his religious connections Mr. Allen is a member of the Presbyterian church, and in politics he is a Democrat, who has never changed his party ties nor failed to vote at every election since he was twenty-one. Formerly he was a great hunter of birds and other game, but at his present age he finds relaxation in such amusements as checkers and croquet. Asked to offer some suggestions to young men as to the principles, methods and habits likely to strengthen the ideals of American life, and be helpful to them in the attainment of true success, he replies:
“I have trained four boys, now grown men; my greatest ambition was to instill into them the importance of honesty and veracity, and of keeping the confidence of men, in which I have been successful. My parents praised me from a small boy for doing whatever I did well. I can offer no better suggestion to young men commencing life.”
In estimating the strength of the influences which have molded his life, Mr. Allen ranks private study and contct with men of affairs as of most importance.
He has been twice married — first to Elizabeth Taylor, on November 7, 1867, by whom he had nine children, eight of whom are living, and second, to Ora Graves, on December 3, 1901, by whom he has had three children, two of whom are (1908) living.
His address is Dry Fork, Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.