Ellis Allen, Hero of the Abolitionist Movement
Ellis Allen was an important figure in the abolitionist movement; his name deserves to be alongside Garrison and Douglass in the history books. His home was part of the Underground Railroad.
The following originally appeared in March 2013 edition of The Portal, the monthly newsletter of the Medfield Historical Society. It was written by Town Historian Richard DeSorgher.
Ellis Allen was the third of eight children born to Phineas Allen and Ruth Smith. Born in 1792, he lived at 260 North Street, which was known as the Allen Homestead.
According to William Tilden, “The longevity of this family is something remarkable, developed through several generations—neither so wealthy as to tempt to idleness or dissipation, or so poor as to debar from healthful social enjoyments and good living.
Death did not enter this circle of brothers and sisters for a period of 75 years. Neither were his children called to mourn the death of parent, brother or sister for over 50 years.” In 1814, Ellis married Lucy Lane of Scituate and they had eight children.
Ellis became very involved in the abolitionist movement, which brought him into Boston and to lectures by William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society and editor of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. He would form a friendship with Garrison that would last his lifetime.
Ellis began inviting Garrison out to 260 North Street and began holding anti-slavery meetings there. Among the many speakers was Frederick Douglass--the former slave, anti-slavery orator and author of the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass.
The Allen Homestead became a frequent meeting place for abolitionists and a safe stop on the Underground Railroad.
Allen housed, clothed and fed fugitive slaves on their way to Canada, even though there was a $100 fine for doing so. If an anti-slavery meeting was scheduled to be held, and no minister would announce it from the pulpit, Allen would rise and read the announcement. Ellis' son Nathaniel followed closely in his father's footsteps and was also active in the Abolitionist Movement. It was reported that he would drop whatever he was doing to take a slave from 260 North Street on to the next stop on his route to Canada.
Ellis Allen stands today as an important figure in the abolitionist movement, whose name deserves to be alongside Garrison and Douglass in the history books, and 260 North Street stands as a historical landmark on the Underground Railroad. During his last years, he resided with his sons at West Newton, where he died in 1875.
Former Medfield Tree Warden Ellis Allen is a direct descendant of this Ellis Allen.
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