Penelope Johnson Allen


Penelope Johnson Allen, Indian historian, genealogist and member of a pioneer Chattanooga family, died this morning at a local hospital.
      She had been a resident of the Life Care Center of East Ridge for the past seven years.
    Mrs. Allen, who celebrated her 98th birthday on October 27, was one of the first women in the state to run for the Legislature.
    In the 1930s, she was the director of a statewide project to copy and preserve important Tennessee historical records.
    For many years she wrote a newspaper column called "Leaves From the Family Tree" that gave the lineage of many local families. These columns are now in book form.
    She was one of the foremost experts in the country on the Cherokee Indians, having made a number of trips to Oklahoma to purchase some of their historical documents.
    Many such valuable historical papers now in the state library at Nashville, the Lawson-McGhee Library in Knoxville and other libraries in the state were collected by Mrs. Allen.
    Mrs. Allen remained actively interested in history and genealogy until the last months of her life, and at age 96 she was teaching a genealogy class for fellow nursing home residents.
    Her great-grandfather was Col. James A. Whiteside, a Chattanoogan who was a member of the Legislature and was a leader in the development of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. He was also active in developing Lookout Mountain.
    Her Grandparents were Col. Abraham Malone Johnson and Thankful Whiteside Johnson.  Col. Johnson was also active with railroads and in the development of the water system for Chattanooga.
    He was the developer of St. Elmo, the longtime home of Penelope Johnson Allen.
    Mrs. Allen was born Oct.27, 1886, the daughter of James Johnson and Sue Cleage.  Jim Johnson was an official at the county courthouse.
    Mrs. Allen graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1904. That same year she represented St. Elmo in the Chattanooga Spring Festival, earning the title of "Queen of Love and Beauty."
    She continued her schooling at Mrs. Starrett’s School in Chicago, then she attended Western College at Oxford, Ohio, for three years.
    She returned to St. Elmo and taught at North St. Elmo Elementary School.
    She married Samuel Boyd Allen and moved to Knoxville, then Tate Springs, TN, then Williamsburg, VA.
    During World War I, Mrs. Allen worked in the Du Pont shell loading plant in Penniman, VA, where she was an assistant to the supervisor in large caliber area.
    She returned to Chattanooga in 1919 to take a job with the Chattanooga News. She was society editor, general assignment reporter, courthouse reporter, political writer, magazine editor, sports reporter, and advertising sales representative.
    She was active in the movement to win voting rights for women, making a number of trips to Nashville in the effort.
    In May of 1922, she was nominated by the Hamilton County Democratic executive committee as a candidate for the Legislature. She lost in a close election.
    During this post World War I period, she was active in a variety of clubs, including the Kosmos Woman’s Club and the Garden Club of Chattanooga. She was active in the Episcopal  Church.
    She was named state historian of the Tennessee Daughters of the American Revolution and state press chairman of the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs.
    She toured historic spots across the country in a national position with the DAR.
    In 1923, Mrs. Allen took a position as a traveling advertising agent for the Chattanooga Medicine Company (Chattem), following a route that took her throughout the South. During this time she visited every  county seat in the Southeast.
    In 1929, she became publicity agent for Chickamauga Park, the in 1933 she joined The Chattanooga Times, where she concentrated on the Leaves From The Family Tree articles.
    Later she initiated and directed the program for copying county records across Tennessee, acting under a Works Progress Administration grant.
    She stated, "We found the old documents dumped in closets, piled in halls, and in all sorts of situations. One county had piled its early records in an old barn."
    The result of this project is over 1500 volumes of Tennessee county records in the state library, much of which would otherwise have been lost.
    After World War II, Mrs. Allen was active in the Volunteer Chapter U.S. Daughters of 1812, state president of USD 1812, the Hamilton County Historical Society, the Tennessee Historical Society, the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Chattanooga  Area Historical Association and the Junior League.
    She was also active in the Chattanooga Business and Professional Women’s Club and the National Society Colonial Dames of America and Daughters of Colonial Wars.
    Mrs. Allen worked with the Society for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities in the restoration of the Cravens House on the side of Lookout Mountain.
    She published a book about Tennessee Soldiers in the American Revolution and another volume about Tennessee soldiers in the War of 1812.
    She also wrote "Historic Chattanooga: A  Guide Book."
    She compiled a book about the Johnson and Whiteside families and related families.
    In all her history and genealogy dealings, Mrs. Allen insisted on strict accuracy.
    Mrs. Allen was chairman of a project to design a flag for St. Elmo Elementary School.
    In 1962, the Tennessee Society of the Daughters of 1812 voted an endowment fund in her honor.
    An oil portrait of Mrs. Allen was unveiled in 1970 at a luncheon meeting of the Chattanooga Area Historical Association. The portrait, now in the state library at Nashville, will soon appear in a special exhibition of paintings of prominent Tennessee women.
    Mrs. Allen was among a group of six distinguished authors honored in 1976 by the dedication of trees in Audubon Acres.
    Survivors are one daughter, Penelope Allen Moore, Virginia Beach, VA.; one brother, A.M. Johnson, Chattanooga; one sister, Helen J. Flower, Columbus, Ohio; four grandchildren, Peter F. Moore, Charlotte, NC, Penelope M. Blankenship, Florence, AL, Alexander B. Moore, Redding Conn., and Helen M. Maroon, Virginia Beach, VA., and eight great-grandchildren.
    Memorial Contributions may be made to the Thankful Memorial Episcopal Church and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library.
    The body was to be at the West Chapel of the Chattanooga Funeral Home.
Chattanooga News-Free Press   Wednesday, January 9, 1985

Submitted by Helen Maroon