Bio: Allen, Charles Levi (1914)

Contact: crystal@wiclarkcountyhistory.org

Surnames: Allen, Ellis, Pond, Buffington, Wescott, Murray, Thompson, Cook, Palmer, Ditson, Blaine, Davis, Meggett, Wickham, Farr, Henry, Manning, Bascome

----Source: History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin (1914) pages 625-629

Charles Levi Allen. It appears that I was born June 3, 1858, at Two Rivers, Manitowoc county, Wisconsin. My father was James Allen and my mother was Emily Gertrude (Pond) Allen. The family moved from Two Rivers to Eau Claire in the fall of 1859.

During the years of 1863 and 1864 father built the house on the corner of Seventh avenue and Menomonie street, which was the Allen homestead until after his death in 1904, when it passed to my sister, Mrs. Cora Ellis, and was then sold by her.

As early as fourteen years of age I began working in the mills, on the logs, etc. Eau Claire was a lumbering town and all the boys who had to work gravitated to the mills, logs and woods as a matter of course.

My first venture was packing shingles in "Buff's (G. A. Buffington) first mill, under the supervision of Mr. Russell Wescott, who "edged" or "jointed" the shingles with a jack knife. I packed shingles and did many other jobs in and around other mills. I worked nights in the spring on the sorting works on the river just above the log race to Half Moon lake, keeping fires in iron jacks with dry wood and powdered rosin so that the men sorting logs could read the marks on the sides and ends of the logs as they floated rapidly past them. While doing this work I slept forenoons and went to school afternoons. I also cooked on the rafts one summer, running from Eau Claire to Reed's Landing.

From among the boys of those early days came the expert swimmers, log drivers, lumbermen and raftsmen for which Eau Claire is famous. "We grew up on and in the river. A boy who could not swim, climb out of the water up over the end of a log and roll it till it spun like a top wasn't thought much of by the rest of the fellows.

John Murray and Abner Thompson, champion log rollers of the United States, were Eau Claire boys.

In August, 1875, I went to Florida with my brother Fred, John Cook, Hale Palmer and John Ditson, all well known in those days. Fred took up a homestead near where De Land was later located. I helped him cut and burn many acres of the finest kind of pine timber, to be replaced with orange trees.

In June, 1876, I returned home, filled with malaria and quite sated with the fun (?) of sleeping on the ground, eating my own cooking, fighting mosquitoes and drinking water seventy-five degrees warm. I worked in Shaw's mill till it froze up and went to school that winter.

The fall of 1877 I began teaching school in Koll's District, on Truax Prairie. In the spring I was given the principalship of the Ward School in the Bloody Sixth (now the Ninth Ward), with instructions from the School Board to get on top of the heap before I began teaching. The playful students had put my predecessor out the window. I taught there until 1880 and while teaching I kept up my work in the high school and graduated in June, 1879.

In the fall of 1880 I was transferred to the eighth grade in the high school building in the Seventh Ward. That grade had become turbulent.

The next fall I entered the University of Wisconsin and after four years of hard work I graduated from the modern classical course with a degree of B. L.

The summers of these college years were spent in selling rubber stamps, Blaine's "Twenty Years in Congress," accident insurance among the railroad men of Minnesota, introducing school books in county schools, etc., etc., to help out my slender fund saved from school teaching. I shall never forget the kindness shown me by Henry D. Davis in assisting me through the last year.

In the summer of 1885 I entered the law office of J. F. Ellis to study law and take an interest in his real estate business.

In the fall of 1889 I entered the College of Law at the university and in June, 1890, I graduated with the additional degree of L. L. B., having done the two years' work in one year.

Mr. Ellis and I then formed the law firm of Ellis & Allen, and I practiced law with him till December of 1892, when I left him, owing to our differing very radically in business methods.

Immediately my mother and I left for De Land, Fla., where my father, my brothers Fred and Will were engaged in business. Since my father was hurt in a railroad wreck in December, 1890, he had been unable to stand the long severe winters of the North, so had gone into the furniture business with Fred in that city.

Mother and I kept up the old home in Eau Claire, as she could not endure the long heated spells of the Florida summers.

The following June my mother and I reached home, having enjoyed a week at the Chicago Exposition as we came through.

I had planned to go into law practice in Portland, Oregon, in the fall of 1893, but Mr. Ellis offered to sell me his interest in the Southwestern Land Company, which we had organized in 1887, and after carefully considering the project for some weeks we closed the bargain September 1, 1893, and I took over the management and practical ownership of that company, together with about $30,000 of debts contracted by Mr. Ellis individually and for the company and sixteen law suits pending against him and the company. I settled most of these suits at once and started in to learn how to farm scientifically with tenants, a proposition filled with manifold trials, disappointments, much labor, study and hard work.

The old adage, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," seems at times to fit my case as I look back over the past twenty years.

The panic of 1893 was just beginning when I got under that load. I worked night and day and began to make good. Then followed suit after suit in quick succession by Mr. Ellis trying to regain the property. Mr. Alexander Meggett, who was nominal president of our company, advised me to fight. Litigation is often necessary and always expensive, even if one wins, and win I did almost invariably with Wickham & Farr as my attorneys. But, it cost me thousands of dollars to establish my right to the property. I have repeatedly attended the farmers' courses at the Agricultural College, sent many of my tenants, read extensively and experimented a great deal along agricultural lines and appreciate that I have but approached the threshhold of the wonderful science of farming, I am farming over three thousand acres.

In the past twenty years I have seen agricultural land double, triple and quadruple in value. Professor William A. Henry said to me in 1894: "Allen, hang on to your lands.'' I am still hanging to too many acres.

The old farmer-logger who just lived on his farm in summer, waiting for a winter in the woods, don't know yet that his farm is fine agricultural land and worth much money. There are many of him but his sons know.

Just now a number of gentlemen and myself are carrying a very heavy load of southern Louisiana alluvial lands, trying to hang on till times are better. I have a lot of Dakota land also, and am fully realizing what it means to be land poor, because I must hang on perforce.

In the summer of 1900 it was my good fortune to meet Miss Frances Manning, of Leavenworth, Kan., who was visiting relatives here and later succeeded in inducing her to be my wife. We were married December 30, 1901, at Leavenworth, Kan.

She was born at Blue Wing, N. C, July 10, 1882, where her father, William J. Manning, was trying to develop copper mines, which, in later years, after he had been compelled to leave them, owing to lack of funds, became very valuable.

The family moved from there to Toledo, Ohio, and later to Muskegon, Mich., where he died in August, 1898. In both of these cities Mr. Manning was engaged in the real estate business. His wife died the following spring, leaving her daughter Frances, sixteen years old, and son Van Vliet, of nine years, to be cared for by relatives.

Frances received her education at Muskegon and Lewis Institute of Chicago, from which she graduated in 1901 and went to Leavenworth, Kan., to live with her aunt.

Immediately after our marriage there, December 30, 1901, we left for St. Louis, New Orleans, Pensacola, Florida, Mobile, Tampa and De Land. From there we were suddenly called home by reason of the illness of my mother, who died September 2, 1902, at the age of seventy-seven years. She had been a devoted mother, sweet and lovable, a close follower of her Lord. She had willingly spent her life performing her daily duties that come to a mother of a large family, sustained through the many years of arduous pioneer life by her courage and the daily strength received from on high.

During the night of June 23, 1904, my father quietly passed away in his bed in De Land, Fla., without preliminary sickness, although he had never fully recovered from the injuries received in the railroad wreck. He was brought home and laid by the side of my mother.

My wife and I continued to live in the old Allen home after mother's death, and it was there that our first child was born to us, April 4, 1903 Ned Manning Allen.

In April, 1904, we left the old home in which I had spent my boyhood days and had grown to manhood and mature years, and moved into our present home, 818 Third avenue. Here there has been born to us Phillip Scott, February 10, 1905; William Arthur, May 8, 1908, and Charles Francis, October 29, 1911.

At the university, under the teaching of that grand good man John Bascome, I became a prohibitionist, and have ever since fought the saloon seven days of the week, even on election day, by voting against it. The masses of the people are catching step with us and the manufacture and sale of liquors as a beverage is doomed, and with God's help this nation will soon be freed from the devastation of the liquor traffic.

 

 


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