Biography of Oliver Allen
Marin County, CA Biographies





Oliver Allen. The subject of this memoir was born in Windham county, Connecticut, on the 29th day of January, 1804. Here he received his early education and learned the trade of a cabinet maker from his father, who was a large manufacturer of furniture. At the age of sixteen years he was scent to the Southern States as a traveling agent for his father's manufactured goods, in which agency he was quite successful. Returning after an absence of about a year, he went to work again at his trade in his father's shop, and at the age of twenty one went to New York to perfect his knowledge of the furniture business; on the completion of his time in the city, he established himself in the furniture business at Norwich, Connecticut, in which he continued for several years. He then opened a machine shop, which was destroyed by fire. After the catastrophe which had deprived Mr. Allen of all his property, he was appointed Inspector of steamboats, boilers and engines for the State of Connecticut, under the first United States law providing for such inspectors. He was also employed by Colonel Potter, of the United States engineering corps, who was then engaged in improving the channels of the river Thames and the Connecticut river. The surveys for this work were performed by Mr Allen, and while he was engaged in this and similar work at other points for about two years, he made importaint discoveries affecting machinery used in steam dredging which became of great practical use and value. At this period he entered into a partnership with Messrs. Randall & Haskell, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and K H. Holmes, of South Windam, Connecticut, for the purpose of carrying on the business of steam dredging, the deepening of channels, canals, and other work requiring submarine excavations. During the next few years in which Mr Allen was engaged in the business, he received several patents for improvement in dredging apparatus which he had originated and perfected. He caused to be constructed a number of dredging machines with many novel and improved patterns. The business of this company was carried on quite extensively and successfully, both in the United States and Canada. Mr. Allen afterwards disposed of his interest in this business, and his attention being called to the many risks and danger s incurred by the whalemen, he determined, if possible, to furnish them with some implement or method whereby many of their difficulties might be avoided, and, after considerable study and many experiments, he succeeded in producing a "bomblance," which was the first explosive projectile ever used in killing whales. These bomblances have been, and are now, used almost universally by whalemen in all parts of the world, and have been the means of saving many valuable lives, as well as being a great aid to a very important industry. In April, 1849, the subject of this sketch joined a company of sixty members, who bought the "May Flower," and, after loading her with an assorted cargo, started for the then new gold region of California; they had a fair passage, with the exception of a very severe storm which occurred off Cape Horn on the 4th of July, arriving at San Francisco in September, 1849, having made the trip from New Bedford in five months and thirteen days. Before leaving the East, the company had purchased the river steamboat "Lawrence," which, under the superintendence of Mr. Allen, was taken apart and with all her machinery was stowed away in the hold of the "May Flower," and after their arrival in San Francisco the ship sailed to the mouth of the San Joaquin river, at a point known as New York, where the steamer was taken out and rebuilt under the direction of Mr. Allen, and was the first steamboat that ever reached Stockton. The company above referred to retained its organization for some months after their arrival in California, during which time they carried on different mining operations in both the northern and southern mines, in each of which they were only moderately successful. The property of the company was finally sold and the proceeds divided among the members, to the satisfaction of all. During the Winter of 1849-50, Mr. Allen was employed by Col. Stevenson on certain surveys at the mouth of the San Joaquin river, after the completion of which he spent some time in the mines of Tuolumne county, but after a while found his way back to San Francisco, and very soon went into a farming operation in Tuolumne county, but after losing three crops in succession, two by floods and one by drouth, and having his house and about all he possessed destroyed by fire, he concluded to abandon that enterprise and make a trip East, which he did by way of the Isthmus, in the Summer of 1882, and after spending some four or five months with his family, returned to California. He was soon after engaged to reconstruct two saw mills at Bolinas, Margin county, which was done to the satisfaction of the owners. At about this time his family, consisting of his wife and two sons, arriving from the East, he bought a house and claim to a piece of land and mill site on Daniel's creek, Margin county. This place was afterwards sold to Messrs. Taylor Post, who who built thereon the Pioneer Paper Mill, the first paper mill ever operated on this coast. Mr. Allen aided in the construction of the mill, and for about two years following was engaged in various ranching and mechanical operations, and in 1859 moved with his family to Point Reyes, Margin county, and engaged in the business of dairying. In the year 1865, he purchased, in company with his son Charles D. Allen, a tract of land of about two thousand acres in Nicasio township, Margin county, which they improved and made one of the best appointed dairy ranches on this coast. In 1875 he sold his interest in the ranch to his son Charles and moved to Petaluma, where he has since been and is at present residing. While in the dairy business, Mr. Allen was the inventor of an improved butter worker and a butter mold, both of which are now in general use among the dairymen of this State and elsewhere. He is also the patentee and manufacturer of Allen's improved fracture bed, which has proved a very useful and complete appliance for the treatment of fractures of the thigh, and is also of great service in the treatment of other surgical cases. Mr Allen was married March 18, 1827, to Miss J. C. Goodspeed, of East Haddam, Connecticut. There were born to them five children, two daughters and three sons; only two of the children, the two youngest boys, reached the age of manhood and only the youngest, Charles D., is now living, his eldest brother having died at Point Keyes at the age of twenty five. Mrs. Allen died at Petaluma March 23, 1879, at the age of seventy five years, and after a married life of more than fifty two years.

From:
History of Marin County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, California 1880


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