A tailing tale of Alonzo & Mary Allen

alonzoallenColorado Pioneers

By Maggie Magoffin

Alonzo Nelson Allen was born in 1820 to John and Anna (Greenleaf) Allen on a farm near Seneca, New York. A quiet man, hard of hearing, he rarely discussed his early years. In his twenties, he relocated to Ohio and later to Columbus, Wisconsin where he farmed and operated a mill.

In 1847 Alonzo married Mary Ann (Harris) Dickens, a local widow with a small farm. Mary Ann had sailed to America from England in 1843 with her husband William Henry Dickens and daughter Eliza. Their son, William, was born during the voyage on May 26, 1843. Homesteading in their new land, Mary later gave birth to their third child, Maria, and in 1847 William, Sr. died at the age of 27.

The Allen’s grew quite prosperous with Alonzo’s farming, mill operation, and as owner of several quarries. The couple had another five children: Mary, Rodophus (Doll), George, Charles, and Alonzo Harris.

With the Panic of 1857 crushing the family financially, in 1859 Alonzo set out for the gold fields of Colorado and the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. He settled next to St. Vrain Creek where he built a 12×18 foot, mud-chinked log cabin with a stone fireplace.

Soon after settling in Colorado, Alonzo’s step-son William Dickens arrived and together they homesteaded a tract of land and began cultivating hay. The hay, all cut and raked by hand, was hauled to the mining towns in the mountains where it was stored in stagecoach-team barns and sold at exorbitant prices.

In 1863, when Mary and the Allen’s six minor children arrived it was soon determined the cabin was not large enough to house everyone. The family set up camp along the river next to the cabin until the Overland Stage Company gave Mary Ann a contract to have Alonzo build a stage station. Soon Mary Ann was feeding stage passengers and the Allen’s business became quite successful. In 1865, the original three-room station was replaced by a new seven-room frame house. In 1868, William Dickens built a two-story building. The upper floor was for dances and entertainment, all catered by Mary Ann Allen.

In 1864, while mining around Left Hand Creek, Alonzo discovered the area now known as Allen Park. He continued mining near Longmont for a number of years, during which time he made and lost fortunes.

In 1871, Alonzo and William joined the “Chicago-Colorado Colony” a creative venture that marketed Denver Pacific Railroad expansion opportunities to wealthy Chicago investors and raised funds for the creation of a new city called Longmont. Alonzo, William, and the entire Allen family proudly moved their home and businesses from Saint Vrain Creek into Longmont. Even the children pitched in, staking out the prospective settlers’ lots until the land was surveyed and plotted.

Alonzo assisted in the building of saw mills and grist mills. He raised stock and continued his mining endeavors near Left Hand Creek, spending his last days in Routt and Boulder Counties. Alonzo Nelson Allen died in 1895 at the age of 78 years.

The Allen cabin on Saint Vrain Creek eventually burned to the ground. In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution unveiled a marker near the sight. The inscription read “1860-1928 – The site of the first log cabin in the St. Vrain Valley lies 200 feet west of this marker. The cabin was built by Alonzo N. Allen and used as a stage station for the Overland Trail.”

Reference Resources

  The Real Pioneers of Colorado, by Marla Davies McGrath.

From Maggie

The first two books of my Misadventures of the Cholua Brothers series are available at Mountain Menagerie on Main Street in Central City, Colorado; at,, and The third and final book in the series, Bonanza Beans, will be available December 2016.

For past columns and other information on my speaking engagements, book releases, and events visit me at

I’m always looking for interesting stories about Colorado pioneers and local folk instrumental in the founding and/or development of Gilpin County. If you have stories about family members or friends to share, please contact me at or send snail mail to Maggie Magoffin, P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80003.

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