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WILKES ALLEN 1775-1845


From Proceedings, Page 1873-258:

REV. WILKES ALLEN, CHELMSFORD, Unitarian. 1824-1827.

WILKES ALLEN was born in Sterling [Shrewsbury], Mass.; was graduated at Harvard College in 1801; was ordained pastor of a church in Chelmsford, November, 16, 1803, and died in 1845. He published a Thanksgiving discourse, entitled, "Divine Favors Gratefully Recollected," 1810; and a "History of Chelmsford, Mass.," to which is added a Memoir of the Pawtucket tribe of Indians, 1820.
— Sprague's Annals of American Pulpits, vol. viii. Note on page 58.

The following outline of the biography of this excellent man, a devoted Mason, and kind and able Christian minister, has been in the most friendly spirit furnished by one of his immediate descendants.

Rev. Wilkes Allen was born in the town of Shrewsbury, Worcester Co., Mass., July 10, 1775. His father was a farmer, and his mother a fruitful vine, having had twelve children. In his youth he toiled upon his father's acres of stony ground. When eighteen years of age he leit the farm for the carpenter's shop. As a mechanic, he was so faithful that his work still stands, a monument to his skill and industry. He knew, even then, how to use the compass and the square. And so through life his work must have been approved by the "GREAT MASON." He was religiously disposed in his early days. When quite a little fellow, six to seven years old, he bought a Bible by his own earnings in picking chestnuts, — a book he used through all his life. In it are his marks of texts, selected from time to time, in the course of his ministerial life. His last work, as a mechanic, was in building the pews in the church at Bolton, Mass. This duty but inspired him to mount the pulpit. At once he began to prepare for college at Andover Academy, then in charge of Mark Newman, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Here he wrote several poems; and, on leaving for college, gave a long valedictory in verse.

He entered Harvard College in 1797. During his collegiate course, he taught school in the winter season in the rural districts of the State; teaching not only the various branches then ordinarily taught, but also music. It was thus he acquired the means of defraying his collegiate expenses. He was graduated in 1801. During his college course he wrote and delivered several lengthy poems, — two at exhibitions, one at graduation, and one at a memorial service of his classmate, Pillsbury, who was drowned in Charles River. He began the study of divinity with his old pastor, Dr. Sumner, of Shrewsbury, Mass., and completed it with Rev. Dr. Thaddeus Mason Harris, of Dorchester, in whose pulpit he preached his first sermon. In 1803, he received and accepted a call to settle over the church and society in Chelmsford. Here he lived and spent the largest part of his useful life. His character was decided. No one had any doubt about his honesty of purpose. He was always trustworthy as a Christian minister, and as a free and accepted Mason.

He passed to the highest orders of the Craft existing in his day. He was Chaplain in several stages of his ascension, such as Chapters, etc. He delivered several Masonic discourses. One was published which was delivered before Pentucket Lodge, of which copies are extant. The course Bro. Allen pursued in the Morgan affair is distinctly remembered. Many Masons consulted him as to the conduct proper and safe for them to follow. His advice was, "Keep quiet; know nothing; say nothing; have no words, no discussions with those outside the camp." This counsel was fully appreciated and strictly followed.

He was highly respected as a Mason. He was faithful and trustworthy. He regulated his life, his actions, by the square, and kept his passions strictly within the circle drawn by the Mason's compass. At what time he became a Mason it is difficult to say. One of his sons remarks: "I remember in my early days (from 1816 to 1824), his going to Pentucket Lodge and to the Chapter located at Groton." It is thought that Brother Allen was initiated in Pentucket Lodge of Lowell; but its records would probably determine the fact.

His character as a Christian minister and a Christian Mason is remembered with filial reverence. It may not be improperly averred that a Christian Mason is but little less noble in character than a Christian minister. He was both, in the highest and best sense. He never officiated, it is believed, at a meeting of Free and Accepted Masons, without feeling that he was near that large EYE, who demanded humility and sincerity. His sincerity, humility, honesty and love were patent traits of his character.

Mr. Allen published a memorial sermon delivered after the death of Rev. Dr. Cummings of Billerica; also a Thanksgiving sermon. He wrote many hymns for special occasions, ordinations, installations, dedications of churches and school-houses. The last hymn he wrote was on the occasion of the dedication of a new school-house at North Andover.

As a minister of Christ he was sincere and earnest. He believed and practised what he preached. He was beloved by his ministerial brethren, and by the people of his charge. His body sleeps in their keeping in their cemetery, and his memory is held in grateful remembrance. Among his people he was the leader and the adviser, the wise and trusty counsellor; not only in religious matters, but in school affairs and agriculture. As early as in 1816 or 1817 Mr. Allen established a public library. He kept it in his own house. To his parochial duties he added that of teaching during four months of the year. He was an early preacher of temperance, and broke up some bad habits of his people, — such as offering alcoholic drinks after a funeral service and on festive occasions.

Like ministers of his day, and like Saint Paul, he worked with his own hands, and earned some of his bread by the sweat of his brow. His salary was small — five hundred dollars per annum — yet still he reared a family of five children, three of whom were graduates of Harvard College. In 1805 he was married to Mary, daughter of Deacon James Morrill, of Boston.

He retired from the church and society over which he was settled, with their benedictions in the form of a very generous pecuniary consideration, and with their good will and warm love. He felt that at the age of over sixty years, with deafness and other bodily infirmities, his days of activity and usefulness had passed. He gracefully retired to a small farm in Andover, where he spent the remainder of his days cultivating the soil, of which he was always very fond; and in aiding his feeble brethren or some destitute parish, to whom he cheerfully and gladly gave a day's labor of love and good will.

At the Communion Table, as he referred to the great love of God through Jesus Christ, his emotions often stopped his utterance; and funeral services were always sealed by his tears. Having lost his only two daughters when they were respectively three and five years of age, the burial service of children was a time when his emotions were deeply stirred, his tears flowed freely, his utterances were almost hushed, and all mourners felt sure that his soul was running over with loving sympathy for them, as undoubtedly it was. This was but natural, because he had a very warm and loving heart, and felt deep regret and sorrow at others' losses and woes.

The following anecdote is related by Dr. LeBaron, of Illinois, a friend of the family of Mr. Allen, to show the impressiveness of his prayers, even on little children : —

One of his grandchildren, then four years old, was on a few days' visit to his grandparents. He had never heard his grandpa pray. On the morning next after his arrival, his grandfather happened to be in an unusually fervent state of mind in his prayer, and prayed with remarkable unction even for him. The boy listened attentively, and was evidently strongly impressed. His ears were deeply intent on his grandpa's tones and words to the very close of the prayer; when he instinctively,and involuntarily and strongly exclaimed, "Grandpa, grandpa, you did well!" Mr. Allen was greatly pleased with this spontaneous outburst of admiration. The boy is now a man, and a preacher also.

Since what precedes was written, the writer has been favored from an authentic source, with additional information relative to the life and character of Bro. Allen, which is, in substance, as follows: —

His position of minister of Chelmsford, he resigned of his own free will; he feeling that his days of usefulness were passed. He was dismissed in 1835. His death occurred on the 2d of Dec, 1845, at the advanced age of 70. The cause of his death was from a fall down the stairs of his barn.

He had a fine perception of the beauties of the English, Greek and Latin classics. He urged several young men to secure a liberal education; and aided them in doing it. He had a large and unfailing supply of anecdotes, but he never related any one that would compromise his reverence for the Scriptures. As early as 1812 he preached strongly against intemperance.

Music afforded him great pleasure. He deeply enjoyed his own family circle, arranged occasionally as a band, in his own house. He not only sung, but played on the bass viol. Two of his sons played the flute, and one the bass viol.

He was a Unitarian of the old school, avoiding the extremes of Calvinism and Socinianism. Having served his age faithfully he departed this life, having perfect confidence in a glorious future. As he desired, his body was laid among the departed of his former flock, and the following words were placed upon his tombstone: —

"And thy soft wings, Celestial Dove,
Shall take me to the realms above."

He was followed to his grave by his four sons.

His printed works were : —

  1. A Thanksgiving Sermon;
  2. A Discourse at the Burial of Dr. Cummings, of Billerica;
  3. A Discourse to Pentucket Lodge; and
  4. The History of Chelmsford.

It is probable that other discourses were published.

Three of his five sons graduated at Harvard College, namely, Charles H., John C., and Nathaniel G. John C. died soon after graduating. At the dedication of the new school-house in the Centre District, North Andover, in 1840, tlie following hymn, written by him was sung: —

"Our fathers, near the house of prayer,
Mid penury and toil and care,
Rear'd the rude school-house, op'd the store
Of knowledge to the rich and poor.

"Their children, emulous to share
The honors of their fathers' care,
Rebuilt the house, improved the plan,
And finished what their sires began.

"To us the sacred trust is given,
To keep this precious boon of Heaven;
And send it down to those, who come
To fill our places, share our home.

"Two hundred suns their rounds have run,
Since here the school-boy's task begun;
Two hundred years have roll'd the tide
Of education far and wide.

"This house, the fruit of generous care,
To knowledge, truth, and God we rear;
And to his faithful keeping trust,
When those, who built it, sleep in dust.

"Here may the young instruction love;
And to the world the maxim prove,
The school-house and the temple stand,
The glory of our native land."

From Moore's Freemason's Monthly Magazine, Vol. V, No. 3, January, 1846, p. 93:

Pepperell, Dee. 15, 1845.

Sir Knight Moore,—Rev. Wilkes Allen, of North Andover, died December 3d, aged seventy years. The Order has lost one of its firmest supporters, and Christianity a brave defender. As one more link in the chain of fraternal affection has been severed by the tyrant death, it should remind us to have our armor on, and be ever ready to obey the summons with Christian fortitude, when our immortal souls shall take their flight to guard the watch- towers of our celestial home—" where we shall have no need of the light of the sun, or the moon, or the stars; for the Lord God is the light thereof."

Let us improve every moment in all that is noble, and holy—that our enemies, seeing our good works, will rise up, and hail the Institution, as the harbinger of Christianity, Charity, Peace and good will to every human being.

Yours, Fraternally,

Luther S. Bancroft.

Distinguished Brothers