John Kirby Allen

John Kirby Allen (1810-1838) was born in Canasareaugh, near Syracuse in the U.S. state of New York. He, along with his older brother, Augustus Chapman Allen, founded Houston, Texas in 1836. John Kirby Allen was never married. He died of congestive fever on August 15, 1838, and was buried at Founders Cemetery in Houston.

Early years

When he was seven years old, John took his first job, as a callboy in a hotel in Orrville. Three years later, he started working as a clerk in a retail shop. At sixteen, he formed a partnership with a friend operating a hat store at Chittenango, New York, where his brother, Augustus Chapman Allen, was professor of mathematics. In 1827, John cashed in his interest in the hat store and followed his brother to New York City, where they were investors in H. and H. Canfield Company until 1832. The brothers then moved to Texas.

In Texas

The Allen brother arrived first in Galveston, Texas and then moved to the small town of Saint Augustine. In 1833, John Allen and his brother associated with a group of entrepreneurs in Nacogdoches and started operating a business as land speculators.

During the Texas Revolution

Instead of joining the army when the Texas War of Independence started, John and his brother engaged in the business of keeping supply channels open. At their own expense they outfitted a ship, the Brutus, for the purpose of protecting the Texas coast and assisting troops and supplies from the United States to arrive safely in Texas

Nevertheless, some members of the Texas provisional government objected to the Allen brothers' activities, and there were rumors that they were engaged in privateering. In January 1836, they sold the Brutus to the Texas Navy, and it became only the second ship in the fledgling Texas navy. John and Augustus Allen continued to raise money and operate as receivers and dispensers of supplies and funds for the war effort without charge. In spite of the brothers' services, gossip and censure were aimed at the Allens because they were not in the armed services.

In politics

In September 1836, after the Texas Revolution, John Allen was elected as a representative from Nacogdoches to the Republic of Texas Congress. There, he served on the president's staff with the rank of major. It was during this political service that John and his brother Augustus founded the city of Houston. He also continued to operate a shipping business during this time, along with his partner, James Pinckney Henderson.

In Congress, John Allen successfully lobbied to have the newly founded city of Houston named as the capital of the Republic. This gave Houston the boast it needed to survive its first years of initial development.


Several Houston landmarks, including Allen Parkway, Allen Center as well as Allen's Landing Park, immortalize the name of the city's founders. In addition, Kirby Drive, which connects to Allen Parkway, is also named after John Kirby Allen. Allen's descendants are spread throughout the United States. The vast majority of his remaining family lives in Arlington Texas, under the name of Wingard.


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