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Colonel Allensworth
1842 -1914

Born into slavery, Allen Allensworth escaped during the Civil War and served with the Union Army. After the war he and his brother operated two highly successful restaurants in St. Louis, while Allen also managed to continue his formal education. In 1871 Allen Allensworth became a minister, and in 1877 he met and married Josephine Leavel, a young school teacher and talented pianist and organist. In 1886. Allensworth accepted a commission in the Army as a Chaplain to serve in the all Black 24th Army Infantry. When Allensworth retired in 1906, he held the rank of lieutenant colonel and was not only the highest ranking Chaplain in the Army, but the highest ranking Black officer of this time.


After his retirement from the Army, Colonel Allensworth, Professor William Payne, and three other Black men decided to establish a self-governed town for Black people. They envisioned a place where Blacks could own property and achieve their full economic potential free from the discriminatory laws and practices of the time.

In 1908 Allensworth and Payne incorporated the California Colony and Home Protection Association and started looking for the best possible location for their town. The site finally selected was midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and had plenty of inexpensive farm land and several artesian wells.

The new town grew rapidly as enterprising Black men and women - nurses, business owners, educator, farmers, ranchers, retired soldiers and crafts people - purchased town lots, started farms and built homes. It was not long until the prospering town had a school, church, library, and post office. Allensworth's businesses included a hotel, machine shop, bakery, drug store, and barber shop.

In its heyday, Allensworth bustled with activity. The town was a railroad transfer point, providing a steady stream of customers for Allensworth's many businesses. The grain and cattle merchants of Allensworth used the railroad to move their products to market. While the town's shops and stores supplied day-to-day needs for living, the church and school provided for the spiritual and educational needs of the town's people. The women of Allensworth organized formal debates, concerts, plays, club meetings and other social activities that brought people together transforming the town into a closely-knit community.


In 1914, Colonel Allensworth was killed in an accident. The death of this dynamic leader was a severe blow to the town. While capable leaders stepped forward and kept things moving for a time, other problems doomed the community.

In the early years, access to plentiful supplies of good water was easy. As each year passed, growing agricultural demands increased up stream diversions and deep-well pumping throughout the San Joaquin Valley, lowering the natural water table. The result was a significantly diminished quantity and quality of water available to the people of Allensworth.

During these years, income associated with Allensworth railroad shipping business began to decline as trucks gradually replaced trains for transporting farm products to market. During the 1920s and 30s, many people were forced to seek work elsewhere. The draft and enlisted men needs of World War II called more of Allensworth's young men and often their families followed.


The downtown of Historic Allensworth is now preserved as Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. California's first historic park that recognizes the contributions made by Black pioneers to the development of California. The aim of the park is to perpetuate for public use and enjoyment of the township called Allensworth, dedicated to the memory and spirit of Colonel Allen Allensworth, a distinguished Black pioneer of California.



City of El Cajon - May 199
City of Fresno - May 1996
City of La Mesa - May 1996
National City - May 1996


Martin Luther King Day Parade - January 1995 15th and 18th year
United States Postal Services - February 1997

Certificates of Merit

Defense Center Material Area Office - February 1994
Defense Finance and Accounting Services - February 2000
California Department of Parks and Recreation - October 1996

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