History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.


This is another one in a series of accounts of the early life in this area as written by early settlers. This one concerns the life of Professor I. E. Allen who was one of the earliest school men of this area. He taught a number of terms of school in this county. His richest bequest to posterity perhaps though lies in the worthy descendants he has left to carry on.

This comes to me from his granddaughter, Mrs. Johnnie T. Barnes, who is the daughter of the Stephen Decatur Allen mentioned in this account.


Brent, Florida; November 19, 1909


"I was born on the third of January 1828, in Jones County, Georgia. My parents moved to Conecuh County, Alabama, before I was old enough to know anything.

"In 1836 our family moved to the '13 mile house', now known as the 'Old Sheppard Place'; and we lived there until 1846, at which time we moved to Bogia, 32 miles north of Pensacola.

"From the fact that my parents thought that I would never live to manhood, I was ten years old before I was taught the alphabet. I remember I learned my letters in one day, and I was so joyful in consequence, I said them in every room in the house, after which I went out into the yard, and then into the road, and finally into the cowpen and climbed upon the fence and repeated my letters over and over again.

"Our nearest neighbor was five miles, therefore, my mother hired a teacher by the name of P. J. Carlos to teach my brother, three sisters and myself in our dining room for a term of three months. Two or three years later, Mother hired another teacher to teach us three months, making in all six months that I attended school before I was 21 years old. My mother was a highly educated lady and, of course, I had the advantage of her instruction at odd times.

When I was twenty-one, a fine school was opened within one mile of our house. Professor J. W. Hall was the teacher.

"I went to the teacher and told him that I wished to enter school with the understanding that I would continue if I could learn, but if I proved to be too old, I would drop out and pay for the time in attendance.

"Before two weeks had elapsed I was making rapid progress in my studies, and sold all I had in the world (a horse, a bridle, and a saddle) to one of our neighbors for $70.00, and went to school ten months on the proceeds. Before the term was out, I had a call from a neighborhood, and agreed to take a three months term, which I taught out to the satisfaction of all patrons; but strange to say only two or three of my pupils learned anything of value! I was induced to take a second term, and I unconsciously fell in love with one of my brightest pupils and about one month after the close of the school I was married to Pamillia Kelley, one of my pupils.

"I had gone through so many studies and had gained a reputation as a fine scholar. I decided to try something more lucrative than teaching; consequently, I bought a small sawmill on credit, intending to make it pay for itself. Lo! and behold, when I put my education to a practical test I found myself at sea without a rudder! I found my education all of the memory and not of the understanding. I had been taught neither rules nor analysis, and could not solve the simplest problems in my business and know my answers were correct. Yet, it was said that I was one of the best teachers in the country!

'After becoming convinced that I had not been educated for business, I resolved to find out some rule upon which I could depend in order to know I had the required answer. I sold out my small business and went to teaching and studying again, and I am happy to say, I, after teaching and studying fifty-nine years, am still improving in my work as teacher.

"In the rural schools, I find not more than one pupil in a dozen can repeat the multiplication table up to the 12th line without making a mistake. The pupils are required to memorize page after page of their textbooks without being able to understand half the words of the lesson; and when they are called up to recite, some of the bright pupils will answer all of the questions and another lesson is assigned to the class, while more than half of the class know nothing of the lessons recited!

" hold that our rural public schools are chargeable with these failures. We all know that, next to being an intelligent reader, everybody should be able to solve by the four common rules any practical problems that can come before him. Another trouble is: pupils are not taught the nature and power of letters and the correct method of spelling words. Teachers should require their pupils to spell some of the words in every lesson taught.

"I have written more than I intended; therefore, I will close with these observations: The first and principal cause of the school's trouble is that parents have ceased to control their children at home. Discipline is an indispensable means of teaching. Another cause of failure is the number of subjects taught. They attempt to teach everything and really teach nothing thoroughly. Every citizen in our land should be taught to read and to understand every word in a spoken or written discourse.

"Elocution should be taught at mother's knee, and kept up in the schoolroom. We should have eloquent readers as well as eloquent speakers. Every teacher should know the scale of music and be required to teach the same at least once a day. I find not more than one person in a dozen that can pronounce every word, make the proper pauses and inflections, and emphasize the proper words in a single sentence in order to draw out the meaning of the writer. Every teacher should be required to take the following oath: 'I, , do solemnly swear that I will teach in any school to which I may be assigned, to the best of my knowledge and ability, giving equal rights to all and special privileges to none, so help me God.' All other public officials have to be sworn in, and why not teachers?

"Inasmuch as I have confined my labors to the poor country people, I am financially a failure; but I have the joy of knowing I have imparted not to hundreds but to thousands of my fellow creatures, a practical knowledge of spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, and geography; and I know too, that when I arrive at the pearly gates, my Saviour will say, 'He is one that has come up through much tribulation."

(Mr. Allen and his first wife were the parents of Laura Agnes, Richard Montgomery, Stephen Decatur, Alexander Hamilton and Alice Clara. Mrs. Allen passed away in 1884.)

(In June 1885, Mr. Allen married Mrs. Mary Thornton Jackson, a widow of Eufaula, Alabama. They had four children: Eiland Anderson, R. E. Buford, Annine McDavid and Mallory Johnson.)  

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