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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Allen Family

Born into slavery in the state of Georgia, William Allen was freed following the Civil War and moved to Kansas and, later, to Oklahoma. Regardless of his place of residence, Allen could not escape the racism and prejudice prevalent in the southern United States. In Oklahoma, he had a violent encounter with eight members of the Ku Klux Klan and nearly lost his life. The incident finally convinced Allen that he was not safe in Oklahoma: the only logical solution was to head north.

In 1909, he set out for Keystone, Alberta with his wife Mattie and their five children, Lee, Harry, Pearl, Mattie, and Bertie. Upon their arrival, Harry and Lee started their own homestead. Promising them quality farmland and a life free of discrimination, William Allen recruited 35 families, including members of the King family, to settle in and around Keystone. More settlers began to arrive in 1910 and, within a few years, Keystone was home to 52 Black families—about 200 people.

William Allen was active in the community and helped build Funnell School and Good Hope Baptist Church. In fact, the initial meeting to discuss plans to build the Good Hope Baptist Church was held at the Allen house. Allen was appointed treasurer, and his son, Harry, became secretary of the board.

The Allens were instrumental in securing a cemetery for Keystone. In 1910, Harry Allen donated land from his homestead for the cemetery in which his father was later buried.

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