New York State Library
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William W. Allen
Papers, 1841-1871


Quantity: 2 boxes (0.50 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Transfer from the Office of New York State Historian, January 1950
Processed By: Manuscripts and Special Collections, ca. 1970s; revised December 2010

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Biographical Note:

William W. Allen was a man of various abilities. He read Greek and Latin with ease wrote essays, poems and fiction, tried his hand at sketching, and served as a minister. He was born in 1829, and raised in Rensselaerville, New York. He graduated from Williams College in 1849, and in 1850 was a teacher in New Lebanon. In 1853 William Allen was licensed to preach in the Baptist Church in Canaan.

Allen married Cornelia Niles of Rensselaerville in 1855, a lady with literary interests, and served as minister in Sand Lake and Schodack through 1857. In 1858 he was in Keokuck, Iowa, but his religious views relating to baptism and communion led to charges of heresy in 1859, and in 1860 he became pastor of the Congregational Church in Iowa City. He served there until 1864, when he went to Council Bluffs, where he resigned because of ill health in 1865. He returned to Rensselaerville, and preached there and in Livingstonville from April to November 4, 1866. He was committed to the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, and died there before November 27, 1866.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection contains material of both a personal and professional nature. A majority of the material originated with Allen's ministry. Included are books of baptism and marriages, sermons, lists of members of local churches, and Sunday school lesson plans. Also included are photographs, religious pamphlets, letters regarding Allen's wedding and some samples of Allen's writing and sketches. There is a limited amount of material from Mrs. Allen. This material includes essays and poetry and an autograph book.  The content of this collection has been arranged into five series as described in more detail below.

Series I: Ministry, 1856-1864

This series consists of various records created by Allen in the course of his duty as a minister of the gospel. Included are books of marriages and baptisms performed by Allen, lists of members of the various churches of which he was pastor, plans of sermons and Sunday school lessons, correspondence relative to calls and dismissals at various churches in New York State and Iowa, and a large amount of correspondence and clippings relative to his views on baptism and communion.

Series II: Personal Papers, 1841-1866

This series includes several items of an exclusively personal nature relative to W.W. Allen. Included are Allen's license to preach, a letter from Allen to Rev. Mr. Smith inviting him marry Allen to Cornelia Niles, account sheets of the accounting the estate of J.O. Allen, the rules of the Flat Brook Literary Society written in Allen's hand, a description of Canaan by Allen written in 1841, a photograph of Allen, the registration paper for Allen's commitment to the New York State Lunatic Asylum, and the bill for Allen's coffin.

Series III: Writings and Sketches, 1847-1850

This series exemplifies Allen's activities as an educated, cultured man of his era. Included in this series is Allen's commonplace book, begun in 1847 while he was attending Williams College in Massachusetts. The commonplace book contains essays, poetry, a journal, and translations of epigrams from Greek and Latin. Other items in this series include essays written by Allen on various topics including metaphysics, the modern British essayists, the advantages of moderation, translations of classical essays by Homer and Virgil, and a sketch book of European pastoral scenes done by Allen in pencil.

Series IV: Cornelia Niles Allen Papers, 1841-1871

Cornelia Niles Allen was a literate and culturally active individual much like her husband.  This series provides evidence of her literary talents. Among the items in this series are five separate issues of "The Garland," a handwritten literary magazine from Rensselaerville, New York, of which she was co-editor.  Also included are several items of correspondence, books of poetry, and two letters relating to the shipment of hospital supplies by a local missionary society that Mrs. Allen was involved with during the Civil War.

Series V: Sermons, ca. 1856-1863

This collection also includes approximately 100 individual sermons written by William W. Allen that he delivered to his congregations. The sermons average twenty 6-inch by 8-inch pages and discuss various religious issues including morality and man's duty to God.

Container List/Inventory

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Ministry, 1856-1864
Book of Baptisms, 1856-61. Book of Marriages, 1856-63. Book with plan of sermons, diary, and record of members of Presbyterian Church in Rensselaerville for 1810-64. Sunday school lesson plans. Book of members of a Sunday school. Book: List of Members of the First Baptist Church of Sandlake, N.Y. List of Members of the Baptist Church in Schodack, 1855-56. Correspondence relative to calls and dismissals at various churches in New York and Iowa.
1 2 Personal Papers, 1841-1866
Picture of Allen. Letters concerning his wedding. Regulum of the Flat Brook  (Columbia County), Literary Salmagundi. Price lists of books, bills, financial statements.
1 3 Writing and Sketches, 1847-1850
1 4 Papers of Mrs. Allen, 1841-1871
Autograph book. Essays and poetry. Correspondence relative to church, related work, including 2 letters from a church society member dispensing medical supplies and fresh fruit in the Civil War.
1 5 Miscellany
1860 botany class notes of Charles M. Niles. Business cards, religious pamphlets, musical programs, obituary notice (pamphlet) of Asa Starkweather, tuition charges, menu, notes of sermon by Mr. Anderson.
Sermons, ca. 1856-1863
Last Updated: January 13, 2022