GaspeeVirtual Archives
Captain Paul Allen (1742-1800)

The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the
1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM.  Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on one who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to webmaster@gaspee.org.
Evidence implicating Paul Allen:

The source of the name of Paul Allen comes from Robinson, Natalie: Revolutionary Fire: The Gaspee Incident, 1984, RI Committee for the Humanities.  The author is no longer reachable for us to get her research notes, and how she came across his name.  It might be assumed that Paul Allen was named by John Howland, the first director of the RI Historical Society in 1839. Howland had been a boy of 11 or 12 years old during the Gaspee Affair, but claimed to have been there when the boats put off from Providence for the attack in June 1772. Howland later gave the names of individuals he knew were in the raid, and he grew up among many of them.  Paul Allen is not otherwise listed by anyone else with firsthand knowledge as being in the attacking party.

Having said all that, the following snippet is submitted to firmly establish the name of Paul Allen as a Gaspee raider.  From the Rhode Island Republican of August 26, 1824, p1 "Miscellany. From the Providence American. Olden Times": [recounts the Gaspee affair]

Paul Allen, Esq. who had heard the story from his boyhood, and whose father was one of the party, gives the following imperfect account of the transaction, in his History of the Revolution......
Biographical notes:

Paul Allen, 1785We know very little about this individual who we acknowledge as a true revolutionary patriot. The following snippets are all we have gathered. We find that Paul Allen was a merchant in Providence at the time.  At one point he was in a business partnership with a Samuel W. Bridgham and this partnership was dissolved in July, 1800. From a block ad in the Providence Gazette, August 1, 1772, page 4, typical of his ads:

To be Sold by
Paul Allen

at the corner shop next the Great Bridge

Choice French Indico
by the large or small Quantity.

He has also just received by the Charlotte, Capt. Rogers

a fresh Supply of English and India GOODS
which he sells as cheap as usual.


From: The Browns of Providence Plantations:  The Colonial Years by James B. Hedges (1952), page 222-225, we do discover that Paul Allen was a captain of a Nicholas Brown & Company ship Unity that sailed in 1775 to the West Indies to obtain much needed arms for the coming Revolution.  The book also cites that Paul Allen was the son-in-law of Nicholas Cooke, then Governor of Rhode Island, and who gave State sanction for the vessel's voyage.

From History of Providence County, Rhode Island, by Richard M. Bayles, New York, 1891, Page 181: 
In pursuance of the recommendation of the continental congress a " committee of inspection " was appointed by this town on Decem-ber 17th, which consisted of the following men: William Earl, Nicholas Cooke, Benjamin Man, Zephaniah Andrews, Arthur Fenner, Jr., Ambrose Page, Nicholas Power, George Corlis, Paul Allen, David Lawrence, Joseph Russell, Job Sweeting, Joseph Bucklin, Jonathan Arnold, Bernard Eddy, Aaron Mason, Joseph Brown and Nathaniel Wheaton. The committee was vigilant in carrying out the purposes for which they were appointed. In accord with the recommendation of congress they urged the entire abstinence from the use of East India tea after March 1st, 1775.

We also find in a USGenWeb search specific for Rhode Island, Paul Allen's name listed in a group of people setting up the Congregational Church in Providence in 1770. Among the other names listed are RI Deputy Governor Darius Sessions, a known Gaspee co-conspiritor, and Ephraim Bowen, a known Gaspee raider.  This list of some very prominent RI citizens may well contain the names of other, previously unknown, people involved in the raid. Paul Allen and others were for many years in charge of a lottery for the building fund of the Congregational Church.  

From: http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic/guides/Aaas/amsltr0102.pdf

The distilleries taxed in this volume were almost all in Providence or Newport, with the major exception of Bourn & Wardwell in Bristol. The distillers were among the state’s merchant elite, and they include John Brown (1736–1803), Welcome Arnold (1745–1798), and the Clark & Nightingale firm. Distilling made sense for merchants involved in the slave trade, who had easy access to molasses and needed rum to ship to Africa. Distilling their own rum cut out a middleman. Some distillers, including John Brown, also expanded beyond rum into gin production.

The excise collectors remained constant through both volumes. Daniel S. Dexter and Paul Allen were the collectors for Providence distilleries, George Sears was the collector in Newport, and Samuel Bosworth handled the one distillery in Bristol.

Catherine Williams in her book, Biography of Revolutionary Heroes: Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton and also of Captain Stephen Olney. Providence, Published by the author, 1839, p84 names a Captain Allen as captain of a RI privateer vessel during the Revolution. The Providence Gazette announced at various times that Paul Allen was appointed to the Surveyors of Highways commission, and in 1778 Capt. Paul Allen was appointed to a state position charged with burning obsolete bills of credit. Between 1779 to 1789 he was appointed to the Providence City Council.  In 1780 he was also attached to engine No. 3 of the infant Providence Fire Dept.  In 1783, Paul Allen and Esek Hopkins were in charge of adjudicating claims for boats that had been taken from citizenry for use in the Revolutionary War. In 1784 he was appointed a Deputy (State Senator) from Providence to the State Assembly.  In 1785 he was on a RI committee for adjudication of disabilty pension claims for Revolutionary War service, and his signature above was taken from once such claim he adjucated.. Unfortuately Paul Allen or a subordinate mishandled a pension application from fellow Gaspee raider, Benoni Simmons, decreasing his disability pension for over 30 years. In June 1788 Allen was appointed to a commission to raise funds for celebrating the anniversary of American Independence and of promoting the adoption of the new US Constitution. In 1799 Paul Allen was appointed a Constable of Providence.  While we do not find his obituary in the Providence newspapers of the time, all of the foregoing attest that he was a well-respected community leader and patriot.
Genealogical Information:

There is only one Paul Allen listed in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Database with dates corresponding to being possibly present in 1772.
ALLEN, PAUL  1742c - 17 FEB 1800  PV001: buried at Providence's Old North Burial Ground
(as were many other known Gaspee raiders). This person would've been 29 years old at the time of the Gaspee attack.  We also see that from the NEHGS that his will was probated in 1800.

In pinging GEDCOM, as well as Ancestry.com there is only one Paul Allen remotely corresponding to time and place, that is Paul Allen born 7 Dec 1742 in Braintree, MA, which is about 25 miles northeast of Providence.  He was the fifth of 12 children born to Micah Allen and Mary (White) Allen. A Paul Allen from Providence was also listed in the 1777 Military Census index.

Birth and marriage records in Rhode Island list Paul Allens, married to a Polly (Cooke) and had 7 children:

  1. Paul ALLEN, Jr.  b1775, He was admitted as a lawyer in Rhode Island in 1795, and in 1798 was seen to be a Clerk of the RI Superior Court through 1801.  In May 1801 he became a Justice of the Peace for Providence. In 1796 he delivered and published an Oration on the 20th Anniversary of American Independence (Providence:  Carter & Wilkinson)..  Sometime after 1801 he moved to Baltimore and was an editor of the [Baltimore] Morning Chronicle. In 1819 he authored History of the Revolution, one of the first comprehensive books on the subject.  He died in Baltimore, MD in 1826. With dismay, we also note that nowhere in his books does Paul Allen, Jr make note of his own father having been a Gaspee raider.
  2. Horatio G ALLEN b1776, died in 1777, Age 1
  3. Hannah C ALLEN b1778,
  4. Horatio ALLEN b 1780, died at age 15  in Jan 1795 per obit..
  5. Joseph C ALLEN b 1782,
  6. Henry ALLEN b1784
  7. Thomas ALLEN b1786
(Note the nice every two year birth spacing--a testimony to breastfeeding delaying ovulation, I guess-ed). A Polly Allen of the right dates is not listed in the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, but since we know her maiden name was Cooke, we have:
ALLEN          MARY  (COOKE)           1748c -  5 AUG 1827    PV001
Note that only this Mary (Cooke) Allen of 1748-1827 is buried in the same cemetery as Paul Allen. LDS search gives us that a Polly Cooke was the mother of Paul Allen born in 1775 and was married on 22 May 1774. Mary Cooke may well have been called Polly as a firm nickname.  We have also discerned that Gaspee Raider Paul Allen's wife, Polly, was the daughter of fellow Gaspee conspiritor, Gov. Nicholas Cooke.

Through the USGenWeb source, we also know that a Paul Allen was alive and during the 1790 census in Providence, and that his household consisted of 1 male over 16 (presumably himself); six males (sons) under 16 years old; 3 females (wife and  2 daughters?); and one other free person, i.e., not a slave, possibly a grandparent, etc. This matches fairly closely with the Paul Allen who married Polly.

In surveying the 1770 Providence Taxpayers list, we get the following people that are probably relatives:

  • Amos Allen IIIB1
  • Amos Allen VIB6
  • Jonathan Allen VIB5
All these locations are on the East Side of Providence, from where came most Gaspee Raiders. Amos Allen either had two properties which makes him likely a merchant of some type. From the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, we find that Amos was Captain Amos Allen (1737c - 30 SEP 1810). Amos b12 Apr 1736 in Rehoboth, MA married a Molly and may be ta relative of our Paul Allen.

Perhaps relatives, perhaps not.  From Genealogies of Rhode Island Families, Volume I, Genealogical Publishing, Baltimore, 1989; p587: the following three Allens are listed as members or eligible for membership in the Society of Cincinnati, for the Revolutionary War officer veterans: Capt. Gabriel Allen, Lieut. Noel Allen, and Capt. William Allen.  From Field, Edward, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century:  A History.  Boston, Mason Publishing Co. 1902, Vol II, pp424-430 List of Privateersmen from Providence: George Allen, Jonathan Allen, and Samuel Allen.
The Gaspee Days Committee recognizes Captain Paul Allen (1742-1800) as one of the brave Rhode Island colonists that took part in the attack on the Gaspee in 1772, and is therefore considered a true American patriot.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 7/2002    Last Revised 04/2011    PaulAllen.html