Miami

    Turn of the century photo of what is now the Overtown neighborhood in Miami.

     Four of the nine offspring of William & Addie Allen who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century settled in the Miami area. Alexander Allen, Samuel Allen, Gertrude Allen and Charles Allen all made the Miami area their home.

     Miami was newly populated and accessible due to the railroad built by Henry Flagler in 1896. Many Bahamian immigrants settled in the area, most notably in Overtown and in Coconut Grove which still hosts a large Goombay (Bahamian celebration featuring island food and music) each year.

    According to Florida History & the Arts Magazine, "as early as 1904, the official City of Miami directory listed businesses owned and operated by black people. These included general goods and services, a medical doctor, 26 laundresses, and several hundred laborers. Miami's Colored Board of Trade was established as a clearinghouse for commercial and civic betterment. The Fourth Census of the State of Florida taken in the year 1915 records the population of Miami City at 15,592. Of those, 5,659 residents were Negro. Their holdings in real estate and personal property were estimated at $800,000. Black women were not members of the Colored Board of Trade, but some were in business, including seamstresses, landlords, restaurant owners and a hat maker. Several owned their own properties. Blacks living south of Miami in Cocount Grove and in Lemon City to the north, would travel to Miami's Colored Town for shopping, business transactions and entertainment."

 

Rev. Alenander Allen     Rev. Alexander Allen (1884 - 1969) was born December 24, 1884, according to records maintained by the Social Security Administration. 

     He met and married Gennieve Knowles in the Bahamas, and together they traveled to the United States in 1911. They settled in the area of Miami now known as Overtown, and though the 1920 Census shows them listed as non-naturalized aliens, both later became citizens.

     Though times were difficult, they raised a family of eight children, including Ivis, Cleomie, Clarice, Patricia, Delores, twins Gennieve & Alexander, Jr. and Monica. All of the children were college-educated and later became professionals in various fields. 

     Alexander was a house painter by trade, but he also answered a call to serve the Lord.  He co-founded Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Church in Miami (not to be confused with the church founded by his brother George in Key West), where he served as pastor for many years. After the demise of Trinity and the death of his wife, he served as assistant pastor at various churches, culminating in a move to the Liberty City area. There, he and some of his family became members of Mount Tabor Baptist Church where he assisted the pastor and was instrumental in the successful renovation of the church.

         Alexander, who was a member of the Masons, died August 3, 1969, at the age of 85 and was funeralized from Mount Tabor Baptist Church.

 

     Samuel Joseph Allen (1883 - 1935) came to the United States from the Bahamas in 1901 at the age of 18, according to the 1920 Census dated January 29th of that year. 

     He met and married Nellie Clarke and they settled in Miami, expanding their family to include four children: Angelita Mildred, Joseph Carlysle, Vera and Elizabeth. 

     Samuel lived in Miami for several years, and is listed as a non-naturalized immigrant warehouse laborer in the 1920 Census.  He and his wife owned their home at 683 Avenue J free and clear at that time.  He was also later employed by Capt. Tom's Fishery. 

     He does not appear in the 1930 Census, apparently because by then he had separated from his wife and returned to the Bahamas where he died June 20, 1935, at the age of 52.

     At this point all of Samuel's children are deceased, though he most probably has grandchildren and great-grandchildren still living in Florida and other areas.  Attempts will be made to contact them and involve them in future family reunions.

     We are currently working on verifying that the photo shown here is actually Samuel.  The original source is no longer certain that is the case.  Any assistance is welcome.

 

     Charles Wesley Allen (1886 - 1979) was born October 9, 1886, according to records maintained by the State of Florida.   

     H e and his wife Mary came to this country from the Bahamas in 1909 and settled in Miami. They worked hard and were able to purchase their home at 886 Princeton Avenue, which was across the street from his brother Alexander's home, according to the 1920 Census.  They became the parents of their only child, Charles Jr.

     Charles, who was known to friends and family as “Yank,” was listed as a bridge-builder/laborer in the 1920 Census.  He was later employed by the Florida East Coast Railway and the Florida Power and Light Company. He also owned and managed rental property.

     Both Charles and his wife were members of Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Church in Miami, which was co-founded by his brother, Rev. Alexander Allen. 

     Florida Death Index records indicate that Charles passed away November 14, 1979, at the age of 93 years.  He is buried in Miami.

 

     We are gradually learning more about Gertrude Allen (1887 - 1921), known as "Trudy."  Though it was initially believed she had settled in Miami when she immigrated to the States in 1900, further research shows that to be improbable.  Her only relatives in the U.S. at that time would've been her sister Mary and brother George, who were residing in Key West.  Her brothers Samuel, Charles and Alexander had not yet moved to Miami from the Bahamas.  Since Trudy was approximately 13 years old at the time of immigration, she would probably have lived with her siblings in Key West.  Since she apparently died in Miami, we will continue to list her here.

     We were unable to locate Trudy in the 1900 Census data for either Miami or Key West.  However, the 1910 Census shows her living next door to her sister Mary Allen Carey in the 700 block of Elizabeth Street in Key West.  At the time, Trudy had a two-year-old son Leo.  The document shows she was a 23-year-old divorced laundress who worked at home and had immigrated to the States in 1900.  She had not become a naturalized citizen as of April of 1910 when the Census information was recorded.   

     Her son Leo Allen is said to have been lost in a mid-1920s hurricane that struck either the Bahamas or Miami.  No other children have been documented.

     Burial records for the historic Miami City Cemetery show a burial for a Gertrude Allen who died October 15, 1921.  It is believed that she and our Trudy are one in the same.  If so, she would've been approximately 34 years of age at her death.  Further research will help shed light on this matter.

 

     The Allen siblings who settled in Miami left a legacy their descendants could be proud of.

     The majority of Rev. Alexander Allen’s children were employed by the Dade County Public School System. One worked in the Duval County Public School System, and another worked in the Volusia County Public School System. Alexander Allen Jr. became a skilled painter by trade and worked for the Dade County Housing Authority as a maintenance supervisor for 45 years.

     In terms of entrepreneurship, Clarice (Allen) Hughes, daughter of Rev. Alexander Allen, owned and operated Hughes Gospel Music Shop along with her husband, Rev. Arthur J. Hughes. They later sold the business and moved to Jacksonville, Florida.  After his passing, Clarice returned to Miami to be with her family.

     Today, the descendants of the Allens who immigrated to Miami are members of various local churches, lodges and clubs such as the Masons and the Household of Ruth.  Among their number are attorneys, educators and scientists, as well as journalists and entrepreneurs.

     In December of 2005, Alexander and Gennieve Allen were posthumously honored as a "Pioneer Family of Miami" by the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida.  On hand to accept the honor was their daughter Patricia, along with several of their grandchildren.     

    

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