Charles Edmund Allen (AM0057)

 ​Allen (photo below) was born in Lebanon, CT in 1828/9 (year of birth based on age reported in 1870 and 1880 Federal census reports). His parents were Griswold Allen of Lebanon and Betsy Chappell of Gales Ferry. His older brother William H. Allen was also a whaling master. Allen grew up on a farm.  By age 19 he shipped on a whaler as a mate.

​He married Sarah Jefrey (spelling may not be correct) February 16, 1858 in Groton.  She was born about 1830, parentage not known. They had five children, all born in Groton: ​​William E., born Sept. 23, 1860, died June 15, 1887; Nellie, born Sept. 1, 1862, married Aborn F. Smith, Sept. 16, 1882; Jessie, born about 1865, married Edward Everett Knapp, Jan. 13, 1887 in ​Groton; Mabel, born about 1869; ​​Jenna, born about 1873.

The 1870 Federal census for Groton shows living together, all born in CT: ​​Allen, Charles E. age 41, shipmaster; ​​Allen, Sarah E., age 30, keeping home; ​​Allen, Wm., age 9, at school; Allen, Nellie, age 7, at school; ​​Allen, Jessie, age 5, at school; ​​Allen, Mabel, age 1; ​​Lydia, Richard, age 13, domestic servant. The 1880 Federal census for Groton shows Charles as “seaman” and additional child, Jenna.

Allen was master of two voyages on two vessels  with New London as home port.

AGATE (AS0795): (brig, 187 tons, broken up 1861). Sailed 4/16/1856-​3/26/1859 to Arctic Ocean, agent C. A. Williams & Co. ​This voyage had six different masters: Allen (the outgoing master according to Starbuck), ​​Isaac Allen (AM0118), ​B.F. Homan (AM2662), ​​Allen Comstock (AM12 78), ​John M. Lawton(AM4855), and John P. Eldridge (AM1732). The circumstances of the changes of command is not known.AV00341

J.D. THOMPSON (AS0345): (bark, 433 tons, built in New Bedford in 1855). Sailed 1869-9/14/1871 for North Pacific, agent ​Williams & Barnes (AV07213) (trapped in ice off north coast of ​Alaska in Sept. 1871, along with several other vessels, and ​abandoned).

Allen was master on two voyages on two different vessels with New Bedford as home port: BLACK EAGLE (AS0078) (1860-1861 and 1862-1863) and MORNING STAR (AS0478) (1864-1865 and 1866-​1867).

After returning home, he acquired with a partner a franchise for the Groton-New London ferry, but tiring of it turned to the merchant marine. He built at the W. Brainard shipyard in New London in 1876 a 105-ton schooner SARAH E. ALLEN, named for his wife, and served as her master. That ship was lost at sea with all hands during a gale in March 1883 on a voyage from Philadelphia to Baracoa, Cuba. He had intended to retire after this trip.


He owned a house at 342 Thames St. at the foot of Fort Griswold State Park in Groton and later a house on Latham St. in Groton, later moved to the corner of Lathan and Beckwith Place.  His daughter remembers the house filled with whaling curios from his many travels.

​His daughter remembers her father recounting that while hunting on the pack ice he was chased by a polar bear, barely escaping to his boat.  The bear nearly capsized the boat with its paw. Allen brought his rifle butt down on the paw, then shot the bear in the head.  He managed to skin the bear, bringing home the skin that graced his Groton home for many years.


Sources: See sidebar. Colby contains three pages (p. 136-8) providing further details about Allen’s life at home and at sea. Photo copied from Starbuck (before p. 134).

George Shaw (Mystic Seaport Museum), December 2019