Caroline Hillis Allen (Beck) (1847 - 1926)

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Birthplace: Bonaparte, Van Buren, Iowa, United States
Death: Died in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California, United States
Managed by: David Alan Blair
Last Updated:

About Caroline Hillis Allen (Beck)

Possible DOM 5/24/1869; possible DOD 8/20/1926

A Family Legend

According to family legend, Caroline Hillis Beck was born into a well-to-do family but married a poor man because she loved him so much. James Hardy Allen was poor because he was so generous, and often helped others whom he knew would never pay back the money. She had 22 silk dresses when they married but never had another. Although she loved her husband very much, she became a bitter woman.

She was a pioneer wife with high standards. For instance, she used water to sprinkle the hard-packed dirt of the large yard/parking area outside the family's homestead cabin every day, and then swept it so that it was clean and tidy, and dust wouldn't drift into the house. She made the family's undergarments from feedsacks - and it took many washings for the brand names and labels to fade. One time some men were riding by on the road that ran right in front of the cabin and they saw the family's freshly-laundered underwear hanging on the clothesline. Evidently they laughed loudly and made fun of the family for wearing "feedsack drawers". Caroline was so offended that she made her husband quit plowing so that he could make a new road - one that took a wide detour around the cabin.

For some reason that no one ever understood, she didn't include salt when she made bread for the family. It's not that they didn't have salt - they did. It was just one of her quirks and the family got used to it, even though bread without salt doesn't taste very good. However, one time her husband brought someone home to supper, and he wasn't thrilled with the tasteless bread - so he salted it. Grandmother Beck was highly insulted that anyone would dare salt her bread, and she made it clear to her husband that his friend would never be welcome for dinner again!

There are many other stories about this woman's remarkable determination and sheer grit. For instance, just a few hours before the birth of her youngest child, she decided she couldn't stand looking at the plain board walls of her bedroom any longer. So she climbed up and down a ladder repeatedly, papering the walls of the entire room with newspapers and homemade paste! She's become quite a legend in our family, a name to conjure with. When one of us needs encouragement, we're reminded that we've got "Beck blood" in our veins. We also use the stories of her anger and bitterness as warnings, saying to each other for instance, "Uh-oh, your Beck blood is showing!"

Sources

  • "Unidentified Companies (1850)." Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Web. 19 June 2011. <http://lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearchresults/1,15792,4017-1-350,00.html>.
    • Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. 1880. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Year: 1880; Census Place: Centerville, Alameda, California; Roll: 62; Family History Film: 1254062; Page: 510B; Enumeration District: 24; Image: 0592.
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Caroline Hillis Beck Allen's Timeline

1847
May 30, 1847
Bonaparte, Van Buren, Iowa, United States
1860
May 19, 1860
Age 12
1870
March 1, 1870
Age 22
Livermore, CA, USA
1872
January 12, 1872
Age 24
Livermore, Alameda County, California, United States
1874
October 21, 1874
Age 27
Livermore, CA, USA
1879
August 21, 1879
Age 32
Livermore, Alameda County, California, USA
1880
1880
- 1881
Age 32
Mussel Slough, Tulare, California, USA

1880 U.S. Census records show that Laura was approximately nine months old at the time of the enumeration; as she was born in August, 1879, this is solid confirmation that the family was living at Mussel Slough at the time of the infamous confrontation between settlers and the railroad (May 11, 1880)

"The real-life gunfight took place May 11, 1880, in a district of the southern San Joaquin Valley called Mussel Slough. The U.S. marshal was intent on evicting a few farmers from land that belonged to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the farmers were ready to resist by force of arms. The shooting started when a skittish horse accidentally knocked the marshal off his feet -- no one knows with certainty who fired first -- and when the smoke cleared, seven men were dead."

"The facts of the tragedy at Mussel Slough were transformed into the popular fiction of the Mussel Slough massacre," writes Beers. "... If historians want to tell us otherwise, it's hard to hear them over the more stylish voices of film directors and novelists who reinterpret the legend, reinforce the myth and reconfirm us in our deep-seated beliefs about the nature of American heroism."

"The most famous account of the shootout at Mussel Slough is found in "The Octopus" by Frank Norris, a 1901 historical novel set against the ruthless and bloody encounter between big business ("the iron-hearted monster of steel and steam, implacable, insatiable, huge -- its entrails gorged with the life blood that it sucked from an entire commonwealth") and the outmatched farmers of California."

"But the same event inspired a great many other works of fiction, including "Blood-Money" by W.C. Morrow (1882), "The Feud of Oakfield Creek" by Josiah Royce (1887) and "First the Blade" by May Merrill Miller (1938), all of which are generously quoted and considered in Beers' book."

==Sources==
*"The Blazing Guns of Legend." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times, 17 Oct. 2004. Web. 20 May 2011. <http://articles.latimes.com/2004/oct/17/books/bk-kirsch17&gt;.
*Beers, Terry. Gunfight at Mussel Slough: Evolution of a Western Myth. Santa Clara, California: Santa Clara University/Heyday, 2004. Print.

1881
1881
- present
Age 33
Bee Rock, California, United States
1882
November 20, 1882
Age 35
Bee Rock, San Luis Obispo, California, United States
1926
August 6, 1926
Age 79
San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California, United States