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Pioneer ‘Pie’ Allen’s burial site unknown

Citizen Staff



“Pie” Allen, a highly regarded territorial politician, merchant and former Tucson mayor, is buried here in Tucson . . . somewhere.

Unlike other prominent pioneers of the pre-statehood era, however, John Brackett Allen has been relegated – likely in absentia – to the paupers section of the Pima County Cemetery.

It is a dreary little plot along North Fairview Avenue bereft of grass, trees or other niceties accorded other revered forebears.

Allen’s tombstone is in the county cemetery, but local historian Fred McAninch said it and about four dozen other tombstones were moved without human remains from the city’s Court Street cemetery because the deceased couldn’t be found or there were so few remains the movers decided not to bother.

Records that would verify or negate this claim cannot be located. They may no longer exist.

The Court Street cemetery, once bounded on the west by North Main Avenue, on the east by North Stone Avenue, on the south by East Second Street and on the north by East Speedway Boulevard, was established June 1, 1875.

Downtown development was encroaching upon its predecessor, the National Cemetery.

So it is possible, even likely, that Allen’s remains stayed in this Court Street cemetery, now topped with businesses and houses.

Allen is best known here these days for a neighborhood that bears his name, bounded by Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Sixth Street and Park Avenue.

He had a house in that vicinity, on South Fifth Avenue.

Between his arrival in Tucson in 1862 from Yuma and his death here in 1899, Allen was highly esteemed by his peers.

He was Maine-born and Boston-educated, and served as chairman of the county Board of Supervisors in 1865, treasurer of Arizona Territory from 1867 to 1872, a term as surveyor general, two terms as Tucson’s fourth mayor – in 1876 and 1877 – and three terms as a territorial legislator in 1867, 1873 and 1891.

In his early years in southern Arizona, Allen prospered.

But like so many other high-profile pioneers – including merchants Sam Hughes and Hiram Stevens, freighters Esteban Ochoa and Pinckney Tully, gristmill operator Solomon Warner and mine investors Charles Poston and Sylvester Mowry – Allen’s fortunes had diminished late in life, and he was broke by the time of his death.

He was said to own the finest ranch on the Santa Cruz River in 1870, some two miles from Tucson, though there are repeated accounts of his livestock being stolen by Apaches.

As a legislator, he encouraged the building of churches and helped secure $500 for establishment of public schools in Tucson.

He was instrumental in having the territorial capital moved from Prescott to Tucson. And he is credited, in 1877, with bringing the first two swarms of bees to the area – Italian strains – to provide a local source of honey.

Always on the lookout for enterprises that might prove profitable, he opened – and closed – countless businesses throughout southern Arizona.

It was one such venture that earned him his nickname.

Allen, overhearing soldiers at Fort Lowell – where he set up a business selling provisions – complain that they were never served pie, he began a pie business.

He apparently read the supply-and-demand situation correctly and made money serving pie to soldiers.

There are numerous newspaper references to his many businesses, in Casa Grande, Maricopa Wells, Quijotoa, Mammoth, Gunsight, Willcox, Tombstone, Tubac and others.

Newspaper accounts indicated he returned to Tucson from a business trip to San Francisco in 1877 with a large stock of goods.

He placed them in a new store he opened at Mesilla and Meyer streets.

Allen was credited with helping found Tombstone, then called Tombstone City, and he built and operated the “first substantial building” there in 1879.

Later the same year, he sold that enterprise to devote his energies to mining. In 1886, he had opened a butter market on Church Street in Tucson, and in 1888 he was reported to be operating a grain-buying and-selling operation at a ranch west of Florence.

A few years before, in 1881, Allen, then 63, found a romantic interest in Lola Tapia, still in her teens. Allen asked for her hand in marriage, but her mother, Dolores, objected because her daughter was so young. She finally agreed, reports indicated, if Allen would allow the girl to remain in a convent.

This he did, until shortly before she gave birth to a daughter, Molly Mae Allen, in 1882. The Allen marriage lasted until October 1891, when an apparent infidelity on the part of Lola Allen apparently prompted a headline in the Oct. 12, 1891, Arizona Daily Citizen:

“Two Husbands the Same Day.”

Lola Allen, then 25, and Max Marks, 38, were indicted by a grand jury for violation of the Edmunds Act (apparently for adultery), with Marks fined $40 and Lola Allen fined $25. Thereafter, the Allens filed for divorce, which was granted within 15 minutes.

Marks and the former Mrs. Allen then walked across the courthouse hallway to the probate judge’s office and were married.

John Allen later in life became simply “Pie” Allen to those who knew him. Earlier he held the honorary title “General” Allen, following his stint as solicitor general.

In April 1899, when it became apparent that cancer on the side of Allen’s face likely would prove fatal, longtime Tucson merchant Albert Steinfeld, who had admired Allen’s business acumen and honesty, commissioned a marble headstone for him – the one that sits in Allen’s memory the county cemetery today.

Though only Allen’s name and the date of his birth and death are visible now, on the portion of the stone below ground are inscribed the words: “Territorial Treasurer Six Years, 1865 to 1871. Mayor of Tucson two terms. A man without an enemy.”

Allen’s remains today lie unnoticed, buried in an unmarked grave.

And General John B. “Pie” Allen’s name these days is familiar mostly to the residents of “his” neighborhood, who have little idea who he was.

As far as Paul L. Allen knows, he and John B. Allen are not related.


John Brackett “Pie” Allen

This marble marker, moved from the spot of “Pie” Allen’s burial, is all that remains of his grave. No one knows where his body is buried.

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