You can imagine how it affected me to read these stories about the sufferings of my own family. But in this continuous record there seemed to me to be a persistent evil and, considering the fortunes of the family when away from Allendale, the evil seemed clearly to me to be connected with the house and not the family. This was confirmed by the other set of records my uncle kept—a miscellaneous array of legends passed down by slaves, newspaper cuttings, death certificates, and quips from histories of the area.
I won’t relate all of these in this space, but I will share with you some of the more interesting items. First, though, let me instead share with you a most perplexing problem I had getting information on the house other than what Uncle Elias had collected. Having spent so much of my childhood with my uncle, I felt at home in museums and archives. I didn’t hesitate to make my way to the Sumner County Archives to see what they had on Allendale.
They had nothing.
When I relayed the history of the house, from one-room cabin to stately, though ramshackle, ruin on the bluff three miles south of town, one of the women, who I knew as the mother of a girl I’d gone to school with, became agitated.
“Well, that’s just not right, George,” she said, shaking her head at me. “You couldn’t live in a cabin here back then. The Indians would have scalped you alive. Your family must either have been in one of the stations around here or come later than you think.”
“I know when my family came,” I said. “The Allens built the cabin and Elias Allen was the first to live in it.”
“Now see here,” she said, shoving a thick, musty reference book across the table to me, “There is no Elias Allen who’s a son of George Allen.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. But I looked down at the list of Allens in the genealogy book she’d shoved at me and, no, there was no Elias Allen listed.
“But Mrs. Anderson,” I said, “You’ve known me since I was a boy. You know my uncles and my cousins. You know we exist.”
“I think you just have the wrong ancestor,” she said. “That’s all.”
“Well, surely we can settle this by looking on a map,” I said. “You must have a map that shows the location of the old families.”
I waited for her to bring out another large book filled with sections of a map from 1840. When she turned to the section containing our bend in the river I quickly found Allenwood and then I moved my finger west and the most peculiar thing happened. I hit the river.
“Well, this is not right,” I said. “The river doesn’t run here.”
“Maybe it did back then,” Mrs. Anderson said, with what I now felt was too much enthusiasm.
“Ma’am,” I was exasperated. “The house is on a high bluff. Unless the river defied gravity, it did not run two hundred yards up hill. The river is in the wrong spot.”
“Well, I don’t know much about maps,” she said, as if her knowledge of maps might somehow affect what was shown in them. “Let me go find Tanya. She’ll know.” While Mrs. Anderson was gone, I examined the map more closely. Just south of Allenwood, I found a home labeled “The Anderson Place.” I tried to find Mrs. Anderson again, but was thwarted by the arrival of young Tanya, barely bearing up under the weight of the books she was carrying.