November 9, 2013

Solomon Northup hauled Peru trees

PERU — With an 18th-century familial history in Peru, Helen Nerska Allen never stops learning something new about her predecessors.

Allen, who lives on her ancestral homestead on the Jabez Allen Road, is Clinton County Historical Association Board of Directors president and the manager of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausable Chasm.

At a recent North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association Board meeting, she learned she has a familial link to Solomon Northup, the subject of director Steven McQueen’s cinematic release, “Twelve Years A Slave,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor.

“My family was in the lumber business in those days,” Allen said. “Our timber was harvested from this area.”


The link was discovered by board member Mitchell Ray. Vetting a book for the museum’s gift shop, he was reading, “The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years A Slave,” written by David Fiske, Clifford Brown and Rachel Seligman.

The book includes a Saratoga Springs court case between Northup and George Washington Allen.

“Mitch asked me, ‘Are you related to (George) Washington Allen?’” she said, and affirmed that she was.

George Washington Allen was a brother of Nerska Allen’s great-great-great grandfather, Josephus.

“He may or may not have lived in this particular house,” she said, estimating its age as built in the early 1800s. “The front part is built like a barn. The property has been in the family since 1788.”

Jabez is the patriarch who begat Isaac who begat Josephus, George Washington and another Isaac.

“They were Puritans and kept passing the same names down. If one son or daughter died, the next child received the same name. It gets confusing.”


Beside her uncle Fuller Allen’s voluminous writing on their patriarch, there exists only a diary of her grandfather’s written when he was 10.

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