Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wilford Allen (1897-1965)

Update (Jan. 8, 2017): I hear from Weird Tales scholar Randal A. Everts that I have the wrong Wilford Allen, as I suspected I might when I first wrote this article. I will work on a further update when I can.

Author, Newspaperman
Born May 16, 1897
Died April 10, 1965

Printer's ink ran in the veins of Wilford C. Allen, Jr. His father and two uncles were in the newspaper business. He followed them, even while writing stories for Weird Tales in the 1920s. Nicknamed "Pete," he was born on May 16, 1897, to Wilford C. Allen, Sr., and Frances M. Allen (1872-1960). Pete's grandfather, King Prince Allen (1841-1917), was a proud veteran of the Union Army during the Civil War and a pioneer in the city of Pullman, Washington, now the location of Washington State University (WSU). Pete's father, Wilford C. Allen, Sr. (Oct. 4, 1968-Feb. 1, 1942), was born in Homer, Michigan. He, too, was called a "pioneer in Pullman" and was associated with the Pullman Herald from 1888 to 1909. (1) That paper was established in 1888 by Allen's brother-in-law, Thomas Neill (1861-1938). Born in Ireland, Neill arrived in Pullman by way of Indiana and the Dakota Territory. Neill Hall on the WSU campus is named for him. Karl P. Allen (1885-1941), brother of Wilford Allen, Sr., was the longtime editor of the Pullman Herald.

In 1911, Wilford Allen, Sr., purchased a nine-acre fruit farm in Grants Pass, Oregon, and moved his young family there. He had two sons in school at the time, Niel Richardson Allen (1894-1959) and Wilford C. Allen, Jr. (1897-1965). From 1912 to 1917 and again from 1919 to 1920, the senior Allen was editor of the Rogue River (later Grants Pass) Courier. (2) A former member of the Washington State legislature, he also served as president of the Commercial Club in Grants Pass; Commissioner of the Oregon State Industrial Accident Commission; president of the Izaak Walton League of America in Grants Pass; and with the Southern Oregon Development Company.

Wilford and Frances Allen sent both of their sons to college and to war. Niel R. Allen attended Stanford University and served as an officer in the U.S. Army during World War I. Wilford Allen, Jr., attended the University of Oregon and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, also during the war. He worked at the same newspaper as his father. In 1922, he left the University of Oregon School of Journalism as a senior "to take over his old position as head of news department at the Grants Pass Courier." Like his father before him, Wilford "Pete" Allen was editor of the paper, from 1926 to 1929. He was also a sheriff's deputy.

Wilford Allen wrote seven stories for Weird Tales. He also had two letters in "The Eyrie." I would like to see the return address on those letters, as I'm not sure the Wilford Allen I have been talking about all this time was the same man who wrote for "The Unique Magazine." I have to admit I have made an assumption based on Pete Allen's involvement in the newspaper business. In any event, "The Hate," from Weird Tales, June 1928, is a story of trench warfare in World War I. I wonder if the idea could have come to the author by his talking to his brother about the war. I have not read Allen's other stories. There may be other clues as to his identity contained therein. I should note that "The Arctic Death" (June 1927) and "On a Far World" (July 1928) are two of a series featuring the character Charles Breinbar.  

Wilford C. Allen, Jr., died on April 10, 1965, and was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Grants Pass, Oregon.

(1) "Wilford Allen Was Pioneer in Pullman," Spokane Daily Chronicle, February 2, 1912, page 5, here.
(2) Established in 1885, the Rogue River Courier was renamed the Grants Pass Courier in 1919, then merged with the Observer in 1928. The publisher was Amos E. "Boss" Voorhies.

Wilford Allen's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Arctic Death" (June 1927)
"The Swooping Wind" (Dec. 1927)
"On a Far World" (July 1928)
"The Bone-Grinder" (Jan. 1928)
"The Hate" (June 1928)
"Night-Thing" (July 1929)
"The Planet of Horror" (June 1930)
Letters to "The Eyrie"
April 1928
Aug. 1931

Further Reading
"The Hate" was reprinted in 100 Wild Little Weird Tales edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, and Martin H. Greenberg (1994).

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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