John Allen (b. May 17, 1796, Augusta County, VA; d. March 11, 1851, near San Francisco, CA) founded the city of Ann Arbor together with Elisha Rumsey in 1824 and named it after his wife Ann Allen.


Ann Arbor was founded in 1824 by John Allen of Virginia and Elisha Rumsey of New York; that same year it became the seat of Washtenaw County. There are a number of variations on the story of how the original 640 acres of land, forested with burr oaks, came to be called Ann Arbor. Most stories involve the names of Allen and Rumsey's wives.

... John Allen was, from the start, the leader in the enterprise and so dominated the course of events that he can rightfully be called the town's founder. Born in Augusta County, Virginia, on May 17, 1796, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, he belonged to one of the old families of the Shenandoah Valley, his great-grandfather having settled on Middle River near the present city of Staunton prior to October, 1740. Although not in the social class of the great plantation owners of the Old South, the Allens possessed the same pride in family and good breeding as did the most aristocratic Virginians.

More information

  • History of Washtenaw County, Michigan : together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships...and biographies of representative citizens., Charles Chapman & Co., 1881. John Allen search in this text.
  • Wikipedia: John Allen (pioneer)
  • Jonathan Marwil, A History of Ann Arbor, chapter 1.