The Allen Family
Allen's Immediate Family
Ethan Allen was born in 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the eldest of the eight children of Joseph and Mary Allen. He had five brothers (Heman, Heber, Levi, Zimri, and Ira) and two sisters (Lydia and Lucy) all of whom lived to adulthood, unusual in those days. Of these siblings, his youngest brother Ira is best known as the founder of the University of Vermont in 1791, and as an influential member of the government of the Republic of Vermont.
Ethan's father died in 1755, thus preventing Ethan from going to Yale to pursue his education, a disappointment he felt throughout his life.
After his marriage to Mary Brownson in 1762, Ethan lived in several places in Connecticut, but finally settled his family in Sheffield, Massachusetts sometime in 1767.
There were two Fanny Allens, Ethan's second wife and his elder daughter by her.
Frances Montresor Brush Buchanan was an a well-educated widow of twenty-four years when she met Ethan in 1784 in Westminster; he then being a widower of forty-six with three young daughter's. Fanny had grown up in New York, and, through her stepfather, had strong Tory connections.
She was very interested in botany and was an accomplished musician. The marriage seems to have been very happy, and she is noted to have had a calming influence on her husband. After Ethan's death in 1789, Fanny and the children moved back to her mother's home in Westminster. In 1793 Fanny married her third husband, Jabez Penniman. Despite conflict over the intervale property, Fanny and her new husband lived there from 1794-1800.
Fanny Margaret Allen was Ethan and Fanny's eldest child. She was five when her father died. She spent her formative years in Burlington, Westminster, and Swanton. She attended Middlebury Seminary, inherited her mother's interest in science, her father's religious skepticism, and was considered well-educated. In 1807, Fanny went to Montreal to study French, where she subsequently underwent conversion to Catholicism. As tradition relates it, her conversion was based on a supernatural experience; whatever the impetus, she became a sister in the Religious Hospitaliers of St. Joseph. She spent the rest of her life nursing the sick and indigent, although she was officially the hospital chemist. Fanny died of consumption in 1819, at the age of thirty-five. She was revered after her death, as she was in her life. The Fanny Allen Hospital in Colchester, Vermont, run by her order, the Religious Hospitaliers of St. Joseph, was named in her honor.
Ethan had five children with his first wife Mary Brownson: Loraine, born in 1763, who died in 1783 of consumption; Joseph, born in 1765, who died of smallpox in 1777; Lucy Caroline, born in 1768, who died in 1842; Mary Ann, born in 1772, who died in 1790, the year after her father; and Pamela, who was born in 1779, and who died at the age of thirty.
Ethan's marriage to Mary, who was several years older than he, does not seem to have been particularly happy. Mary was an intrepid frontier wife, though, and according to tradition, illiterate, deeply religious, and shrewish. There is little historic evidence of these qualities, and much more for the fact that Ethan was not an easy man; he was impulsive, a heavy drinker, and frequently absent from home.
Mary died of consumption in 1783, a few months before her eldest daughter, in Sunderland, Vermont.
Ethan met his second wife, Fanny, in 1784, fell in love and married her within a few months. They had three children: Fanny Margaret, born in 1784, who died in 1819; Hannibal, born 18 months later and died in 1813; and Ethan, born in 1787, who died in 1855.