Biographical / Historical
Penelope Van Dyke Johnson Allen (1886-1985) was a teacher, newspaper writer, suffragette, traveling salesperson, and active member of many civic organizations, who was born and lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee for most of her life. From 1919 to 1923, Allen worked at the Chattanooga News, and in 1923 she took a job as a traveling salesperson for the Chattanooga Medicine Company based in St. Elmo. During her travels, Allen used her free time to visit book dealers in the South, fostering her interest in local history. She also became acquainted with the descendants of John Ross (Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to 1866) and other Cherokees Indians that had been re-located from Chattanooga and the surrounding area by decree of the Treaty of New Echota signed on December 29, 1835.
Inspired by the history of John Ross, the Cherokee Nation, and the Trail of Tears, Penelope Johnson Allen devoted much of her free time to learning more about the history of the Cherokee Indians, including Brainerd Mission, a Christian mission to the Cherokee in Chattanooga, Tennessee, created by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1817 and named after David Brainerd. Allen collected books and original documents created by the United States Department of War Indian Agents as well as Gideon Blackburn, Cyrus Kingsbury, and Ard Hoyt who were responsible for the creation and development of Brainerd Mission.
In addition to orginal, founding correspondence and receipts, Penelope Johnson Allen was instrumental in preserving the graves of Cherokee Indians and developing memorials to the missionaries at the Brainerd Mission Cemetery. Through her efforts with the Judge David Campbell Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Allen helped purchase the Brainerd Mission property, petition the United States Assistant Postmaster General for a Brainerd Mission commemorative stamp, raise funds to establish the Brainerd Mission Memorial Gates, and dedicate monuments to the missionaries and Lena Barton Kain, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and tireless advocate for the preservation of the Brainerd Mission Cemetery.