First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 1 of 3)

First Baptist Church wrote up a biography of Dr. Bart E. Allen at his retirement in 1952. It was broken into three parts, which is reflected in this series, a reproduction of this biography. A previously posted biography on Bart Allen was a condensed version of what you will see here today and the next two weeks.

The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 1 of 3)

There was little enough of money, and nothing at all of luxury, in the little home on that third day of November, 1878. But there was love, and loyalty, and willingness to work to make the future brighter. And today there had arrived a new baby son. The Eugene Allens decided to name their second child Bartlett Eugene.

Looking back to that event in Arlington, now Bell Creek, Nebraska, it seems that God already had chosen just that child from just such a background, for a life of vigorous service in His Name. Eugene Allen was an upright honest man, whose word was “as good as his bond” and his wife was a sweet and cultured Christian woman. Like most of the young couples of their day and circumstances, they expected to make their own way, earning a livelihood and caring for their family by their own hard work. Never would it have occurred to ask others to shoulder even a small part of their responsibility and they would have been dismayed and humiliated had anyone suggested it.

When little “Bart” was six months old, the family moved to the Kansas Territory, to homestead, and his earliest memory of home is of the sod house in which they lived until he was six years of age. After six years, the father gave up homesteading and moved his family back to Nebraska. This time, not a sod house, but a dugout, served as home until a house could be obtained. Care had to be taken that the door was fastened securely, as the Indians living in the region were fond of walking in at any hour and taking whatever of food and household items happened to interest them!

The years in Nebraska, from the time he was six until the age of fifteen, were busy, important, happy years for young Bart Allen. He was learning the lessons all boys of pioneer families had to learn — to work hard, to study when he could, to live thriftily, to honor his stern and just father and gentle mother, to be trustworthy, to share with brothers and sisters (for five more babies joined the family during the years). Entering country school at the age of seven, he began to absorb all available book learning with great speed discovering within himself an unquenchable thirst for knowledge — a quality which has proven vastly useful throughout the years. So eagerly did he learn that from the day he began first grade until his graduation from high school at the age of fourteen, he had spent only seven years in school! This was accomplished by means of much burning of the midnight oil (literally, for there were only kerosene lamps to read by), in the time left after finishing the chores allotted to him at home. The money needed for high school he earned by hunting and trapping small animals for the price their pelts would bring. It was during these formative years that the boy made his life’s most important decision. When only twelve years old, he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, later joining the Baptist church, even though his father’s and mother’s families always had been Presbyterians and Methodists.

In the Fall of 1894, the Allen family set out from the town of Western Nebraska, for Arkansas. This was an exciting adventure, for the trip was made by covered wagon. At nightfall, the wagons had to be arranged in a circle, with the men and boys taking turns as guards, in case of a raid by the stock rustlers who preyed on wagon trains. Along the way the party saw for the first time the real blanket Indians of the Plains. At the end of seven weeks they arrived at the farm the father had purchased, near Almyra, Arkansas. Their second son was now fifteen.

Money being scarce, boys of that day were obliged to take men’s responsibilities at an early age. So, at sixteen, Bart Allen became a schoolteacher. This was work he grew to love, and was the beginning of a twelve year period of teaching during which time he was appointed superintendent of the county seat school, as well as county examiner of teachers. And, when he was a dignified schoolmaster with a year of teaching experience behind him, at the age of seventeen a highly important event took place. He met Grace Fuller, who had moved with her parents to Almyra from Marshalltown, Iowa, in the Spring of 1895. Their courtship lasted two years, and they were married on November 6, 1897. They met at the Baptist church, in Almyra, and always have been very active in Christian life.

Increasingly, through these years, the young teacher felt called to the ministry, and he began studying for this while continuing teaching. Finally, he was ordained in the Almyra, Arkansas, Baptist church and soon became pastor of the DeWitt, Arkansas church. At that time, he was head of the county seat school, and continued both church and school duties until the burden proved too great, his health broke, and doctors ordered him away for a long rest. It was during these years too, that several children were born to the young couple, only to be taken by death each time — a sorrow which never has been quite erased from their lives.

All of these circumstances and events have been mentioned here for two reasons: They are interesting glimpses into the early life of a vigorous, intelligent man, and, more important they combined to lay a strong foundation for a splendid career of accomplishment in God’s service. The parents of both Dr. and Mrs. Allen were of real pioneer quality — hard working, courageous, and uncomplaining. Their children thus had excellent examples set forth for budding strong character. They are fond of saying that the early years consisted of poverty, hard work, faith, and much happiness.