Recto and Verso: Dinah Allen

Dinah Ayres Trigg (Mrs. Shubael Allen), 1835
Oil on Canvas, 26 x 22 inches
Kenneth B. and Cynthia McClain Collection
Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri
Bloch Catalog #16
Used with Permission

Recto – George Caleb Bingham

When George Caleb Bingham painted her portrait in 1835, Dinah Allen was 32 and pregnant with her eighth child. Her ancestors included Captain William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and James Clark, a governor of Kentucky (1836 – 1839). When her husband Shubael died in 1841, Dinah remained at their plantation, Allen’s Landing, on the outskirts of Liberty, Missouri, until 1850. Then she sold the land and moved into town with four of her sons, her daughter, granddaughter, and eleven slaves.[1]

Annice II

One of those slaves was Annice “of common size and yellow complexion.” In 1829 when she was about 17, Annice ran away. She was caught and returned to the Allens. In the spring of 1850, at the age of 38, a white man known only as McClintock wooed her. In his sweet talk, he promised if they could only go away together to California, he would marry her and she would be free. They might even get rich in the gold fields. All they needed was money to make their dreams come true.[2]

Because Dinah Allen had recently sold her farm, it was rumored that she had $4,000 hidden under her bed. Especially if McClintock helped, how hard could it be for Annice to slip into Dinah’s bedroom to take the money they needed for her freedom and their happiness?[3]

The moon was nearly full the night of April 1, 1850. McClintock opened Dinah’s bedroom window. Armed with the white man’s axe Annice went to Dinah’s bed. She brought the axe down on Dinah’s head. Blood gushed everywhere. Annice and McClintock ran. Dinah ran screaming into her sons’ rooms.[4]

Annice was suspected, tortured, and forced to sign a confession that named her accomplice. McClintock was arrested. But Missouri law barred the testimony of a slave. Annice’s confession would be inadmissible in court. As arrangements were made for trial, word spread throughout the county that the two would escape death for their crime. Severe punishment and fear of severe punishment were vital in assuring that slaves would not rise up against their masters. On May 9, 1850, the region’s slave owners gathered at the county courthouse. Unanimously they decidedly that a public execution was just and necessary. In a procession through town, they took the two prisoners to the edge of town and hanged them both. From as far south as North Carolina and as far north as Vermont, newspapers reported the lynching.[5]

Many newspapers reported that Dinah had been murdered. Although seriously injured, she survived. The blade scarred one side of her face and left her partially deaf. Before the attack, she had been known as an active, witty, handsome woman, but after, she rarely left her home. When she did, she wore a dark veil. She lived to be 83.[6]


Footnotes:
  1. United States Census Bureau, Fourth Census of the United States, “Household of Shubael Allen,” Clay County Missouri, Series: M19; Roll: 73; Page: 269; line 2; United States Census Bureau, Fifth Census of the United States, “Household of Shubael Allen,” Clay County Missouri, Roll: 222; Page: 24; line 28; ‘Shubael Allen,’ Missouri Probate Court (Clay County); Probate Case Files, No 2-61 to 2-94, 1820-1850, page 554, United States Census Bureau, Sixth Census of the United States – Slave Schedule, “Dinah Allen,” September 14, 1850, M432, page 18 column 2, lines 11-15.[]
  2. Frazier, 255.[]
  3. The Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) May 23, 1850, page 2, column 3.[]
  4. “April 1850 Moon Phases,” Template Calendar, http://templatecalendar.com/moon/1850/04 , accessed April 2021; Frazier, 255; William H. Woodson, History of Clay County, Missouri (Topeka, Kansas: Historical Publishing Company, 1920), 94.[]
  5. “Lynching,” New York Herald, May 30, 1850, page 3, column 5; “Lynched,” North Carolinian (Fayetteville, North Carolina), May 25, 1850, page 3, column 2.; “Chips and Clippings,” Watchman and State Journal (Montpelier, Vermont), June 6, 1860, page 2, column 6 (Chronicling America, Library of Congress).[]
  6. “Mrs. Dinah Ayres Allen,” Portrait and biographical record of Clay, Ray, Carroll, Chariton, and Linn Counties, Missouri, containing biographical (Chapman Brothers, 1893), 700-708.[]

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits.