Sheriff M. D. Peeso Standing and Tom Allen in 1896.
Tom Allen was born in Kilrush, Ireland in 1838 to well-to-do parents. When he was eleven years old, he became a seaman and spent six years exploring the world. He finally settled in the United States and labored as a seaman on the Great Lakes for one year. During that time, he survived a shipwreck on Lake Erie and also became a proficient Mississippi River pilot. In 1857, he was an employee of the American Fur Company and traveled to the Rocky Mountains. He hunted and trapped animals from Yellowstone to the Taos Valley. During the summer of 1858, he spent some time at a ranch in New Mexico owned by Lucien Maxwell and Kit Carson. Both ranchers offered Allen a job as a partner, but Allen refused.
Tom Allen eventually traveled to the Denver region and became a miner. Moreover, he staked a claim with three other men to land extending 90 acres. There was a dispute to the ownership of the land and the four men (including Allen) reinforced their collective stake by erecting a large log house with firing ports in each wall. The land dispute progressed to the point where a company of 80 armed men were dispatched to remove Allen and his co-claimants. Allen allowed one of the armed men to step forward and revealed the defenses placed on the land. The armed man reported back and everyone in the 80-strong company decided to leave. Oddly enough, the land was eventually sold for a meager amount of money.
Allen was involved in his first major fistfight during his stay in Denver. When he saw a gentleman publicly strike a woman, Allen challenged the assailant to a no-holds-barred confrontation. Afterwards, Allen lectured the attacker for an hour and a half on the evils of domestic violence.
A man known as the “Terror of the Gulch” attempted to steal Tom Allen’s sluice water. As a result, Allen attempted to settle the matter diplomatically. This option ultimately failed and Allen offered to solve the dispute either “according to the rules of the ring” or through “rough-and-tumble.” The Terror chose the latter, which allowed for the use of fighting techniques such as eye-gouging, biting, stomping, and head butting. A crowd emerged as Allen demonstrated the dynamics of “rough-and-tumble.” In the end, the “Terror of the Gulch” was beaten and left the area.
Many merchants in Denver employed Allen and two of his land co-claimants to explore the Colorado River. This expedition took place eight years before the explorations of Major John Wesley Powell. Unfortunately, Allen and his associates were captured by the Native American Utes after only 250 miles into their expedition. When one of the tribesmen pulled Allen’s ear, Allen punched the Ute and made him fall to the ground. Afterwards, Allen told the chief that the Utes were cowards and that he could defeat the tribe’s best warrior. Unfortunately, there is no confirmation as to whether the chief fulfilled Allen’s request or was merely amused by Allen’s bravado. Overall, Allen and his land co-claimants were set free.
During the American Civil War, Allen enlisted in the Union Army as a scout in the eastern states. In 1863, he was in Leavenworth, Kansas when the town was occupied by a group of paramilitary units known as the Jayhawkers. Two police officers were shot and the town marshal was forced to leave. Upon the urgent request of the authorities, Allen decided to become chief of police. Allen faced the Jayhawkers using his “rough-and-tumble” techniques. In thirty days, he restored order to Leavenworth and afterwards relinquished his position.
In 1865, Allen was married and in 1871 became the city marshal of Junction City. The mayor, George Martin, stated that “The post was not a sinecure.” Various brothels and saloons elicited rabble rousing troops from Fort Riley, as well as travelers coming from intersecting railway lines.
The city’s newspaper, the Junction City Union, reported the following on April 25, 1885
“We never heard of another single officer who could corral or lock up a gang of six or seven men at once. Tom Allen has done it frequently. One evening a couple of years ago six men came from a hay camp at Riley with the purpose of having a time. The marshal warned them not to attempt it. They started along the street overturning boxes and disturbing everybody. He overtook them and in less time than we can tell it four of them lay on the ground. Another time he took without assistance six soldiers out of a gang of eight, shooting two of them slightly. In all his service he has never killed a man, although suffering at times great aggravation and taking desperate chances.”
Tom Allen had many exploits while he was the city marshal of Junction City. During one of these exploits, a recruit from Fort Riley (along with twelve companions) intended to pull back Allen’s ears. As a result, the recruit was sent back to Fort Riley in an ambulance. In another incident, Allen entered a saloon while it was being vandalized by eight soldiers. Allen defeated each soldier and dragged them to the hoosegow. He arrested seven soldiers, but the eighth one managed to flee. Allen went to Fort Riley the next morning in order to arrest the eighth soldier. When the captain learned that Allen was present, he stated: “Great Scott, that’s the man who licked my sergeant! He can have him.”
Junction City was noted for the famous hostelry of Madam Blue, who had statesmen do her homage and her name appeared in fifth district and legislative politics. To all appearance the house was quiet and orderly as a house could be. Tom was mighty particular in suppressing signs of lewdness on the streets. His watchtower was generally in front of the Bartell House, while south on the opposite side in the next block, was the madam’s resort. A fresh or green girl came to town and put up at the madam’s. In the evening she was out swinging 0n the front gate. Tom walked over and told her that was not allowed; that if she wanted to play she must go in the back yard. She did it a second night and he stopped her; she did it a third night,when Tom went into the house, found her trunk in a second story room, threw it through the window, sash and glass, into the street, and made her go down to the depot and wait for a train.
In another one of his exploits, Allen was summoned to confront a drifter that according to newspaper accounts executed “a beastly offense to a little girl.” Allen faced the six-foot man and decided to punish him with physical force instead of having him go to court. In another incident, a drunk which Allen imprisoned multiple times started a quarrel in a local pub and according to the Junction City Union, “stood out in the street with a rock in each hand when Tom arrived. ‘Looking for a fight, are you? Remarked the peace officer as he gave him a wipe on the jaw, knocking him down and punishing him severely. This individual has never drank a drop since, and has thanked Tom repeatedly for that thrashing.
A tall redheaded stranger was disturbing the peace when he entered Junction City in 1884. The man was holding a Colt revolver while causing panic in a general store. Allen advised the man that the next train was leaving in a half-hour and that he should leave. The man ignored Allen and during evening hours, he started a commotion at a hotel. Allen again told the redheaded man to leave town. The next day, the man was causing an uproar at a cheap, dingy drinking establishment. Allen finally intervened and said, “Now I will take you in.” On his way to prison, the redheaded man stated to Allen, “You’re not man enough to take me in” and slapped him. As a result, Allen was irate, thrashed the man in a bloody fight, disarmed his Colt, and threw him in a prison cell. Afterwards, Allen threw the blood-encrusted man into the next train. Mayor George Martin stated, “I think this was his last experience with amateur prize-fighters who came to test his mettle.” For thirty-three years, Tom Allen served as city marshal in Junction City. During his many confrontations, he was not responsible for a single death and was never injured. Tom Allen was about five feet nine inches in height and weighed 170 or 175 pounds. He met all comers for many years and was never defeated. Sheriff M. D. Peeso started his career under Tom Allen and has proved a worthy successor to him. Tom Allen would eventually died in his bed on June 18, 1904.