Head east on U.S. 12 and pass through the village of Allen, and you might think you’ve traveled back in time.
Antique shops and malls line both sides of the two-lane highway, offering a glimpse of lost treasures of yesteryear. For antique-lovers and students of history alike, it’s a paradise, a living celebration of the old.
But that’s actually a relatively recent development. For much of Allen’s history, it was a vibrant, modern community. To get a clear picture of the village’s roots, and its subsequent history, you have to roll back the clock to the early 19th century.
Nearly 200 years ago, there were no quaint shops and no vintage furniture being sold. The village itself didn’t exist. The land on which Allen sits was only a blip along a well-worn trail Native Americans used to travel between what we now recognize as the metro regions of Detroit and Chicago.
But the territory caught the eye of Moses Allen, a veteran of The War of 1812. Allen brought his family west, traveling by sledge, over frozen terrain, along Sauk Trail, arriving to the area in 1827.
The family found open space to pitch a tent and began to carve out a small settlement, which came to be known as “Allen’s Prairie.”
It grew quickly.
A post office was built in 1830 and was named “Sylvanus,” due to its woody surroundings. It closed four years later, then reopened in 1835, this time called “Allen” in honor of its veteran founder.