The city of Allen was established in 1870 and named in honor of Texas attorney general Ebenezer Allen. Built primarily to accommodate the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, the city’s fortunes rose with the railway industry and news of its prosperity may have reached the attention of outlaw Sam Bass. Bass hailed from nearby Denton and many people believe he robbed the Allen train and depot on February 22, 1878. Truth or fiction, the event earned the town its designation as location for the first train robbery in Texas.
The age of train robberies, in Allen and elsewhere, ended a long time ago fortunately and the Allen of today is a very different place than its 19th century predecessor. Thanks to the nearby Dallas metropolis and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Allen has become a thriving community, celebrating the modern age with a year-round schedule of events including summer musical concerts, art exhibitions, and festivals.
But Allen hasn’t forgotten its history, either. The Allen Heritage Center and Museum, located in a replica of the original railroad depot, features exhibits on pioneering Allen families alongside artifacts and documents on railroad history. Elsewhere in town, a surviving stone dam that once served to make water available to the railroad and is now recognized as a State Archeological Landmark highlights the Allen Heritage Guild’s historical driving tour. Nearby, the Allen Heritage Village features several of Allen’s oldest surviving structures relocated to a landscaped setting enhanced with interpretive exhibits.