Stoutsburg Cemetery Association Featured Article

The Story You Haven’t Heard about the Lindbergh Kidnapping

William Allen – They Tried Very Hard Not to Celebrate Him

By Beverly Mills
011-William-Allen-watermarkedThe kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby has been called “The Crime of the Century.”  For decades books, documentaries, and various suppositions have been dedicated to solving the mystery of this kidnapping. Theories have been presented to answer the question of what really happened to the beloved 20 month son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh.  “Lucky Lindy,” revered and admired by America, garnered all the attention the world could muster—history continues to be kind.

But while you are likely to know about the Lindbergh baby case, have you heard about William Allen? Growing up, I knew the story.  It happened in 1932. While at work, William (Bill) Allen had to relieve himself so he stepped into the woods some 50 ft. off Princeton-Hopewell Road.  He had asked his co-worker, Orville Wilson, to pull the truck over.

Can you imagine his shock when he spied the badly decomposed remains of the Lindbergh child?

Allen-coupleIn the early 1940’s the Fields, my mother’s family, moved into Pennington next door to the Allen Family.  My mother, Jean, and the Allen’s youngest daughter, Elinor, became good friends and remained that way for many years.  While growing up my mother talked about Elinor, their friendship and the fact that Elinor’s Father found the remains of the Lindbergh baby.

003-Allen-William-Jrwatermarked I recently spoke with Karen Lovett, Bill Allen’s great-granddaughter, who is not only a friend but a relative through her grandmother’s side.  Coming up on the 84th anniversary of the baby’s discovery on May 12th, I was eager to speak with Karen.  I was happy to also speak with her cousin, Michael Ganie, who is the son of my Mom’s childhood friend, Elinor.

“They tried very hard not to celebrate him,” said Karen as Michael looked on in agreement. Michael went on to say, “You know, Lindbergh refused to shake his hand.  In fact, the Lindberghs refused to speak to him at all.  New Jersey Governor Harold Hoffman actually had to intercede on behalf of Grand Pop to make sure he received $5,000 out of the $25,000 — they didn’t even want him to have that because he was Black. By Bill Allen finding the remains of the Lindbergh baby he literally saved New Jersey hundreds of thousands of dollars, because the search would have continued indefinitely.”

Why did the Lindbergh family demonstrate a hesitation, a reluctance, to talk about it?

Racism is a powerful thing, a power that continues to amaze me.  I know Bill Allen isn’t the only Black man who has been on the receiving end of egregious racist behavior. But I can only tell you the story about this particular Black family.

With quiet dignity Bill Allen continued to live up the street from me on South Main in Pennington.  He would spend much of his time tinkering on junk cars in the back of his house; never without Red Man chewing tobacco in his pocket.  I would run up and down the street with the neighborhood kids and see him out back and sometimes I’d go talk to him for a while.  I can’t remember what we talked about but I do remember how tiny his house was, only two rooms downstairs and the same upstairs.  They used an outhouse.

The house has been torn down now for decades and a brand new spanking model sits in its place.  The newcomers have no idea about the little house that used to be there– or the family.  It’s time these stories are told.

Beverly Mills, co-author with Elaine Buck, of the forthcoming book on the history of the Stoutsburg Cemetery, was the winner of the 2015 Pennington Historic Preservation Award. As an African American raised in a town with less than one percent Black population, Beverly Mills speaks widely on the historical significance of African American Cemeteries in New Jersey as well their importance in US history. Aside from her father and mother, other descendants of Beverly’s are buried in Stoutsburg, including great-grandparents, grandparents, an aunt, uncle and cousins.

Read more about the forthcoming book