Conclusion: Retired Deputy U.S. Marshal Follows the Trail of
Robert Forsyth’s Murderer
By David S. Turk
The historical marker to the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of
duty, Robert Forsyth of the District of Georgia, stands just outside the
cemetery of St. Paul’s Church in Augusta. Dedicated in June 2008, marker
121-12 relates the bare outline of the full tragedy that changed the
lives of both assailant and victim. U.S. Marshal Forsyth was a
contemporary of Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee and the father of a
Governor of Georgia who served as Secretary of State in two presidential
administrations. While in the process of arresting a former churchman
named Beverly Allen, the respected lawman was shot and killed on January
Although found guilty, Beverly Allen escaped prison after six weeks of
confinement. Although it was suspected that he escaped, with the aid of
friends, to Kentucky, Allen’s fate was always vague. In those early
times, finding refuge in the wilderness was the option to jail or a
death sentence. While there were many questions about Allen after he
fled Georgia, it is almost certain that he died in 1817. For some 23
years after the death of U.S. Marshal Forsyth, Beverly Allen remained a
shadowy figure in hiding. In our agency research of Forsyth’s death, we
knew that much of the story.
It is also almost certain that retired deputies never forget the
detective instincts they acquired over years of working fugitive cases.
In early 2012, Retired Deputy U.S. Marshal Rom Latham read an article on
the Forsyth murder and decided to take a closer look at Beverly Allen—or
more succinctly, what happened to the fugitive. The trail led to Logan
County, in Western Kentucky—a county founded in 1792. Latham
wondered--why the flight to this remote section?
He contacted historians and genealogists, particular the Logan County
Genealogical Society, to find out the fate of Beverly Allen. The local
archives proved to have some fruitful material, and Latham began
collecting the copies to compile a case of sorts. In Finley’s History
of Russellville and Logan County, an account revealed what may have
been the answer.
It is related of him (Mr. Allen) that on his way from Georgia,
fleeing from his
pursuers, and having travelled night and day, and pale and emaciated
and harrowed with the thoughts of his condition, with dishevelled
hair, but retaining his good and fine appearance, even in
misfortune, that he stopped one Sunday morning at a Presbyterian
meeting and listened to one of their preachers declaring it
impossible for a christian to fall from grace. When he was done, Mr.
Allen arose in that inimitable style of his, declared through his
thorough conversion and his apostacy, and warned them not to rely on
such security, but to watch least they enter into temptation and be
like him a castaway. The whole congregation of backwoodsman wept
like children. 1
The strong emotions of guilt and religious friction were likely the
reasons Beverly Allen came to be in a place called “Rogue’s Harbor.” He
was among others that fell from society’s clutches to rebuild
themselves. One writer noted the area “attracted the worst that society
had to offer. Murderers, thieves and villains of every stripe had taken
haven in the far west of the day, in a place unlikely to scrutinize
evildoers.” ii Early religious revivals,
particularly under Pastor James McGready, who drew thousands to his camp
meetings, made this area unique. The local citizenry tolerated the most
horrid of past crimes. While news of a reward and ample information
reached the Kentucky Gazette in May 1794, Lexington was far from
“Rogue’s Harbor,” which later was renamed Russellville.
Beverly Allen began a practice in medicine. His wife, who resided for
some time in Georgia, joined him in Logan County. His wealth again grew,
and he invested in new land around Big Whippoorwill Creek. Rather than
sell, he acquired property, and later retired from medicine to tend to
his lands. Allen never left his cocoon of land and friends, and it
assured that the distant reward offered for his arrest never saw
fruition. He later returned to religious teachings, and headed a school
in his community. Among his students was evangelist minister Peter
Cartwright. He wrote out his will on October 26, 1816 and died only
months later, in February 1817. He was buried in the Allen Cemetery
south of Russellville. iv
Latham finished his inquiry by contacting Ray Chandler, a journalist who
wrote an article on the subject in the summer 2006 issue of Georgia
Backwoods Magazine. It happened that he was also a descendant of Beverly
Allen’s brother, and the family was fully aware of the history. He
confirmed the findings. In conclusion, a most unlikely fugitive was
finally found and the case can finally be closed.
i) From Findley’s History of Russellville and Logan
County (KY), pages 43-44.
ii) Ken Horn, “Camp Meeting Breakthrough,” seventh installment,
Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, July 19, 2009, 23.
iii) Ibid.; Kentucky Gazette, May 31, 1794.
iv) Findley’s History, 101; Notes from Rom Latham, dated April
25, 2012; Will of Beverly Allen, Logan County Archives, Will Book “A”,