The History of the City of Alden
Hearing glowing reports of vast, beautiful, rich and unsettled land west of the Mississippi, Henry Alden, 53, (sixth in line of descent of John and Priscilla Alden of Mayflower fame) and Sumner Kemp, 21 arrived in the area in late June 1854. Henry Alden purchased 20 acres for $125 to use as a location for a saw mill.
In late April 1855, Sumner Kemp and Ira Plummer walked to Fort Des Moines #2, where Kemp registered 120 acres of U. S. Government land under the Homestead Act for himself and 80 acres for Henry Alden. These tracts of land became the first platte for the town of Alden.
In late 1855 and 1856, Henry Alden and others laid out what is known as the original town of Alden; later the township also took his name.
The town of Alden was incorporated in 1879, with a voting result of 61 in favor and 14 opposed.
Industry and Railroad
In 1858, a grist mill was built below the original saw mill. It was widely known at the time as "as fine a mill as any in the state". In 1914, the center of the dam went out, and the mill ceased operation. Welden Bros. built the present dam in 1931 when a swimming beach and boating area was needed by the community.
In 1869, the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad (now the Illinois Central) came through to Webster City which helped delivery of needed staple items.
The Chicago, Iowa and Dakota Railroad (now the Chicago Northwestern) came into Alden from Eldora in 1884. Now that transportation of perishable products in refrigerator cars was assured, a creamery was erected. There were many other thriving businesses, including: Rummel Wagon Works, Chet Wood’s (manufacturer of dirt-loading equipment, manure spreaders and excavator and road builder), Hale-Roberts Stone Co. (now Iowa Limestone Company), ice houses, several hotels, elevator and a lumberyard.
Education, Churches and Government
The first schoolhouse in Alden was built in 1856. Today, that building is now a part of the Howard Calkins house. Ten years later, a new one was built on a hill farther east. Another school, a part of the present one, was completed in 1924.
From 1854 to 1880, four churches were built in Alden: The Congregational, First Methodist Episcopal, Immanuel-Evangelical and Reformed, and the German Society of the Methodist Episcopal. St. Paul’s Lutheran (Missouri Synod) was established in 1908.
The first post office was established in 1855. The present post office was dedicated in 1969.
The Alden Hall or Lyceum was the main entertainment center for the town from early days until 1920’s. There were programs there every Saturday night from November to March. Besides local and area talent, there also was talent from other parts of the state, nation and even foreign countries. The Lyceum drew 100-400 people regularly. In those days Alden was called “The Athens of the West”.
Many businesses thrived and people traded in Alden for miles around. A couple of the favorites were Spencer's Department Store, located where the Clover Farm Grocery Store was, and Furry’s Department Store, located in the Shamrock Café Building.
In 1868 the Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad was completed to Alden. During the winter of 1868-1869, a depot building was erected. The first regular agent was J. M. Fisher, who took charge of the office September 1, 1869.
The old ball park, located at the county highway building, served baseball teams from the founding of the town. From 1886 to the 1940’s, Alden Days and the 4th of July were well attended in Alden. Now the Lion’s Club has an annual celebration in June.