Buena Vista County, IA
IAGenWeb Project


The town of Alta is located on the Illinois Central Railway in Nokomis township, in the southwestern corner of Buena Vista county. When the Illinois Central was built through the county in the year 1870 a station was established at this point, but for four years no agent was in charge. The town received its name in consideration of its high altitude, being one thousand five hundred and thirteen feet above the level of the sea, and also in honor of Altai Blair, daughter of John I. Blair, who was president of the Dubuque & Sioux City railway company, which built the road and to which the state made grants of land for building the railway. Alta lies higher than any town in Iowa, and there is but one point, a promontory near Lake Okoboji, that is higher in the state. It lies on the great Divide between the two rivers and it is a singular fact that its principal business street lies on the very apex of the Divide, the waters on the east side of the street draining into the Mississippi and those on the west side into the Missouri river.

The first resident of the town was J. M. Tibbett, who, in 1870, established a small store on the west side of Main street, where A. C. Rader's business block now stands, selling everything the settlers might demand. The lumber and material for the building was shipped by rail from Fort Dodge, and Mr. Tibbett opened for business early in the month of August. The depot was commenced July 18 and soon completed. In September of the same year Sanders Furlong, a native of Canada came out and he soon entered into partnership with Mr. Tibbett. He bought the entire interest in the small store in May, 1871, and in 1872, when a post office was established here, Mr. Furlong was made the first Nasby.

James Morrissey was the first section foreman, being the third resident of the town. His daughter, Hannah, now Mrs. A. C. Rader, was the first child born in Alta.

P. G. Peterson, a native of Sweden, came in the spring of 1873 and built a small hotel where the Edwards block now stands and also opened an office for the sale of railroad land. Mr. Peterson came from Chicago and many of his fellow Scandinavians followed him out here. He may be credited, in a great measure, for the large Scandinavian population of the country about Alta, as he located many of his countrymen on the fertile prairies of Elk, Nokomis and Maple Valley townships of this county and Diamond township in Cherokee. C. T. Steever came May 31, 1873, and was the first station agent, lumberman, implement dealer and grain buyer in the town. In 1876 Mr. Steever established the Alta Advertiser and was always a "booster" for his town, and easily the foremost business man in his time. J. F. Rahm, a blacksmith, came the same year and built a shop and residence. C. J. and O. F. Wiss, A Leander, N. Dahl, Dr. R. B. Dando, John Sweet, William Sherman, W. R. Weston, P. M. Jenks, L. Hestead and Chester Hunt soon followed. W. B. Farrar and J. D. Adalls are noted as Alta's first legal firm, and Dr. Dando as the first physician.

The town was incorporated about 1876, although the exact date cannot be ascertained as the records seem to be lost. A. W. Seymour was the first mayor, and since then the following men have been at the head of the town government: C. T. Steever, R. J. MacDonald, G. Gerner, A. C. Binnie, R. B. Dando, C. E. Cameron, M. Adams (has served twice as mayor) H. F. Schultz, W. W. Parker, (has served twice as mayor) C. J. Parker, Dr. L. J. Harvey, E. W. Clemons, G. F. Tincknell and the present incumbent, H. J. Lichtenberg. The town today is governed by the following officers: mayor, H. J. Lichtenberg; clerk, H. V. Chasse; treasurer, W. J. Sievers; assessor, N. A. Christensen; councilmen, C. J. Hetrick, A. R. Browne, C. P. Corneliussen, Lars Larson, G. C. Isbell and Eli Bensene. In 1880 the east side of the business section was burned to the ground, eight business houses being destroyed. The fire was supposed to be of incendiary origin, and the loss was severe on the new village, although the buildings were all frame and quite small. In 1893 came the second destructive fire. The west side, including ten business buildings and one residence, was consumed by fire in the night, entailing a loss of something like forty thousand dollars. Of these buildings all but the Clarkson block, were of frame construction, but the Clarkson Opera House Block, three stories high and built of brick veneer, was destroyed. But the town arose better and more substantial from the ruins, and with the enactment of a fire limit ordinance and the erection of brick buildings such disasters will not soon occur again.

In 1896 the first water works and electric light plants were erected by the city, being owned by the municipality. In 1904 the municipal heating plant was put in, and the town now owns these three systems, valued at almost thirty thousand dollars, with a debt of about seven thousand. The plants were erected by the co-operative assistance of the people who advanced the money to the city and have been repaid in service. It will be a matter of perhaps two .or three years more until the debt will be paid and then the city will have properties that will pay all the running expenses of the town from the revenue derived, and at lower rates than can be sustained by private plants.

James F. Toy of Storm Lake established the first bank here in 1878, with W. E. Brown as cashier. This bank later became one of the chain of branch banks operated by The Farmers' Loan. & Trust Company, and in 1905 was .organized into the First National Bank of Alta, with James F. Toy of Sioux City as president and A. R. Browne as cashier. The second bank was the Bank of Alta, opened by Parker & Tincknell in 1883. In 1909 this bank was reorganized into the State Bank of Alta, with W. P. Miller as president, G. F. Tincknell as vice president and manager and W. J. Sievers as cashier. Both banks have a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars. The town has well equipped business places, including two general stores, two lumber yards, three elevators, one of which is a co-operative, a co-operative creamery, three drug stores, two hardware stores, two clothing and two furniture stores.

La Coterie in Alta was organized in October, 1894, composed of twelve ladies as charter members. Mrs. Emily Mallory was instrumental in forming the club. The stated object for forming the association was "literary advancement and social culture," their purpose being to pursue studies helpful and practical for the every day activities of life, as well as to gain information along literary lines. The club now belongs to the State Federation, having become federated in 1896. In their studies for the past year they have pursued a varied program, consisting of literature, household economics and child study. The furnishing of the rest-room in the opera house is one of the worthy accomplishments of the ladies of La Coterie. They have also undertaken to see that the room is supplied with reading matter. The club is at present composed of twenty-three members, as follows: Mrs. Zada Benson, Mrs. Lizzie Cameron. Mrs. Lillian Conner, Mrs. Fannie Christensen, Mrs. Ida Curtis, Miss Grace Clemons, Miss Carrie Denio, Mrs. Lizzie Edwards, Mrs. Selma Ellyson, Mrs. Emma Hadden, Mrs. Emma Herbert, Mrs. Libbie Hall, Mrs. Sadie Isbell, Mrs. Mary Kidder, Mrs. Ina Larsen, Miss Minnie Olson, Mrs. Hanora Rader, Mrs. Mary Richardson, Mrs. Lena Schultz, Mrs. Bessie Tincknell, Mrs. Abbie Wall, Mrs. Anna Wilkinson, and Mrs. Ara Willfong.

THE G. A. R.
The Alta branch of the Grand Army of the Republic is known as the Steven A. Hurlbut Post No.82. The following veterans constitute the membership of the Post at the present time: A. McMullen, commander; R. Breecher, senior vice commander; W. E. Partridge, junior vice commander; Edward Nute, chaplain; C. Stamm, officer of the day; B. F. Breman, officer of the guard; W. H. Cox, adjutant; T. A. J ones, quartermaster; Chas. Bassett, sergeant-major; Sam Stangland, Gus Johnson, T. E. Sprague and J. Wilkinson.

I. 0. 0. F. LODGE
Alta Lodge No.388, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized on the 18th day of December, 1878. The following men composed the charter members of the order: A. W. Seymour, Park M. Jenks, J. Q. Burkholder, H. a. Kelso, C. T. Steever, Lewis Wheelock, J. A. and Nils Anderson. The first regular meeting place of the lodge was the present hall. They occupied this, however, but a few years when they rented the hall over the Bank of Alta. They contracted for this hall for ten years, but occupied it for several years after that, and then moved back in the original hall which they now occupy. The lodge has an enrollment of seventy-three members at present, and the officers are as follows: Geo. H. Watson, N; G.; J. A. Blom, V. G.; A. H. Johnson, secretary; Henry H. Peterson, treasurer; Will. Smith, R. S. to N. G. ; Louis Christensen, L. S. to N. G. ; L. E. Peterson, warden; Harley Olson, conductor; A. A. Adams, R. S. to V. G.; Henry Popham, L. S. to V. G.; Marius Jensen, R. S. S. ; M. W. Beights, O .G. ; C. E. Cameron, I. G, ; Donald Hill, Louis Christensen and Harley Olson, trustees.

Summit Rebekah Degree Lodge No, 121, was instituted in Alta October 21, 1892. The charter membership was composed of the following persons: C. E. Cameron, Lizzie S. Cameron, S. F. Keith, Mary Keith, A. Conner, Martha J. Conner, C. C. Corl, Augusta Corl, Will. M, Smith, Mary M. Smith, Hans Howalt, Lizzie Howalt, S. G. Stout, Hannah M. Stout, W. L. Clemons, W. A. Clemons, J. W. Bard, Eliza F. Bard. The lodge meets in the I. O. O. F. hall. The last report showed one hundred and nine members, of whom the following are the present officers: Mrs. Fannie Zeilman, N. G. ; Mrs. Viola Allen, V. G. ; Miss Pearl Maggs, secretary; Miss Belle Emarine, treasurer; Miss Maude Knight, warden; Miss Phoebe Popham, conductor; Mamie Gurney, O. G. ; Mrs. Minnie Peterson, I. G. ; Mrs. Hannah Rader, R. S. to N. G. ; Mrs. Mary Adams, L. S. to N. G. ; Miss Lulu Christensen, R. S. to V. G. ; Mrs. Julia Kislingbury, L. S. to V. G.; Mary Smith, chaplain.

Alta Camp No.3051, of this order, was organized on the 19th of June, 1895 with twenty-two charter members as follows: A. A. Adams, J. E. Boles, A. C. Binnie, H. H. Darrah, H. F. DeVries, Hans Howalt, Fred Hunt, G. H. Ingham, Jens Jensen, Peter Jensen, S. F. Keith, Edw. Larsen, A. Moffatt, P. Morrissey, Geo. Oleson, Samuel Parker, S. Pence, W. E. Sanders, Frank Scott, F. G. Tincknell, John VanBuskirk, and Wm. Zeilman. The present officers of the lodge are P. R. Moser, consul; G. Z. Davenport, advisor; W. R. Hatch, banker; F. G. Tinknell, clerk; F. G. Carpenter, escort; Wm. Zeilman, manager; Sherman Oakman, watchman; Emil Carlson, sentry ; Dr J W Morrison, physician. There an enrollment at the present time of one hundred and four members

Masonry began in Alta when Pomegranate Lodge No 408 was instituted. They became a chartered lodge June 9, 1881 having been granted their charter on that date. For a while before this, they worked under dispensation. Of the first officers C. T. Steever was master; R. T. McDonald senior warden; and G. Gerner, junior warden. There are sixty-one members in the order at the present time, and the officers are composed of the following men W. J. Seivers, worshipful master; G. A. Benson, ,senior warden; J. W. Morrison, junior warden; G. C. Isbell secretary; P. Morrisey, treasurer; V. E. Herbert, senior deacon; G. DeVries, junior deacon; S. E. Stanfield, senior steward; G. T. Hollingsworth, junior steward; David Burns, tyler

Alta Chapter, No 138 of the Eastern Star Lodge began it, existence on the 5th day of October 1893. The charter membership of the order was composed of the following persons: F. S. Berry, M. J. Conner, Ina Conner, K. A. Crowell. M. J. Forney, M. Heggblade, M. Gerner, M. Jones, Effa Jones, M. J. Minard, H. L. Weston, F. E. Wadswortb A. Wilkinson, Mrs. James Yuill, S. Wikinson; J. M. Berry, E. W. Crowell, A. Conner, W. C. Gerner, A. P, Heggblade, C. L. Jones, J. W. Minard, Paul Weston, James Wadsworth, J. Wilkinson, N. C. Wilkinson and JamesYuill The present membership of the lodge numbers one hundred and thirty-eight; the officers are constituted as follows, Mrs. Hilda Bell worthy matron ; V. E. Herbert, worthy patron; Mrs. Zada Benson, associate matron; Mrs. Libbie Hall , secretary; Mrs. Hattie Weston treasurer; Mrs. Sybil Clark, conductress; Mrs. Carrie Denio associate conductress; Mrs. Martha Conner, chaplain; Mrs. Flora Wadsworth, warden; G. M. Bell, sentinel; Miss Leonie Delay, Ada; Mrs. Beatrice Bowen, Ruth; Mrs. Elva VanBuskirk Esther; Mrs. Emma Herbert, Martha; Mrs. Mary Jones, Electa

Hercules Lodge No 375 of the above named order, was organized March 23, 1893, with the charter members whose names follow: Paul Weston, J. W. Bard, F. F Goodness, S. F. Keith, H. A. Darrah A. P. Heggblade, H. F. Schultz, F. K. Behne, Wm. H. Fowler, Thomas Walpole, C. P. Corneliussen, George Wharton, Geo. Gurney, L. C. McWilliams, W. D. Dice, Henry Snyder, John Urbon, Ralph R. Michael, and M. W. Beights. The lodge has grown in membership and at the present time one hundred and twenty-five have been initiated into the order. The following persons constitute the present officers : G. F. Tincknell, P. C. C. ; C. A. VanBuskirk, C. C. , Chas. Dahl, V. C. ; A. J. Skelton, K. of R. & S. ; Wm. Farrow, prelate; Jacob Enemark, M. at A.; Roy Millard, I. G.; Elmer Benson, O. G.; and J. N. Emarine, trustee.

A. O. U. W. Buena Vista Lodge No.59, Degree of Honor, was instituted on the 14th day of August 1900. The persons whose names follow composed the first officers of the order: Mrs. Beatrice Biglin, P. C. of H.; Mrs. Mary Clemens, L. of H.; Mrs. Dessie Willfong, recorder; Miss Stella Pence, receiver; Thos. Willfong. I. W.; Mrs. Ara Willfong, C. of H.; Mrs. Maggie VanBuskirk, C. of C.; Mrs. Elizabeth Stetson, financier; Thos. Biglin, L. U.; Earnest Stetson, O. W. There are about sixty members in the order at the present time, with the officers constituted as follows: Mrs. Ruth Dagger, P. C. of H; Mrs. Zada Benson, C. of H.; Miss Minnie Olson, L. of H.; Mrs. Rose Lichtenburg, C. of C.; Mrs. Beatrice Bowen, recorder; Mrs. Julia Kislingbury, financier; Mrs. Minnie Peterson, receiver; Miss Gertrude Pence, usher; Mrs. Sophia Cox, I. .W.; Mrs. Tillie Wagner, O. W.; Mrs. Mamie Gurney, organist.

The above named order became a chartered lodge on the 9th of May, 1884. The following men were elected the first officers: S. G. Hall, P. M. W.; F. B. Browne, M. W.; F. J. Stockwell, G. F.; James Bruntlee, Thos. Walpole, recorder; G. A. Proctor, financier; T. Alderson, receiver; R. Bradfield, G.; C. E. Roby, J. W.; J. A. Johnson, 0. W. The officers at the present time are J. R. Weeks, P. M. W.; Lars Larson, M. W.; John Higgins, overseer; E. E. Jones, recorder; E. W. Clemons, financier ; H. J. Lichtenburg, receiver; C. P. Holmes, Guard; James Staples, inner watch ; Ira Carrington, outer watch; C. H. Johnson, trustee; C. W. Ellyson, medical examiner. The present enrollment is more than one hundred members.

Faderlandet Lodge No.224, of the Danish Brotherhood was formed October 3, 1905, and began under the direction of the following men, who were the first officers of the order: Neils Christenson, P. P.; Lars P. Nelson, P.; Bertel Nelson, V. P.; Peter Jensen, S.; Soren Neilsen, T.; Hans P. Smith, G.; Andres Anderson, J. G.; Christian Jensen, O. G.; and Neils Thygeson, T. R. Twenty-six members are now enrolled in the order, of whom the following are officers: Martin Molgaard, president; Oscar Scow, vice president; Peter Jensen, secretary; Bertel Nelson, treasurer; Martin Anderson, conductor; Nels Nelson, trustee; Peter Johansen, inner guard; Jacob Christensen, outer guard.

Nokomis Tent No.89, of the order named above, was organized July 21, 1900. The first officers elected were: L. P. Nelson, Com.; W. I. Hay, Lt. Com.; L. S. Kucker, R. K.; Hans Howalt, F. K.; H. P. Sanford, Chap.; S. C. Stangland, Sergt.; W. E. Sanders, physician; W. J. Poulter, M. at A.; J. H. Anderson, lst M. of G.; Olaf G. Olson, 2nd M. of G.; H. A. Hille, sentinel; J. A. Rucker, picket. The lodge is now practically disbanded, having held no meetings for several years.

On February 24, 1906, there was formed in Alta the lodge of above name with the title "High View" No.2807. The following persons were charter members of the order: Maude M. Anderson, Henry D. Anderson, Martha B. Anderson, Mae Emarine, Bessie M. Burt, Sara E. Council, Golman Z. Davenport, Lizzie K. Davenport, Sylvia Hollingsworth, Philip R. Moser, John W. Morrison, Emma S. Moser, Fae E. Newcomb, Bert Rucker, James A. Rucker, Elton Snorf, Esther M. Snorf, Christina Snell, Fannie Zeilman, and Wm. Zeilman. The lodge has met but little since their organization; they are under suspension at the present time.

High Point Encampment No.202, of the Odd Fellows lodge was organized on the16th of March, 1904, with five charter members composing the following named persons:  Allen Gates, Henry Popham, Henry Peterson, Nels Christensen, and Louis Christensen. There are about thirty-two members in the Encampment at the present time; the elective officers are: Henry H. Peterson, C. P.; M. W. Beights, H. P.; J. Moser, S. W.; Frank Dalziel, J. W.; Harley Olson, scribe; Henry Popham, treasurer.

Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole.  Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa.  Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, 154-66.