Alden Catlin


The briefest kind of a list of Alden's early settlers would be incomplete without the name of Alden Catlin. Mr. Catlin not only came early but he has remained here ever since and still enjoys, at his pleasant home on West Street, a good full measure of health and strength. The picture at the head of the column is from a photograph taken less than a month ago and shows the face of a kindly man who has had the good fortune to lead a busy and useful life.

Mr. Catlin was born July 14, 1831 at Ashfield, Massachusetts and began learning the carpenter trade when eighteen years old. His uncle, Henry Alden, advised him to come west and promised that he could get rich quickly. He accordingly arrived here in February 1856. Monday afternoon he told the writer of this sketch that his uncle Henry was considerably mistaken about the get-rich-quck business. What competence he has secured has come to him by hard knocks, early and late. Just now, at the age of seventy-four, he is beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Forty schoolhouses have been built by Mr. Catlin. He has built no less than thirty dwellings to his own name. Most of these he has afterwards sold, but still owns nine from which he receives regular rental. When he first arrived here there was no hotel building except a two room log building owned by George Nelson. Mr. Alden advised him to build a hotel and loaned him the money to do so. He bought the lumber of J.D. Drande and put up the house now occupied by Mrs. S.R. Furry in the summer of 1856. When completed, Mr. Alden bought it and rented it to Charles Pritchard who conducted it as a hotel for several years. About the time it was completed a dance was held in the log hotel. A row of milk pans ran along one side of the room on a shelf supported by a small upright beam. A friend of Mr. Catlin's by the name of Couillard, wishing to mix up the dance, purposely swung his partner against the beam and the whole company was splattered with milk and dusty cream. The Couillard joke and the new hotel together, soon made the Nelson house unnecessary and it was torn down.

In addition to the work done in his own name, Mr. Catlin has done a large amount of job and contract work, living in the meantime on his farm west of town where his two daughters Mrs. W.B. Miller and Mrs. Alice Willey grew to womanhood.

The present Mrs. Catlin is somewhat of an early comer to Hardin county herself, having arrived at Hazel Green, a now vanished settlement about two miles east of Robertson, in May 1855. He was then less than five years of age, having been born in Pennsylvania November 14, 1850. The business houses consisted of a store and a blacksmith shop for showing oxen. When about twelve years of age the little Miss Belinda Smith had the good luck to drive home, with the cows one evening, a young deer furnished venison for the family for a long time.

When Mr. Catlin arrived in Alden he had heard a great deal about Indians, but had never seen one. two weeks later he met a band of a hundred Pottawattamies in full war paint returning from an excursion against Sioux. He thinks this was, without any doubt, the biggest scare he ever had in his life.