Henry Alden


Henry Alden was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, on May 5, 1801, and was a direct descendent of John and Priscilla Alden, who reached America in the Mayflower and the romance of whose lives has been prreserved to us in verse by the poet Longfellow in "The Courtship of Miles Standish." The true genealogy, worked out with much patience by the subject of this sketch, deserves preservation, and is here given as it has been presered by his descendents: (1) John Alden of the Mayflower was born in 1599 and died September 12, 1687. (2) Joseph Alden, born 1624; died February 8, 1697. (3) John Alden, born 1674; died September 29, 1730. (4) Ebenezer Alden, born October 8, 1720; died February, 1810. (6) Henry Alden, subject of this sketch, born May 5, 1801; died September 6, 1877.

In the spring of 1852 Mr. Alden came as far west as Napierville, Illinois. Chicago was then only a small village and the mud was so deep in the streets that it was impossible to haul their merchandise through them. On account of the fever and ague he returned to Massachusetts in the spring of 1853.

In the winter of 1853 he came back to Napierville, and in the spring of 1854 was joined by Sumner Kemp. They purchased an ox team and started west in search of a mill site. They came as far as Waterloo, then followed the Cedar river north nearly to the state line, then continued the journey westward, intending to go to Sioux City. On reaching the Iowa river, near its source, Mr. Alden found it impassable and continued sourthward along its east bank until he met Tom Bailey, who was engaged in trapping and hunting. One of Bailey's possessions was a water privilege, which he had for sale and he induced the travelers to go and examine it. This, with about twenty acres of land adjoining, he purchased from Bailey for $125.00 and decided to locate here. He paid the government $1.25 per acre for the balance of the land on which the town now stands. They built a crude dam and laid out the town during the same year.

In 1855 he went to Massachusetts, but stopped in Napierville and bought the machinery for the saw mill that was being built, and returned here in the fall of the same year.

In 1859 he built the brick store building on the corner where M. V. Thompson's barn now stands. In 1863 he built the stone building that was torn down to be replaced by the Masonic Temple. The likeness of Mr. Alden, printed at the head of this article, is from a photograph owned by Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Bigelow, and kindly loaned by them for the purpose. It was taken late in life and shows the founder of our town as he is remembered by many who still remain with us.