Sumner Kemp


Fifty years of comings and goings and births and deaths have shifted the scenes so many times that only one person remains a resident of Alden who was contemporary with the coming of its founder. Others were here soon after, and a few persons, widely scattered, are still living who steeled in the green valley by the swift part of the river before Henry Alden saw the spot. But, of the all, white or red, none came so early and remained so late as Mr. Alden's young Massachusetts friend and fellow-traveller, Sumner Kemp.

Mr. Kemp was born in Shelburne, Franklin county, Massachusetts, February 6, 1833. In April, 1854, he joined his friend and former neighbor Henry Alden, at Naperville, Illinois, and the two set out together, soon afterward, with an ox team headed westward. They crossed the Mississippi at Dubuque and continued on west, finally reaching the present site of the town in the latter part of June, 1854.

Thomas Bailey, who had explored the river in a canoe from its source to the Cedar, was truthful in his representations in every respect. There was a sharp current over a limestone bed and good banks--an ideal mill location. In addition to the Bailey log cabin, Asher Boldon owned one farther east. Pleasant Jones, J.L. Hitt, Philemon Plummer, Wm. Myers, James Harvey, Don Sprague, and Francis Mitchell, some of them with families, had also located on claims within a radius of a few miles and regarded each other as near neighbors.

Messrs. Alden and Kemp had found what they wanted. Within ten days after the arrival Mr. Kemp and Ira Plummer started on their memorable foot journey to Des Moines, to enter more land, a part of which, in course of time, was surveyed and platted as the town of Alden.

It was a long time before the new town had much to entitle it to the name. The early voting was done at White's Mill, seven miles east, where Iowa Fals is now situated and Eldora was the nearest post office. Later, a post office was established in Alden on condition that the inhabitants should bear the expense of bringing the mail from Eldora. this stunt was performed once a week by Milt Clover, who took up and delivered mail for settlers all along the route and was always furnished his dinners and horse feed a the Griffin home in Jackson township.

If it seems we digress from a sketch of Mr. Kemp's life to a history of the town, it may be said that two are, up to the present time, identical with the exception of the four years he spent in the service of his country. Enlisting as a member of Company A, Twelfth Iowa Infantry in 1861, he shared its campaigns and victories and missed going down to it destruction at Shiloh only because, on that day, he was detailed as orderly for General Tuttle.

Mr. Kemp's recollecton of the early days is clear, comprehensive, and exact.