Hardin County - Alden Township

Excerpts from The History of Hardin County, Iowa.
Springfield, Ill.: Union Publishing Company, 1883.

Transcribed by Brenda Wieland

Town of Alden

The first settlement on the present site of the village of Alden was made by Henry Alden, who, in company with Sumner Kemp, came here from Massachusetts, June, 1854, driving through from Naperville, Illinois, with an ox team, crossing the Mississippi river at Dubuque, and thence to the Cedar river. Striking that stream at Janesville above Cedar Falls, they then proceeded up that stream (Their intention being to find a mill site, and had the present location of Sioux City in view) to near the Minnesota line, where they crossed to the Iowa river, and there found Thomas Bailey and others hunting, who told them, in the course of the conversation, of their settlement near the present site of Alden; also telling them of plenty of vacant land to be had, and a good location for a mill. Hearing such glowing accounts of this county, they determined to come and see for themselves. They descended the Iowa to this point, and, upon arriving, immediately began the building of a dam and the erection of a saw mill, their millwright being "Uncle" Ben Talbot, of Rocksylvania. This mill was a rude affair, with an old-fashioned "flutter-wheel." The iron, etc., was hauled here by a team from Naperville, Ill. Mr. Kemp soon after retired from the firm, and in 1855 the whole property passed into the hands of J. W. Cowles. He sold to Stephen Whited, and he to Henry Alden. This saw mill was destroyed by a freshet in April, 1862. In 1859 the property was purchased by G. M. Woodbury, of Marshalltown, and in 1859 he improved the dam and supplied the necessary machinery, and commenced operating the grist mill the following winter. In June, 1863, the property was bought by George Rule, of Clinton county, who sold it the next year to Wm. Sherrard, who made a great many improvements, and retained the ownership ten years. Mr. Von Berg, of Galena, Ill., was the next purchaser. He added another dam of stone, and sold it the following year to Wm. Pagel, the present proprietor, who, in 1882, changed it to a roller mill.

A steam saw mill was brought here in October, 1856, and located on the Iowa river, on what is known as Clover’s Addition, by Taylor Bros. & Potter, and McClure & Co. This mill supplied nearly all of the lumber for the surrounding country for fifteen years. In 1873 it was sold to parties who moved it to Webster county, where it is still doing work.

The old town of Alden was laid out by Henry Alden, in 1855. This was afterwards known as Upper Town.

N. A. McClure & Co., of Cubuque, and Lott Clover, of Alden, in 1856, laid out Clover’s Addition. This was known as Lower Town. The Central Addition was laid out by Raymond, Peabody and Hawes in 1857, the land having been bought of Henry Alden for $100 an acre. This addition was located between the other two, and was on neutral ground. A great many who afterwards settled here located on this addition, fearing that either Upper or Lower Town would eventually be abandoned, which has since proved true. At the moving of Taylor Bros.’ Mill al business was transferred to the upper town. During the year 1857 the town grew very rapidly, but owing to the financial crash of that year, it received a back set. A great many of the town owners abandoned their property.

>The first house was erected by Lott Clover in 1855, and is now owned by William Pagh, as part of his residence.

Charles Schoenhals opened the first store in October, 1856, in a building now owned by James Barnes.

n the spring of 1857 a two-story store building was built by Taylor Bros., near their saw mill, which was occupied by Charles Schoenhals. This building was struck by lightning, August 13, 1857, and one end torn out, two men being killed, Hoeing and Peters, who had just completed their suppers in the building. All the good were damaged, with the exception of a piano.

Ferguson & Young opened a store in the fall of 1857, in a building erected by themselves for that purpose, near where the "Spencer" House stood. This firm remained until 1862, when they dissolved, and the business was continued by Duane Young, who did business at the old stand until 1868, when the building was moved to its present location, and purchased by A. C. Whitney, and is now a part of his furniture store.


The first hotel was built in 1855 by M. P. Rosecrans, and is a building now owned and occupied as a residence by James Barnes. 

The Central House was built in 1869, by M. J. Davis.  It has accommodations for thirty guests.  Mr. Davis still owns and occupies the house, which has a good run of patronage.  

A large hotel was built by the Bear Bros., in 1857, at a cost of $6,000, afterwards known as the Spencer House, but which has long since been abandoned as a hotel.

M. J. Davis, who is now commonly known as "’Squire" Davis, is the pioneer hotel man of Alden. He was born in North Chilli, Monroe county, New York, January 12, 1822, and is a son of Joseph and Roxania (Porter) Davis. In 1826 his parents moved to Oakland county, Mich., where he lived until 1843; and while here he received a good common school education. In 1843 he moved to Ionia county, Mich., where he lived until 1857, when he came to Alden and immediately bought the American House, which is now used for the post office. This house he ran one year, and then rented the old Spencer House, and ran it three years. Afterwards he built his present hotel – the Central House. Mr. Davis was elected the first Mayor of the village of Alden, and in 1860 was elected Justice of the Peace, which office he has held most of the time since. He was County Supervisor four years, being elected first to fill a vacancy for one year, and then elected for three years. In politics, he is a Republican. Mr. Davis was married in Oakland county, Mich., to Miss Matilda Wells, who is a native of Michigan. They have been blessed with five children – Adeline, now the wife of J. G. Whitney; Adelberta A., now in business at Alden; Elinor, now the wife on John Hoskin; Emma, now the wife of A. M. Merrill; Hattie E., wife of J. L. Savage.

Furniture Trade

The first furniture store was opened in the fall of 1868, by Whitney & Willis, on the second floor of a building now occupied by Frank Lenhart, druggist. Here they remained one year, then rented a building of Duane Young, the same being the one in which Ferguson & Young opened the second store in the town. In February, 1870, the partnership was dissolved, since which time the business has been conducted by A. C. Whitney.

A. C. Whitney, who is a furniture dealer of Alden, was born in Franklin county, Bt., August 11, 1833. He received a common school education, and at the age of 16 began learning the carpenter’s trade. In 1852 he moved to Lyons, Wayne county, N. Y., where he worked at his trade. At the expiration of two years he was called home by the death of his mother, and remained there until 1854, when he turned his steps westward, and in January, 1858, located in Alden. He immediately began working at his trade, which he followed until he opened a furniture store, in company with O. Willis, in 1868, and has since continued in this business. M. Whitney has held the office of Township Clerk, and is the present village Treasurer. He was married December 31, 1858, to Mary Todd, who was born in Courtland county, N. Y. They have nine children – Ida M., Edith, Lewis, Leona, Minnie, Andrew, Charles, Mabel and Effie.

Drug Trade

The first drug store was opened by P. B. Peck, in June, 1869, in a portion of the building yet occupied by him. This building was the first brick one in the town, and was built by Henry Alden.

Frank Lenhart, who is a druggist of Alden, was born in Clayton county, Iowa, August 10, 1857, and is the son of John and Mary (Rickard) Lenhart. He remained in his native county until 15 years of age, when he moved to Alden and began printing. This vocation he followed until February, 1880, when he opened his drug store. He studied drugs with Dr. Frisbie.

Wagon Manufactory

The first wagon maker was L. Rummel, who opened in a small frame building, in September, 1865. This building was 24 x 24. An addition was built by Mr. Rummel, 20 x 30, in 1866. The entire building was burned January 30, 1869., He then erected a stone building, 30 x 50, three stories in height, with a frame addition, 35 x 50, together with a store room, 22 x 70, two stories in height, the second being used as a paint shop. He now employs about a dozen men in the various departments of his business, and has a trade of $12,000 annually.

L. Rummel was born in Prussia, in 1840. In 1855 he accompanied his parents to America, locating north of Milwaukee, Wis. He soon afterwards commenced to learn the trade of wagon maker, at Richfield Station, Wis., and subsequently carried on that trade for himself near Fond du Lac, where he remained until 1865, when he came to Alden and opened the first shop in the place. Mr. Rummel has held the office of School Director, and is at present a member of the town council. He is recognized as an honorable citizen and an enterprising business man. He was married in 1863 to Augusta Schultz. They have


The first blacksmith was Martin Pritchard, who opened a shop here in the fall of 1856. Among those now in the trade is Charles Roller.

Charles Roller was born in Wurtemburg, Germany, in the year 1849. He came to America during the year 1867, and settled in Philadelphia, Pa. While in his native country he learned the trade of blacksmithing, and worked at it for eleven years in Philadelphia. In the year 1878 he came to Alden and entered the employ of L. Rummel. In April, 1882, he opened a shop for himself. Mr. Roller was married in 1869 to Miss C. B. Riehm. They have been blessed with three children – Lizzie, Willie and Frankie.


One of the first harnessmakers was J. A. Button, who opened a shop in the fall of 1866, in a building now owned by Charles Hunt. His brother, J. C. Button, was admitted as a partner in the summer of 1869. In 1873 they sold out to Hiram Button, who in turn disposed of the shop to M. A. Grout, In October, 1875. Mr. Grout still continues the business.

M. A. Grout is a son of D. B. and Harriet (Frisbie) Grout, and was born in Ontario county, N. Y., in 1838, where he remained until 1845, then removed to Macomb county, Mich., where he learned the trade of harnessmaking, and remained until 1868. He then came to Wright county, Iowa, and turned his attention to farming, and in 1875 he embarked in the harness trade at Alden. He was married in August, 1863, to Miss L. Aldrich, a daughter of N. and Lousia Aldrich. She was born in Macomb county, Mich.

Lumber Trade

Taylor Brothers were the first to engage in the lumber trade in Alden. They commenced the business here in 1856, and for twenty-five years were in partnership in the same line. On the 15th day of August, 1882, the firm was dissolved, Edward becoming sole proprietor.

Peter Taylor and his brother E. Taylor came to Alden in October, 1856, and put up a steam saw-mill, at which mill they manufactured most all the lumber used in town and surrounding country for a dozen years following. They only sawed a few logs in the fall of 1856, when the hardest winter on record put a stop to that kind of business until May, 1857, and, before the snow had left the valley, building in town commenced at a lively rate. Taylor & Bro. Put up the first store in town, in which C. Schoenhals put in the first stock of general merchandise. In 1858 Mr. James Potter, City Engineer of Dubuque, who had an original interest with McClure & Co. in the saw-mill, became a partner of Taylor & Bro., and they ran the saw-mill together until 1870, when James Potter removed to Fort Scott, Kan. In 1859 Taylors & Co. built a bridge across the river at Alden, which stood for about ten years. Peter Taylor accepted an appointment at Assistant Engineer in the U. S. Navy in 1863, and resigned his appointment in September, 1865, returning to Alden, where he married Helen M. Rogers in 1868, and built a house the year following, near the depot, where they have lived ever since. They have two daughters and a son to divert their attention.

Taylor & Bro. Dealt in pine lumber, and hauled the same from Ackley and Iowa Falls for two years before the railroad reached Alden. They built the brick school house in Alden, and put up a grain warehouse in 1869, and an elevator in 1875, which burnt down in 1876, with 13,000 bushels of grain, and was rebuilt the same year by them. E. Taylor was married in 1865 to Louisa Schultz. He bought the brick house built in 1857 by John Peabody, where he has resided ever since. He has two children, a son and a daughter. In 1881, after 25 years of partnership, they separated their business, E. Taylor continuing in the lumber and Peter Taylor in the grain trade.


The Bank of Alden was established in June, 1873, by Nagle Birdsall & Co. In the spring of 1875, Benjamin Birdsall & Son became proprietors. T. J. Birdsall is the active man of the firm.

T. J. Birdsall, who is one of the proprietors of the bank of Alden, was born in Waupaca county, Wisconsin, October 5, 1851, and is the son of Benjamin and Ann (Lee) Birdsall. Here, in his native county he received a good education at the public school. In 1871 his parents moved to Alden, and in October of 1872, he entered the law office of C. M. Nagle, of Alden, and remained until the following year when he entered into partnership with his father and Mr. Nagle, in the banking business. He was married April 28, 1874, to Miss Julia L. Nagle, who is a native of Clayton county, Iowa. Two children have been born to them – John M. and May L.

The banking house of Duane Young, was opened in June, 1874, and continued by Mr. Young for four years, or until June, 1878.

Duane Young, who is one of Alden’s pioneers, was born in Johnston county, New York, February 18, 1832, and is the son of Richard and Maria (Simcer) Young. Until eleven years of age, he attended the common schools, and after that, obtained such education as could be gathered during his leisure hours. Mr. Young is truly a self-made man. Beginning in life with nothing, he has accumulated wealth, until he is now one of the richest men in Hardin county. At eleven years of age he began to work in a woolen factory, at which occupation he continued until twenty, when he crossed the plains to California, and for three years followed mining, and here received his first start in life. In 1856 he returned to Uties, New York, and remained one year. In going west he passed through Iowa, and liking this part of the country, he determined to settle here; accordingly, in 1856 he came to Alden, and during that summer, built and opened in company with A. R. Ferguson, the second store in Alden. They were engaged in trade together until 1862, when they dissolved, and Mr. Young carried on the business alone for some years. During his business career here, he has been engaged in the grain trade, banking business and mercantile trade, and has always been known as one of Alden’s most enterprising business men. In January, 1881 he opened a bank at Clarion, which now occupies the most of his attention. He was united in wedlock, in 1857, with Miss Mary Ann Chadwick, of Utica, New York.

Five children have been born to them – Charles D., George W., William H., Mabel and Maud.


In 1868 the Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad was completed to this place. During the winter of 1868-9, a depot building was erected. The first regular agent was J. M. Fisher, who took charge of the office September 1, 1869. With the exception of a few months – from March 9 to October 11, 1881 – he has occupied the position to the present time.

J. M. Fisher was born in York county, Penn., February 11, 1832, where he remained until twenty-six years of age, receiving a good common school education. In 1858 he came west to Princeton, Ill., where he was engaged as lumber salesman for six years; thence to Independence, Iowa, where he entered the employ of the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad, now the Illinois Central; and on September 1, 1869, he took charge of their office at Alden, where he has since resided. He is a son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Miller) Fisher. He was married in 1863 to Lydia Smellbacker. They have one son – Abraham Lincoln, now telegraph operator at Alden.

Other Business Interests

Among other business men worthy of especial notice are A. R. Furry, general merchant; H. T. Williams, miller; J. B. Fitch, agricultural implements; Milton Utley, hardware; M. F. Bigelow, livery; Henry Alden, meat market; J. T. Fiddler, restaurant.

A. R. Furry, one of the leading business men of Alden, was born in Marshall county, Ind., in 1848. He came to Hardin county with his parents in 1855. He received a good common school education, with an attendance of five years at the Iowa College, at Grinnell. He then clerked for J. Q. Patterson, at Eldora, during 1872-3. He was then with, his father at Alden until he engaged in business for himself in 1880. He was married in 1877 to Miss Ida, daughter of August and Frederica Grapp, of Milwaukee, Wis. They have two children – Harlie E. and Cora May.

H. T. Williams is a son of Tyler and Lavina (Francis) Williams, and was born in Foxboro, Mass., May 17, 1831. In 1838 his parents moved to Portage county, Ohio, where he remained until 1852. He then moved to Chicago, Ill., where he worked at millwrighting two and a half years; thence to Lockport, Ill., remaining until 1870, when he came to Eagle City, Hardin county, where he was engaged in milling four years; afterwards for the next four years he was engaged in working in the Eldora mill, and, in 1878, rented the Alden lower mill and ran it one year, and afterwards was at Hardin City, Parkersburg and Iowa Falls until December 6, 1881, when he returned to Alden, and has since been running the lower mill. He was married December 25, 1870, to Miss Belinda Smith, a daughter of James Smith, of Hardin township. Five children are the result of this union – James Tyler, Arabella, Oscar Orlando, Francis Henry and Cora B.

J. B. Fitch is a son of Prosper and Maria (Vaughn) Fitch, and was born in Otsego county, N. Y. , February 16, 1827, where he received a good common school education, and remained until 1852. He then moved to Oswego county, N. Y., where he was engaged in farming ten years; then spent two years in barrelmaking at Syracuse, N. Y.; then six years in Lewis county, N. Y., engaged in the manufacture of lumber and barrels. He then came to Alden, and settled on section 32 and bought 160 acres of land, on which he made a few improvements; this he disposed of the following year. He afterward moved to Buckey township, and was there engaged in farming two years, and in 1879 he engaged in the agricultural implement trade at Alden. While in Buckeye township he held the offices of Tow Clerk and Secretary of the School Board. He was married May 8, 1851, to Martha Shepherd. She bore him two sons – John and Lewis – and died in 1857. He was married to Sylvia J. Groat, January 27, 1859. Four children have been born to them – Ray, Edmund, Harry and Kate.

Milton Utley, who is one of Alden’s leading business men, was born in Oneida county, N. Y., December 17, 1838, and is a son of Issac and Electa (Cogswell) Utley. In 1839 his parents moved to Courtland county, N. Y., where he remained until 18 years of age, receiving a good common school education. In 1856 he came West to Bureau county, Ill., and engaged in farming, which occupation he followed until he came to Alden, In 1868. Soon after coming here he embarked in the drug trade, in which business he remained until September, 1878, when he opened his present hardware store. He was joined in wedlock to Miss Mary Thompson, in 1860, who bore him one son, Addison E., and who died in 1864. He was married again in 1873 to Deborah J. Blakeslee. The fruit of this marriage was two daughters – Minnie and Nellie May.

M. F. Bigelow, a son of Foster and Mary (Bordworth) Bigelow, was born at Conway, Mass., May 17, 1845. In 1856 his parents moved to St. Lawrence county, N. Y., where he remained until 25 years of age, when he came to Alden, remaining here until 1873, when he moved to Eldora. After spending about one year at Eldora, he returned to Alden and opened a livery. Mr. Bigelow is the present City Marshal. He was married in 1869 to Miss Eveline Burnham, who was born in Illinois, but was reared in St. Lawrence county, New York.

Henry Alden was born in Ashfield, Mass., in the year 1831, and was reared on a farm. In May, 1870, he came West and located at the village of Alden, and built a brick block on Main street. In 1873 he opened a meat market here, and has since been engaged in this business, with the exception of two years. He was married June 4, 1856, to Miss Maria Leonard, who is also a native of Ashfield. They have four children living – Ella M., William H., Charles A. and George R.

T. Fiddler, who is owner of the Alden restaurant, was born in Richmond county, Ohio, January 2, 1851. He is the son of Henry and Francis (George) Fiddler. In October, 1853, they came to Muscatine county, Iowa, where they remained until March, 1854, when they settled in Hardin township, where they still reside. In 1872 J. T. went to Eldora, and began clerking in a furniture store, where he remained tow years, and then engaged in the sewing machine trade, which business he followed until 1871, when he opened his restaurant at Alden, in which business he still continues. For the past four years he has been Constable of this township, and has made a very efficient officer. In 1876 he was married to Miss Laura D. Strong. Two children have been born to them, both of whom have passes away.

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