Solving the mystery of the origin of Alden’s name

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2001

My Lifestyles Section article about the first William Morin in the Aug.

Friday, September 14, 2001

My Lifestyles Section article about the first William Morin in the Aug. 26, 2001, issue of the Tribune resulted in a message from a former columnist of the Alden Advance. His name was Ruben Frederick.

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The use of the past tense in the last sentence was deliberate. In reality, Ruben Frederick is actually Dr. Ruben Schmidt. He wrote columns for the Advance under the rather clever heading of &uot;Doc-U-mentation&uot; for over six years. And what he brought to the Tribune was one of his columns about the origin of the Alden name for both the community and township.

Before we present his very logical theory for the Alden name, here are the results of my own research into this subject.

The 1911 and 1988 Freeborn County history books are very vague on this subject. A book by Wallace Upham, &uot;Minnesota Geographic Names,&uot; (Minnesota Historical Press, 1969) says on page 199, &uot;Alden, settled in 1858, was organized April 3, 1866. The railway village was platted in 1869, and the track was completed to this place Jan. 1, 1870. It was incorporated in 1879. This name is borne by villages and townships in several other states.&uot;

One of those other Alden villages, incidentally, is about 90 miles south of here and located between Iowa Falls and Webster City.

Now, lets use a quote from a portion of Dr. Schmidt’s column which was published in the Alden Advance on June 18, 1992.

&uot;The origin of the name of our Morin Lake is quite obvious, but why did Alden receive the name of &uot;Alden&uot;? Nobody really knows. However, I have contrived a guess. Last year an interested traveler from Cherry Creek, N.Y., a Mr. Harry Loomis, stopped by Alden wondering whether our Alden might have been named after his neighboring City of Alden, N.Y.; for many moved from New York to the Midwest and perhaps took the town’s name with them. He told me that Alden, N.Y., was named after the colonial figures, John and Priscilla Alden.

&uot;Mr. L. W. Spicer, of Albert Lea, made a thorough study of the early history of Freeborn County. He told that at an early date, a state law was passed requiring that all town and townships be named. Accordingly, a meeting was held at the courthouse for that purpose. The name Of ‘Alden’ was suggested by an unknown man and adopted for this community (The Forty-Niner).

&uot;William Morin was born in Ireland in 1827 where he was schooled as a civil engineer. He came to the United States at about twenty years of age, locating somewhere in the State of New York. There he became the chief engineer on the Niagara Gorge Railroad (History of Freeborn County Minnesota, 1911). Now Alden, N. Y. is only 30 miles from Niagara Falls, N.Y. He came West in 1856, invested in large tracts of land and became one of the founders of the City of Albert Lea. He was also the first County Auditor and the first Register of Deeds of Freeborn County. Therefore, William Morin was involved in the community and in public office during the formative years of this area. He was here when Minnesota gained statehood in 1858. As such, did have any memories of Alden, New York? Was he the ‘unknown man’ that suggested the name for Alden?&uot;

The Forty-Niner mentioned above is a booklet about Alden, community and township, issued in 1949 as a part of the Minnesota Territorial Centennial.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullens came to America from England in 1620 on the good ship Mayflower. They settled in Plymouth, Mass., and were married about 1622.

One of their direct descendants, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a fictional poem about their marriage with the title of &uot;The Courtship of Miles Standish.&uot;

Special thanks go to Dr. Ruben Frederick Schmidt for providing a copy of his 1992 column which inspired this column and provided some real &uot;Doc-U-mentation&uot; about the origin for the Alden name.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.