Biography of Henry L. Alden

Henry L. Alden arrived in the old village of Wyandotte on Thanksgiving Day morning in November, 1867, and from that time until his death November 21, 1913, he continued a resident of Wyandotte and of Kansas City, Kansas. He was one of the most distinguished lawyers Kansas ever had. The many public honors that came to him, almost entirely within the scope of his profession, were a tribute to his power as a lawyer and his integrity of character.

He was not yet twenty-one years of age when he came to Kansas. He was born on a farm near Greenwich in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, May 8, 1847, a son of Abel and Evaline (Thompson) Alden. Judge Alden was the direct descendant in the ninth generation from the famous Pilgrim John Alden, and it was the branch of the family originating in Joseph, the second son of John Alden, to which the late Judge Alden belonged. This branch of the Alden family were chiefly farmers in Massachusetts. Abel Alden spent his life on a farm in Hampshire County and he and his wife had eight children.

From the public schools at the age of fifteen Henry L. Alden entered Munson Academy at Munson, Massachusetts, and a year later entered Kimball Union Academy at Meriden, New Hampshire, where he spent two years. In the meantime he had endeavored to enlist in the army for service in the Civil war which was then in progress, but was refused on account of his youth. After leaving Kimball Union Academy he had charge of an academic school in Pennsylvania. It was due to the influence of his married sister, Mrs. Dr. J. P. Root, that he came to Kansas. Doctor Root was one of the early leaders in the free state movement of Kansas, was a member of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention and afterwards was appointed by President Grant as minister to Chile.

The first year he spent at Wyandotte he was principal of the city schools, and then entered the office of Stephen A. Cobb, with whom he read law and was admitted to the bar in April, 1870. He began practice as a partner with Mr. Cobb and their association was continued until the death of Mr. Cobb eight years later. He was also in practice with Henry McGrew, and on the admission of George B. Watson to the firm the name became Alden, McGrew & Watson.

Judge Alden was never a political office seeker. His was a case of the office seeking the man rather than the man the office. From April, 1870, to April, 1872, he served as city clerk of Wyandotte. In 1872 he was elected county attorney and was re-elected in 1874, and was again chosen to the same office in 1882. After his admission to the bar the only office he accepted that was not in strict line with his profession was his election in 1876 as representative from Wyandotte County to the Legislature. He declined re-election.

In March, 1891, after the resignation of Judge O. L. Miller, Governor Humphrey appointed Mr. Alden as Judge of the District Court of the Twenty-ninth Judicial District. He was regularly elected to the bench in the fall of the same year, and in 1895 was chosen for a second term. He retired from the bench in January, 1900, after a capable administration of nearly nine years. He was a worthy and just judge, impartial, and his thorough knowledge of the law and its application was always balanced by his unblemished integrity of character. After his retirement from the bench, Judge Alden gave his time to the practice of his profession, forming a partnership with John E. McFadden and his son Maurice L. Alden, under the firm name of Alden, McFadden & Alden. On February 1, 1901, Maurice L. Alden withdrew from the firm to become associated with E. S. McAnany, and the firm continued as Alden & McFadden until 1903. From April, 1907, to May, 1909, he served as city counsellor of Kansas City, Kansas, and his last important connection as a lawyer was in the position of assistant general solicitor for the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway Company, a post he held from July 1, 1909, to August 1, 1910, when he resigned on account of ill health.

Judge Alden was long regarded as one of the prominent leaders of the republican party in Kansas. He served on the state central committee from 1876 to 1878. In 1888 he was a delegate to the national convention which nominated Benjamin Harrison and was also a member of the committee that formally notified General Harrison of his nomination. During 1895 he was president of the Kansas State Bar Association, was grand chancellor of the Kansas Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias from 1895 to 1896, and had been identified with that fraternity at Kansas City, Kansas, since 1878. He was also active in the Order of Elks from 1883 and filled the office of exalted ruler.

In 1870 Judge Alden married Miss Mary F. Cruise, who was born in Albany, New York, but had lived in Kansas City, Kansas, since girlhood. She is a sister of James A. Cruise, who was one of the pioneers of Wyandotte County and long prominent in county and city politics. Judge and Mrs. Alden had three children; Cora F.; Maurice L.; and Frances E., now Mrs. E. J. Grubel of Kansas City.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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