Nicholas Clement Alten

My Great-Great-Grandfather

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Above is the 1900 US Census. It shows N.C. Alten, his wife, and his family. It lists N.C. as the head of the household and a "hardware dealer", and the children are all "at school" (except for the youngest, she was 3 at the time).

N.C. Alten's Life

Nicholas Clement Alten was the son and second child (this is not known for sure, there may have been additional siblings who died before him) of Clemens Alten and Margarethe Puetz (pronounced "pitts"). Alten and Puetz had come over to the United States from what is now Germany, perhaps seeking religious freedom and cheaper land. N.C. Alten was born in Avon, Ohio, on a farm, on March 8, 1858. This was exactly three years before his wife was born. This also meant that the Civil War was happening while he was three to eight years old. In his early twenties, Alten left the farm and moved to the city of Lorain, where he worked in a hardware store. In 1881, at the age of 23, N.C. bought the store and named it ALTEN'S HARDWARE. At the time, the US was undergoing a rise in the shipping and steel industry, especially on the Great Lakes. This store was very lucrative: immigration, a steel plant located nearby, and Lorain being a stopping point for ships helped N.C.'s store succeed. His company grew and was unrivaled by anything else in the area. The city increased rapidly in population.

Alten was not only involved with his company. He was on the Board of Directors of Lorain Savings and Banking Co, and he was on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce. He also was on the Board of Directors of the Lorain Telephone Company. He owned stock of this company, and after many mergers, it eventually became Sprint stock.

During World War I, Walter William Alten, N.C.'s son and my great-grandfather, registered for the U.S. Military draft. However, he was exempt from duty because he was deaf in his left ear and was "needed on account of father's age to operate business".

In 1918, just after World War I, the Flu Epidemic of 1918 struck. It killed the second child of N.C. Alten, named Florence Cecilia Alten. She was only 30 at the time, and she was married with two children.

N.C. Alten married Mary Elizabeth Libs on February 12, 1885 and had seven children (six girls and one boy). Just four days later, Charlie Dow would publish the first edition of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

N.C. died of a heart attack on October 3, 1933. He was 76. A newspaper article and an editorial both honored his memory, saying that his death brought "to a close a whole chapter in Lorain's history". On the same day of his death, a fire in LA's Griffith Park trapped 50 people.

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This picture shows people on the shore of Lake Erie in Loraine. N.C. Alten's son, Walter William Alten, built a house a block away from the building shown.

N.C.'s Family

N.C.'s wife, Mary Elizabeth Libs, was born on March 8, 1861 in Adrian, Michigan. Because she had asthma, Mary moved to Arizona, then Los Angeles in 1918. N.C. would visit her once a year when she lived there. She died from lung cancer in LA in April 1949. She was 88.

As stated earlier, N.C. and Mary had seven children. Their first child was a girl named Alice Ada. She was born on February 28, 1886 and died in 1985.

Florence Cecilia was their second child. She was born on February 2, 1888 and died from the flu epidemic in 1918, on October 28.

Their third child, Walter William, is my great-grandfather. He was born on August 24, 1890 and died on August 18, 1954.

The fourth and fifth children were twin girls, named Corrine Margaretta and Lucille Mary, born August 21, 1892. Corrine died in September of 1977, after marrying the brother of Walter's wife. Lucille attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she played the organ. She did concerts on the West coast for 35 years. She died single on Christmas Day of 1968.

The sixth child was Thelma Elizabeth, born on July 7, 1895. She died at the age of 42 in April 1937.

The seventh and final child was Geralda "Geri" Esther. She was born on September 9, 1897. She was the last of the family to die when she perished in the 1990s.

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Shown here is an article describing the important merchants of Lorain and its surrounding areas. It talks about the building that N.C. Alten bought.
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This is a photo of the Directors of Lorain's Chamber of Commerce. N.C. Alten can be seen in the bottom left corner.