Tiny town, big history

Sarah Mullinix | Staff Writer

Alvord, the little town nestled in northwest Iowa, was incorporated as a town in 1893, although the town was being established several years prior. In 1890, W.B. Park and his wife platted the land that would become Alvord. The original name of the town was Park after W.B. This was later changed due to confusion and named Alvord, a brother-in-law of Park. George Raymond Alvord was the eighth generation of Alvords and the namesake of the current town. Mr. Alvord married Libbie Luella Brewster of Rock Rapids in 1889. Businesses and families continued to make Alvord home and was officially incorporated on Feb. 25, 1893. 

With the growing community, need for places of worship increased. Parishioners built Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1891, which was destroyed in a fire in 1958 and rebuilt. After nearly 120 years of worship, Sacred Heart closed its doors in 2010. The Congregational Church built the second church in town in 1892. The Rev. Mrs. Blandford, an ordained minister, served the church from 1917-1921. She was the first female ordained minister to serve a parish in Lyon County. In 1943, the church was sold to the Netherland Reformed denomination and closed in 1975. Christ Lutheran Church was the third church to establish in Alvord with plans starting in 1893. The church was constructed one part at a time up to 1968. The church’s centennial was celebrated in the summer of 1993.

The first public school house in town was established in 1890. After a fire in 1927 destroyed the structure, a modern brick schoolhouse was built that offered a full 12-grade accredited course. The school was reorganized in 1958, forming the West Lyon Community School District. Classes were no longer conducted in Alvord in 1967 when the new West Lyon School building was opened.

Some significant events in Alvord history include the fire of 1924 which burned a half block of businesses on the west side of main street, the flood of 1970 which washed out roads and bridges and destroyed the Win Nelson mink farm. Residents recall it was the highest Mud Creek had ever been. 

The worst train accident in Alvord’s history was in November 1973. Fifteen Burlington Northern cars piled up on the train tracks. Fortunately, no lives were lost. 

Terrible blizzards were recorded in 1888, 1936 and 1975. Other extreme winters dotted the history of Alvord and northwest Iowa through the years and hardships due to these conditions were devasting to families and livestock.  

In 1976 Herb Van Engen discovered a large glob of iron on his farm land. This piece of material was later found to be apart of a meteorite and was purchased by the Smithsonian Institute and is known as the “Alvord Meteorite.” Later in 1981, Jim Kelly also found a piece of stone on his farmland which neighbored the Van Engen land. After comparing the stones, the Smithsonian concluded the two pieces were from the same meteorite. A rare and interesting find in the town of Alvord to say the least. 

The history of Alvord is rich with generations of families and stories of hardship and survival, bringing the little town to its 125th year. The town will be celebrating these 125 years of being on the map with food, fun and family June 7-9. The Alvord Betterment Club is organizing this event to bring people together to showcase and celebrate the close-knit town. 

“We are a little community but we are pretty tight,” said Mike Boer, club chairman. This celebration has been in the works for three or four years with events every year leading up to the big celebration. Boer and other community members feel the event is an important reminder of the importance of community and Boer says, “We have to keep our little town going.”

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