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Situated in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Alden is a census-designated place and unincorporated community in Helena Township, Antrim County.

Located on the southeastern banks of Torch Lake, Alden is one of five unincorporated communities along the lake, the others being Clam River, Eastport, Torch Lake, and Torch River. The 19 mile-long lake is Michigan's longest inland lake and its second-largest inland lake. Torch Lake is a popular destination for canoeing, diving, fishing, and hiking.

County Road 593 (Torch Lake Drive) is the chief route through the community, running mostly north-south, with an east-west turn near the center of the town. Rapid City is about three and a half miles to the south.

Alden became a census-designated place, with defined boundaries, at the time of the 2010 census. Its population was one hundred and twenty-five at that time. The Alden post office serves parts of Helena Township, as well as Custer Township to the east, Clearwater Township to the south, and Rapid River Township to the south in Kalkaska County.

In the mid-1850s, lumbering had become an important industry in northern Michigan. Although European-American populations were sparse in the north at the time, a string of lumber camps was established. Camp Number 4 was situated on the lower east shore of Torch Lake, at the site where a stream emptied into the lake. Originally known as Lewistown, the camp was later renamed Noble for Henry Hobart Noble, who owned lumbering interests in the region.

The manager of the lumbering camp was John B. Spencer, who built the first log cabin there in 1854. He later built other lumbering camps and homes for workers in the area, and the stream was named in honor of him, Spencer Creek. Before long, a village grew up around the lumber camp, and it became known as Spencer Creek. Life wasn't easy at Spencer Creek, however. There were several deaths due to accidents and fires, infant mortality rates were high, and the life span of women in the village was short.

On June 15, 1869, a post office was established at Spencer Creek, with Peter S. Smalley as the first postmaster. The first store was opened by Reuben Coy in August of 1870. Using a schooner named King Fisher, he supplied his store with goods purchased in Elk Rapids, sailing Torch Lake, then being poled down the Torch River. Because it was necessary to stock sufficient provisions to last the winter, since the lakes froze over, he purchased forty acres of land and built a warehouse behind his store. He used the King Fisher until the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad extended its tracks through Kalkaska and Mancelona in 1873, after which he was able to use wagon teams to haul provisions from Kalkaska.

Reuben Coy later bought another hundred acres and platted the village of Spencer Creek.

In 1890, the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad became the Chicago and North Michigan Railroad, and a new line was planned, from Traverse City, following the Chain of Lakes north to Bay View. While a more direct route would have gone straight north to Elk Rapids, William Alden Smith, who was general counsel for the railroad, used his influence to establish a route that went through Williamsburg and Barker Creek, then north through Rapid City and Spencer Creek, northeast to Bellaire, and then to Bay View. Alden knew that the railroad would increase the population of the region, bringing more business to the railroad.

In 1991, the railroad came through Spencer Creek, and the town was renamed Alden, in honor of William Alden Smith. A train depot was built in Alden in 1892, and the railroad became the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1900. The railroad brought a flurry of summer tourists, some of which remained and built homes along the lakeshore.

Today, Alden remains a place that people enjoy visiting in the summer, although there is a lot for its full-time residents to do, as well. The Alden Depot has been converted into a museum celebrating the railroad history of the community. Alden also offers volleyball and tennis courts, playgrounds, parks, and several regularly scheduled events.

 

 

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