“The Church Would Look Foolish Without Them”: Nicholas Alten, Lorain, Ohio

“The Church Would Look Foolish Without Them”: Nicholas Alten, Lorain, Ohio October 17, 2012

Mr. Nicholas C. Alten is a leading and successful hardware merchant, of Lorain, Ohio, and a prominent member of St. Mary’s congregation of that city. His excellent traits, combined with his business ability and public spiritedness, render him a successful, well respected, and influential citizen. This high estimate of him is entertained not alone by his Catholic neighbors but also by the entire community in his adopted city. He was born on a farm in Avon Township, Lorain county, Ohio, March 8, 1858. He received a very good high school education, and continued on the farm until his twenty-third year. His father, Clement Alten, died there December, 1897, and his mother, whose maiden name was Margaret Puetz, sister of the Rev. Father Puetz, passed away January 1900. Both sides of the family are represented in the clerical and community life of the diocese.

In 1881 he removed to Lorain and engaged in the difficult business  of settling the accounts of a hardware store there. In less than six months he became the owner of the business, and he has since continued to systematically and profitably conduct it. During the past twenty years he has given the evidence of his business ability and enterprise, and the success that has attended his efforts is an indication of his methods, and of the appreciation of them by the public. Outside of conducting his general hardware, plumbing, and ship chandlery business, he has other interests to which he has given attention.

He was one of the promoters of, and is yet a director in, the Lorain Savings and Banking Company. He was also one of the founders of the First National Bank of Lorain. He helped in the organization of, and yet retains his interest in, the Automatic Shovel Company, which is one of the local industries, giving employment to more than two hundred men. The American Ship Building Company’s plant is another, the location of which at Lorain he, as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, helped to secure. This important enterprise gives employment to eight hundred men, and its weekly pay-roll is $15,000. These important facts are part of the enviable record of the subject of this sketch.

Mr. Nicholas C. Alten was married February 12, 1884, to Miss Mary E., the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Libs, of Adrian, Michigan. She was reared and educated in thst city and enjoyed, both at home and school, the sort of training which fitted her to become a model Catholic wife and mother. Her home life, therefore, is her pleasure and her pride, and the doves that nestle around the family hearth are the seven sprightly children who are her joy. Their names are: Alice, Florence, Walter, Lucille and Corrine born the same day, Thelma, and Geralda. They are all bright and promising, and with the exception of the last born, the baby, are attending St. Mary’s Parochial School. For over twelve years Mr. Alten served as one of the councilmen of St. Mary’s Church, and during the erection, in 1895, of the present splendid edifice, he was a member of the building committee. He has been foremost among the generous and regular contributors in support of religion and education, and his liberality yet continues with him as a habit.

His good example is becoming quite contagious under the administration of the present pastor, much to the satisfaction of all the good members of the congregation. In justice to the subject of this sketch it ought to be mentioned that he performs his good works unseen of men—that is, without ostentation or flourish. A sense of duty enlivened by zeal for religion is the power that moves him. Hence he neither looks for, nor desires, recognition or thanks for doing that which he knows to be his duty. In keeping with his native modesty are the facts that he avoids politics, membership in societies, and office-seeking or office-holding.

The one exception to this desire to live a private life was his election to the office of township trustee over his strong protest. He, however, discharged the duties of the office for the term of his election, but gave notice that he would again serve in no public capacity. Mr. Nicholas C. Alten is fully aware of the noted absence of generous and exalted alms in his life. His experience has taught the great need society has of kindly tradition and shining personal examples. Every community is more or less affected by the absence of these, and it may be that he has adopted his present methods and formed his character by contemplating the requirements of an improved future even among Catholics everywhere.

Michael W. Carr, A History of Catholicity in Northern Ohio and in the Diocese of Cleveland: Biographical (Two Volumes) (Cleveland: J.B. Savage, 1903), II, 46-47.

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