Alpena’s reach goes far and wide

We were fascinated to read freelance writer Jeffrey D. Brasie’s recent story on the four American Alpenas — in Michigan, Arkansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Each Alpena is rich with history, Brasie reported, unique in many ways — from a beef jerky plant in South Dakota to a picturesque Appalachian mountain lodge in West Virginia — but also each is very similar.

All are varying degrees of rural. All have some connection to railroads.

But most fascinating was Brasie’s revelation that at least one and perhaps two of the other Alpenas were named after our home on Thunder Bay.

Apparently, C.H. Prior came from Alpena, Michigan. When he was named railroad superintendent and in 1883 took to platting a new village in South Dakota, he decided to call that town Alpena, too.

A different railroad man may have named Alpena, Arkansas after our city.

One of a couple of theories on how the Arkansas town got its name is that a railroad employee’s wife was called Alpena, and that couple may have come from Northeast Michigan.

What a small world we live in.

That is part of the magic of journalism — finding the stories that connect us to the bigger world — and we are glad The News could show Alpena, Michigan’s far reach through American history.


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