Stories These Stones Could Tell: The Alten Peak House

This is the first of a three-part series on a 157 year-old home in Manhattan, Kansas. It was owned by two pioneering families with deep roots in Riley County. The stone house is in the process of being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, representing the settlement era in Kansas.  A version of this story appeared in the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance Newsletter. vol 30, II, April 2024, 1-4.

Original survey of the section of land encompassing Charles Alten’s land (red arrow). Accessed at https://glorecords.blm.gov/

In the 1870s-1880s, Charles Alten was perhaps best known as a brewery owner.  Because of its popularity and proximity to the college (students in the twentieth century would hike around the ruins), it has been reported erroneously that Alten built the stone brewery on Military Trail Road.[5]  Alten actually purchased the brewery of his neighbor, August Seeland, a German immigrant from Baden.  Seeland began brewing beer in Leavenworth around 1860 and had established a brewery near Alten’s farm by 1865.  Five years later the 1870 census lists August Seeland as a brewer with $4,500 worth of real estate, a wife, and five children.  In the same census Alten is listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $1,900.[6]  Local newspapers report that Seeland lost a court case to Alten forcing him to sell his brewery and five acres which were purchased by Alten at a Sheriff’s sale.  A June 1872 notice regarding a road petition in the local newspaper mentions “Charles Alton’s (sic) Brewery” as a road marker, underscoring the change in ownership.[7] 

Alten operated the brewery for less than ten years before statewide prohibition took effect on May 1, 1881.  Early enforcement was lax, something Alten may have considered as he continued to produce and sell beer.  The law caught up with him in November 1887, when Alten, along with his daughter Fannie and son-in-law Julius Engleman, were charged with thirty counts of prohibition violation, and remanded with a $500 bond for each.[8]  When the case came to trial Alten was found guilty on January 20, 1888.[9]  Not everyone agreed that Charles Alten should go to prison, and a petition to pardon him quietly circulated the city.  The Governor agreed, and lessened Alten’s sentence to a $200 fine and thirty days in prison.[10]  However, this did not stop Alten and in September 1889 he again was found guilty of violating prohibition on seven counts.  He appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court but lost his appeal in 1891.  He died of cancer on February 21, 1892. 

Charles Alten’s wife Theresa had preceded him in death.  In 1882, his step-daughter Fannie Rahner married Ernest Julius Engleman, a German immigrant from Saxony.  Two years later Alten sold his land to Engleman for $3,000.  The 1885 state census lists Charles Alten followed by Julius, Fannie, and their one-year-old son Rueben.[11]  It is not clear whether the extended family was living under one roof, but clearly, they remained in close proximity through the next decade.[12]  By 1914, the Engleman heirs had sold the land and house to Anna Forrester, wife of local developer Sylvester Forrester, who platted the Rock Hill Addition.  This ended the fifty-year association of the Alten/Engleman family with the 1867 stone house.

Stay tuned for part two in this series which will tell the story of modernization of the area around Alten House and how those changes affected the owners of the house.


[1] Charlson and Wilson Bonded Abstracters.  Title Search of Riley County Deeds for 2040 Fort Riley Boulevard. 2009.  The sale was for the original parcel less 5.8 acres sold to Mary R. DeVivaldi. 

[2] “Charles Alten.” Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Kansas.  The National Archives, RG 94, M542.  Accessed on Fold3.com on 30 Mar 2023.  Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas. Historical Data Systems. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.  Accessed on Ancestry.com on 29 Mar 2023.

[3] Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1865 Kansas Territory Census. ks1865_7, 51865. Ancestry.com. Kansas, U.S., State Census Collection, 1855-1925. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.  Accessed on 8 Mar 2023.

[4] Riley County Tax Records. Riley County History Museum.

[5] Cindy Higgins. Kansas Breweries & Beer. Eudora, KS: Mennonite Press, Inc., 1992, 88.  Higgins incorrectly identifies the Seeland Brewery as being built by Alten and identifies Alten as an 1870 immigrant from Hannover, Germany.  U.S. and State of Kansas Government records prove his presence in Kansas by at least 1861.

[6] “Charles Alton.” United States Federal Census, 1870. Manhattan, Riley, Kansas; Roll: M593_441; 519B.  Accessed online at Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

[7] Alten’s name was regularly misspelled as Alton in the Manhattan newspapers.

[8] Manhattan Mercury.  1 Nov 1887, 4.

[9] Manhattan Nationalist. 20 Jan 1888, 1.

[10] Manhattan Nationalist. 24 Feb 1888, 7 and Manhattan Mercury. 25 Feb 1888, 4.

[11] Kansas State Census, 1885. Manhattan Township, Riley County, Kansas. Image 32. Kansas State Historical Society.  Accessed online on 1 Apr 2023 at FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQ3-CGCW?cc=1825188&wc=W81J-6DF%3A1597332355%2C1597342333.

[12] “Fannie Ingleman.” Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1895 Kansas Territory Census; v115_133, 18. Accessed online at Ancestry.com. Kansas, U.S., State Census Collection, 1855-1925. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

1 thought on “Stories These Stones Could Tell: The Alten Peak House”

  1. I’ve passed that house more than 1000 times and, although I’ve admired it, I didn’t understand its relevance to the Manhattan, Kansas community…or the loss of it’s products to the solders traveling back to Fort Riley from Manhattan.

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