Biography of Alvin Rivenburgh

Alvin Rivenburgh, a prominent figure in the development of Adair County, was born in New York in 1853. After his family relocated to Illinois and later to Iowa, Alvin received a good education and worked on his father’s farm. He later became a teacher and ventured into the grocery business before serving as an electrician and engineer for over nineteen years. Alvin was known for his inventions, including patented articles such as an extension electrolier and an electrical switchboard. He was actively involved in installing the first telephone lines in Greenfield and served the community in various capacities. Alvin’s dedication to his work and contributions to the community earned him respect and friendship from his fellow citizens.

Mr and Mrs Alvin Rivenburgh
Mr and Mrs Alvin Rivenburgh

Alvin Rivenburgh, a resident of Greenfield, who has been identified with the development of Adair county along a number of lines, was born near what is now known as Acquaga Lake, not far from Deposit, Broome county, New York, on the 11th of March, 1853, a son of William and Hetty Rivenburgh, who were married n 1851. For sixteen years they continued to reside in the Empire state and at the end of that time emigrated with their family to Henry county, Illinois, settling near Morristown. They remained there for two years but in 1869 came to Adair county, Iowa, and after living for a few years on a farm in Lee township located a half block east of the present courthouse in Greenfield. The father died on the 1st of July, 1880, and the mother on the 22d of January, 1904. Both are laid to rest in the Greenfield cemetery.

Alvin Rivenburgh received a good education and also gained valuable training by assisting his father with the work of the fields. In his early manhood he followed agricultural pursuits and later taught in the rural schools of Adair county. Subsequently he engaged in the grocery business in Greenfield in partnership with William Anderson and served as deputy sheriff under J. D. Callison. In 1890 the electric light plant was established in Greenfield and he became electrician and engineer, in which capacity he served acceptably for a little over nineteen years.

At the end of that time he resigned to devote his attention to other lines of activity. During those years he invented several articles and machines, two of which were patented, namely: an extension electrolier, patented May 7, 1903, and an electrical switchboard, which was patented December 8, 1903. He installed the first telephone in Greenfield, which connected A. E. Teague’s residence and his drug store and which was made from two cigar boxes and wire. He also assisted a Mr. Hall in putting in the first long distance telephone at the Teague drug store, and he installed the first telephone exchange, which was a fifty drop service. It was located in his residence and his eldest daughter was placed in charge. Since severing his connection with the electric light plant he has been engaged in various occupations.

On the 12th of September, 1875, at Orient, Mr. Rivenburgh married Miss Mary Eatinger, who was born in Marshall county, Illinois, October 27, 1856, and is the eldest child of David J. and Elizabeth (Hank) Eatinger, an account of whose lives is given elsewhere in this work. Mrs. Rivenburgh attended the Greenfield city schools in her girlhood and later became a teacher in the rural schools, after which she taught under Dr. Spooner in the Greenfield schools. To Mr. and Mrs. Rivenburgh have been born nine children, Myrtle E., Mrs. Maude L. Shinn, Mrs. Mable Molln, William Edward, Mrs. Nellie Laude, Elizabeth M., Hazel, Leon D., and Helen Daisy.

Mr. Rivenburgh is a democrat in his political belief and is stanch in his support of candidates and measures of that party. He was formerly a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has passed through all of the chairs in both the subordinate lodge and the encampment, and his wife has held all of the offices in the Rebekah lodge, to which she still belongs. She is likewise a loyal and faithful worker in the Greenfield Baptist church. Mr. Rivenburgh served for three years in the State Militia and in 1879 held the rank of corporal and in 1881 was sergeant. He possesses energy, good judgment and determination and carries to successful completion everything he undertakes, and his activities have proven of value to the community. He has at all times ably discharged his duties as a citizen and in fact in every relation of life has measured up to high standards of manhood. He not only has the respect of his fellow citizens but also possesses those qualities which enable him to readily gain and retain the friendship of others.


Kilburn, Lucian Moody ed.; History of Adair county, Iowa, and Its People; Pioneer Publishing Co., Chicago, 1915.

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