Founded in 1854 by two brothers, Ambrose and Asa Call, Algona (a native word for “Algonquin waters”) serves as the county seat for Iowa’s Kossuth County. Algona has a rich history of growth.
Between 1869 and 1875, the community was the location of Algona College, an institution of higher learning sponsored by the Methodist Church. In 1894, Algona, along with other Iowa communities, became the recipient of the project known as the “Orphan Trains.” These orphan trains ran between 1854 and 1929, and relocated an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from eastern coastal cities to the Midwest for adoption. Algona welcomed nearly 100 orphans into the town, many of whom became lifelong residents. This period of mass relocation of children in the United States is widely recognized as the beginning of documented foster care and adoption systems in America.
Algona holds special prominence for being the headquarters location of a series of WWII prisoner of war camps that dotted the upper Midwest. Camp Algona housed nearly 10,000 prisoners during the course of the war, many of whom worked on area farms owned by Americans who were fighting overseas. Algona has a fascinating museum commemorating the camp’s history that also features a life-sized nativity scene that was carved and built by camp POWs.