Prior to entering the ministry, Robert Alden was a farmer and family man living in the Walnut Grove area. Then, a disaster killed his entire family, and a deeply grieving Alden turned to alcohol for solace. Then, one day, after “hearing God’s voice,” he was inspired to become a born-again Christian and become a minister.
The Reverend Robert Alden (more often referred to simply as “Reverend Alden”) is the clergyman at the Walnut Grove Church and School. Throughout the television series, he was portrayed by Dabbs Greer.
The character of Rev. Alden was based on a real-life character from On the Banks of Plum Creek. Alden, a home missionary from the East Coast, had been involved in starting new churches on the western frontier, including one in Walnut Grove.
Throughout the series run, Alden is shown as a loving, caring man who faithfully ministers to Walnut Grove Township. He has a particularly close relationship with the Ingalls family, and is also shown to be good friends with Doc Baker and Nels Oleson.
However, Alden does show stubbornness from time to time, as well as a sense of pride; the latter is shown in the episode “The Faith Healer,” when a charismatic man claiming to have healing powers woos most of Alden’s congregation, deeply upsetting Alden. He also can show a fierce temper, as evidenced by the episodes “Fred” (after he is butted by a goat, he delivers [off-screen] a fiery sermon one Sunday) and “The Bully Boys” (where he stands up to and, at one point, gets physical with, a trouble-making family). In 1979, Alden finds love when he meets and marries church parishioner Anna Craig (in the episode “The Preacher Takes a Wife”), despite threats by Mrs. Olesen to have him dismissed from his duties; Anna’s fate following the nuptials is unknown, although she is referred to in a later episode.
Rev. Alden continued his ministries until the series’ finale, “Little House: The Last Farewell,” when the townspeople make a final stand against land baron Nathan Lassiter after he was proven to hold deed to the land on which Walnut Grove was situated. When the townspeople blow up the town’s buildings, one by one, with only the church and school building remaining, Lassiter realizes he will have to rebuild everything. Lassiter is then told by leaders of other settlements that they, too, will blow up their buildings to discourage his plans, When Lassiter walks off in defeat, Alden loudly proclaims, “Did you hear? Walnut Grove did not die in vain!”
In storyline terms, Alden rarely shared his background with others. The only time his past is shared was in the 1982 episode, “A Promise to Keep,” where Alden helps console Mr. Edwards, who had relapsed into alcoholism after the death of his son and loss of his family due to his behavior.
Behind the scenes
Robert Alden was played by Dabbs Greer throughout the series. It is also perhaps, his best known role.