Iowa History Daily: September 22 - Birth of Des Moines

Iowa History Daily: On September 22, 1851, the City of Des Moines was initially incorporated as Fort Des Moines. Iowa’s capital city since 1857, Des Moines grew from a frontier fort to Iowa’s most populous city and seat of government.

Identified as a prime location for a military fort by the 1st United States Dragoons on their march up the Des Moines River in 1835, the confluence of Iowa’s largest internal river and the Raccoon River drew the interests of humans for thousands of years before American settlement. Archeological evidence abounds throughout the area to illustrate occupation at least 7,000 years into the past, including the massive ‘Palace’ complex near the southeastern Des Moines wastewater treatment plant.

Captain James Allen oversaw the construction of Second Fort Des Moines at the confluence starting in May of 1843. Although Allen suggested Fort Raccoon as the moniker for the fort, the U.S. War Department insisted on Des Moines as the name. As the dispossession of Iowa’s Indigenous peoples ended during the mid-1800s the government decommissioned the fort.

In 1846, Fort Des Moines gained status as the seat of Polk County, and by September 1851 the city was ready for incorporation. After voters approved a charter in October of 1851, the city started to flourish with the help of an early expansion of the coal industry in the area. In 1857, officials dropped “Fort” from the city’s name, leading toward the Des Moines known and loved by Iowans today. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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