Look Up, Des Moines! A Walking Tour of Des Moines, Iowa
by Doug Gelbert
published by Cruden Bay Books at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 by Cruden Bay Books
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the Publisher.
The land around where the Raccoon River flows into the Des Moines River has lured human settlement to its banks for some 7,000 years. There is archeological evidence of at least three American Indian villages having existed where downtown Des Moines stands today. it was the removal of those Indians by the United States government that spurred the development of the town in the 1840s. After the Sauk and Meskwaki Indians had been displaced to this area from their ancestral lands in eastern Iowa the U.S. Army was dispatched to the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers to construct a fort from which it could control the Indian tribes.
The fort was completed in 1843 and named after the Des Moines River which translates from the French to “from the monks,” for the Trappist monks who once spent time here. Or maybe not. Whatever the derivation of the name, Fort Des Moines was short-lived. By 1846 the Indians had officially been removed and the area was thrown open to American settlement. The town was chosen as the seat of Polk County, the word “Fort” was dropped after the city charter was drawn up in the 1850s and Des Moines assumed its role as state capital in 1858. So within about a decade of its founding the course for Des Moines was pretty well set for the next 150 years and on.