Des Moines is the capital and most populous city in Iowa. It also serves as the Polk County seat though a small section is located in Warren County. When the city was incorporated in September 1851, the word «Fort» was part of its name but this was dropped six years later. As of 2010, more than 200,000 people resided in this city and the five-county metropolitan area of which it is a part had more than 580,000 residents in 2011.
Des Moines Officially Begins as a Fort
Archeologists traced human occupation of this area back at least 7,000 years. However, it was not until 1843 at the recommendation of Indian Agent John Dougherty that Captain James Allen selected a site where two rivers met to construct a fort. This structure was built to house the displaced Meskawki and Sauk Indians but these two tribes were eventually removed from Iowa, leaving the fort abandoned. Settlers soon arrived and occupied it and by the end of 1846, the area became the Polk County seat.
Streets began being platted just one year later but the Flood of 1851 destroyed the majority of the town. It left behind barren land upon which a new city was developed and incorporated in September 1851. The city operated under its original charter until the Iowa Fourth General Assembly passed an incorporation act in 1853. Four years later, the city became the state capitol.
Industry Arrives in Des Moines
The first systematic mining in the area began in 1864 and by just nine years later, the first mine was exhausted. Numerous mines were present by 1885 and the industry spread into the countryside, exhausting most of the local coal resources by 1908. Permanent roads and a new City Hall building were constructed during the early 1900s but expansion slowed prior to World War I.
After the war, former solders returned looking for work. They found it in the construction industry, resulting in an influx of buildings during the early 1920s. This ended after the 1929 stock market crash but the city made it through the 1930s thanks to some federally funded projects that provided jobs and aesthetic improvements.
The population of Des Moines reached 160,000 by 1941, then declined as men left to fight in World War II. The city emerged from the war as a major center for insurance, attracting other industries. Today, the city is the third largest insurance center in the world and is a hub for other businesses, education, government, and culture.