Des Moines History - 

The modern history of Des Moines can be traced to 1834, when John Dougherty, an Indian Agent at Fort Leavenworth, Ks, recommended a military post be established at the point where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. Nine years later, May 1843, Captain James Allen and a company of dragoons from Fort Sanford (east of the city of Ottumwa) arrived on the site. Captain Allen proposed to name the garrison Fort Raccoon but was directed by the War Department to use the name Fort Des Moines. (and the residents of Des Moines are glad the War Department prevailed) 

The origin of the name 'Des Moines' is not completely clear, but most historians agree the name initially referred to the river. Some people feel 'Des Moines' is derived from the Indian word 'moingona,' the meaning of which is unknown; but it has been applied to natives of the area. In the French language des moines literally translates to "of the monks," so others believe the name applies to the Trappist Monks (Moines de la Trappe) who lived in huts at the mouth of the Des Moines river. Early French voyagers in the 1700's referred to the river on maps as La Riviere des Moines. Another theory is that Des Moines was corrupted from the French de moyen ("middle") because of its location between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.  The consensus seems to be that Des Moines is a variation of the Native American word Moingona, Moingonan, Moingoun, Mohingona, or Moningounas, as shown on early maps.  

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The Des Moines (Iowa) Historical Society is a 501c3 organization with the mission to promote the preservation and study of the history and heritage of Des Moines, Iowa. 


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NEWS - Upcoming Events - Projects - Activities


​      ​Des Moines Historical Society of Des Moines, Iowa

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Has many ​DMHS photos

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​​​Further information about Events and Projects are on the 'WHAT'S HAPPENING' & 'PROJECTS' pages.
Occasionally events are changed, please check this page for any modifications.  Thank you.  


MONDAY, APRIL 23, 6:30 p.m. at the Franklin Av. Library
(rescheduled from February 20)
Long time DM actor, Tom Milligan, gives his impression and history of the 2 time Pulitzer Prize winner Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. 

​Other TENTATIVE Upcoming Programs and Events (please check back later for verification)
Further Information is Available on the What's Happening - News, Events and Program Page 
(click on the list in the upper right corner)

~SATURDAY, MAY 5 - 1:00 pm. - JERRY JEWETT - The early history of JEWETT LUMBER and how they helped build Des Moines.
~June TBA - BILL KOOKER - RIVERVIEW PARK - his families' experiences managing this iconic park
~July TBA - LEO LANDIS - History of DES MOINES BASEBALL and how it transformed the national game of baseball. 
August 10 - RANDA LeJEUNE HOUSE TOUR - a beautiful, unique Victorian home in Sherman Hill *
~ September 9 - DMHS booth at the CONCOURS DE'ELEGANCE - learn about 'Auto Row' and how the automobile has been a part of Des Moines since the invention of motorcars. 
~October TBA - NORM MANDLEBAUM - speaks about the DES MOINES JEWISH COMMUNITY and how it has been a big part of the development of Des Moines - from the 1800's on ...

~~~   DURING 2018 the DMHS is REMEMBERING 100 YEARS AGO WHEN THE FIRST THREE AMERICANS WERE KILLED DURING WORLD WAR I, INCLUDING PRIVATES MERLE DAVID HAY OF GLIDDEN, IOWA , THOMAS P. ENRIGHT OF PITTSBURGH, PA AND CORPORAL JAMES B. GRESHAM OF EVANSVILLE, IN ON NOVEMBER 3, 1917.  Only 16 days later, the City Council of Des Moines renamed 58th Street as Merle Hay Road in honor of Pvt. Hay November 19, 1917 as Camp Dodge was becoming important to the war effort.   ~~~

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~~~ PROJECT 1843 to repair and enhance the Fort Des Moines II/Birthplace of Des Moines Cabin -  CHECK OUT THE GREAT NEWS ABOUT PROJECT 1843!  Further information is on the PROJECTS page.  (See the page list in the upper right corner.)

~~~ GEORGE MATTERN MONUMENT PROJECT - Further information is on the PROJECTS page. (See the page list in the upper right corner.)

Contact the DMHS

Des Moines Historical Society

     P.O. Box 8038, Des Moines, IA  50301

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