Judge William H. McHenry, Sr.

Biography of Judge William H. McHenry, Sr.

One of the pioneers who became prominently identified with county and city was William H. McHenry, Sr., who, as his name indicates was of Irish descent. His ancestors settled in Maryland long before the Revolutionary War, becoming quite prominent. Fort McHenry was named for them. He came here in August, 1848, from Indiana. There were no bridges, and he forded the river, went up to Beaver Creek, about six miles northwest, selected a claim near the creek, built a cabin, and became a citizen. In his youth, he was deprived of the opportunity to get a liberal education, but he

Biography of Michael H. King

Going over the roster of those prominently identified with the growth of Des Moines, very few so impressed his personality upon it as Michael H. King, or “Mike,” as he was universally called. He came here in 1856, at the age of twenty-four years. His first job was as clerk in the store of R. W. Clark. Soon after, he engaged as bookkeeper with Alex. Scott, who was running sawmills, mining coal, and promoting the removal of the State Capital to Des Moines, and locating the State House on the East Side. While he was with Scott, in 1857, the

Frederick C. Macartney

Biography of Frederick C. Macartney

It is an old axiom that the way to a man’s good nature is through his stomach, and, so being, F. C. Macartney, or Fred., as he is familiarly called, must have the true friendship and good fellowship of myriads of people, for, during the past forty-two years, as a caterer to the public, he has proved himself the prince of hotel-keepers, and, not only that, he and his family have been largely and intimately connected with the business and social life of the city. He came here from Canada in 1863, a young man in the adolescent stage, hunting

Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of John D. McGlothlin

Among the very early settlers prominently associated with the public affairs of Polk County and The Fort during their formative governmental period, was John D. McGlothlin, a typical pioneer, whose experiences, like others of his class in those days, contrasted with their environments twenty years later, seem altogether mythical. He came, with his family, in June, 1846, from Indiana, in the proverbial “prairie schooner,” and purchased a claim held by G. B. Clark, on Keokuk Prairie, originally a part of Des Moines Township, but now in Allen Township. It was an attractive spot, the favorite camping ground and headquarters of

Edwin R. Clapp

Biography of Edwin R. Clapp

If you search his old family records, you will probably find it written, Edwin Ruthven Clapp, but for the last fifty years he has been familiarly known as Ed. He came to Henry County with his parents in the year 1837, a young boy, and has eaten the ashen crust of poverty in common with many other pioneer lads, who, with willing hands and determined purpose, have assisted their parents in opening up farms and doing the drudgery which usually fell to the lot of the pioneer boys of sixty years ago. He started out in the wold with merely

Major Thomas Cavanagh

Biography of Major Thomas Cavanagh

Early settlers of Des Moines often recall with pleasure their remembrance of Thomas Cavanagh. On Christmas Day, in 1848, he walked across the Mississippi River at Clinton on the ice, and arrived here early in 1849; a man about thirty-five years old, of large physique, athletic, muscular build, who was for many years a model, valued citizen, known to everybody as the “Major.” He was of that class of pioneers noted for their humility, stability, and progressiveness. Born of prosperous parents, in Ireland, liberally educated, with aesthetic temperament, eminently social nature, refined taste, he, with his parents, had passed through

Dijon Map of Moingona River, 1720

Des Moines — What It Means

Much has been written as to the origin and meaning of the name, “Des Moines.” That it is from the French, and means “The Monks” is true. That the city was named from the river is also true. As there were never any monks in Iowa, it is evident the name is a mis-application, or a corruption. The river was discovered by Pére Marquette and M. Jollyet, in 1673. John Dawson Gilmary Shea (1852), the eminent author of “Histories of Catholic Missions Among Indian Tribes,” “Explorations of the Mississippi,” “History of the Catholic Church of the United States,” in his

Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of William F. Ayers

One of the earliest settlers at The Fort was William Ayers, who came in 1845, when the soldiers were here. He was a tailor and made clothing for the troopers and early settlers. Judge Casady and Barlow Granger say he made better clothing than can be got nowadays. It may not have been quite up to the Paris fashions, but it was made to wear, and was equal to the fashion of the pioneers. At the county organization election, on April Sixth, 1846, he was elected County Treasurer, to serve until the regular election in August following. The treasury was

Charles Weitz

Biography of Charles Weitz

I cannot avoid mention in these reminiscences of old-timers of friend Weitz, who, from his genial nature, good humor, and sociability, was known as “Charley” by everybody in the early days. He was born in Schotten Germany, about thirty miles from the city of Frankfurt, in Hesse-Darmstadty, May Fourth, 1826. His father, Heinrich Weitz, was born in the same locality, and spent his entire life there. The son, Charles, one of four children, attended school until he was fourteen years of age, and was then apprenticed to a cabinet-maker, with whom he remained for two years. At the termination of

James Callanan

Biography of James Callanan

One of the most notable personages identified with the history of Des Moines for fifty years was James Callanan. Personally, he was known only by a few; yet he was an important factor in the body politic. His life was a dual one. In one, to the masses, he was a business man and financier, whose sole purpose was to acquire wealth; yet it was to secure means to gratify his other self, in the dispensation of practical philanthropy; to reach out for the want, privation, and misery which environ the poor and oppressed; the the abuse of dumb animals,

Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of William H. Meacham

The title to land and the military control of affairs of Polk County expired on the booming of the cannon at The Fort at midnight, October Twelfth, 1845. Through the personal effort of William H. Meacham, a meeting was held two days after, on the Fourteenth, at the cabin of John Scott, when the first step was taken to establish local civil government for the count and town. About twenty persons were present, nearly all residents of The Fort — plain, common people, who believed that good government was founded in justice and equity. There was no local form of

Louis Harbach

Biography of Louis Harbach

It seems almost a supererogation to mention one so well known to nearly every man, woman and child in Des Moines, in these reminiscences, as Louis Harbach, for there are very few houses or buildings in the town that have not something connected with him. He came here in June, 1857, when only nineteen years old, with an empty purse, but abundant pluck and energy, and at once got a job at his trade as harness-maker, with W. S. Terry, I think. He worked two years at his trade. His elder brother, Christopher, had a small furniture shop on Second

William Alexander Scott

Biography of William Alexander Scott

In an unhonored grave, in a dreary, neglected spot in Des Moines, without stick or stone of any kind to commemorate his life or his public services and benefactions, lies the man who personally built and paid for the first State House in Des Moines, and who gave to the State of Iowa a part of the ground upon which now stands its present magnificent Capitol building. In an early day, William Alexander Scott was a man of some influence and honored standing in Des Moines and Polk County. To-day only a few, the men who were pioneers with him,

Samuel A. Robertson

Biography of Samuel A. Robertson

Early in the Spring of 1856, there strolled into the town a young man not twenty years old, looking for a job. Having learned it was the Capital of the state, that a new Capitol was being built, he thought there must be a chance to join the body politic and grow up with the country. Securing lodging at the Marvin House, on Third Street, where Harbach’s Building now is, he went out to reconnoiter the place and interrogate the inhabitants. It did not require much time; there was not much of a town. All its business was done below

Hon. John A. Kasson

Biography of Hon. John A. Kasson

John A. Kasson was born near Burlington, Vermont, January Eleventh, 1822. He received his education at the University of Vermont, graduating in 1842. His legal studies were prosecuted in Massachusetts, where he was admitted to the Bar. He came to Des Moines early in 1857, and at once began the practice of law. During the Fall of that year, the Seat of Government was removed from Iowa City, and he was appointed by Governor Lowe as chairman of a commission to investigate the conditions of the several state offices. The contest between the East and West Side over the location

James C. Savery

Biography of James C. Savery

James C. Savery was born in Wareham, Massachusetts, November Thirtieth, 1826. His forefathers were Puritans, of the Pilgrim Fathers, who emigrated to America in 1620.In early life, his family resided at Saratoga, New York. He came to Des Moines early in the Spring of 1853, and soon after purchased the Marvin House, on Third Street, south of the present Court House. He paid three thousand dollars for the lot, 132×132, and the building thereon, and changed the name to Everett House. It was the headquarters for the Stage Company, and the influx of land buyers and speculators kept it crowded.

Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of Thomas H. Napier

A Pioneer of considerable distinction and influence during a critical period of the county and town, was Thomas H. Napier, a Virginian, who came here in April, 1846, and made a claim near Four Mile Creek, in what is now Grant Township. He experienced the vicissitudes and vexations common to all settlers in those days, the most important of which was the want of lumber for house building and facilities for procuring food supplies. Mills were fifty to seventy-five miles away, and wheat made into flour at but a few. Corn meal was the staple. Often the family meal box

Conrad Youngerman

Biography of Conrad Youngerman

For forty years there was no better known man in the town and city than Conrad Youngerman. Coming here in 1856, a young man, of German birth, steady, industrious habits, of sterling integrity, he at once began to make a place for himself. He was poor in purse, but rich in earnest endeavor. A mason by trade, the prevailing hard times prevented building operations almost entirely, and he did whatever he could get to do. His first work was laying brick and stone of the first building for exclusive use as a store in town, and erected by G. M.

James C. Jordan

Biography of James C. Jordan

To continue the record of the location of the Capital at Des Moines, mention must be made of James C. Jordan, or “Uncle Jimmy,” as everybody called him, one of the most prominent among the early settlers, and closely identified with the growth and prosperity of the county and town. He came in the early Fall of 1846, and selected a location about six miles west of The Fort, in Des Moines Township, which then embraced what are now the townships of Saylor, Valley, Bloomfield, Webster, Lee, Grant, Allen, Four Miles, Delaware, part of Clay, and The Fort. His claim

Biography of Benjamin B. Bryant

Among the earliest settlers in this region, antedating Barlow Granger and his clan of “pioneers,” was Benjamin B. Bryant, small of stature, active, energetic, unique in many ways, social, genial, who became quite popular and held many places of public trust, the duties of which he performed with strict integrity. He came here in 1842, with others, to make preparation for removing the Wapello Indian Agency to this locality. Subsequently, he joined the Trading Company as Chief Clerk and Trader with the Indians, being familiar with their language and acquainted with nearly everyone on the reservation, their villages or camps

Frank M. Mills

Biography of Frank M. Mills

One of the most active, energetic men who came here in the early days, and who impressed his individuality upon passing events, was Frank M. Mills. Small of stature, but a perfect bundle of restless energy and force, which permeated every political, social and business affair of the city and the state——in fact, several states——his sole idea seemed to be to make Des Moines the center of all territory west of the Mississippi, and in certain ways he succeeded very well. He was the head an moving spirit in what became the most extensive enterprise of its kind west of

Dr. A. Y. Hull

Biography of Dr. A. Y. Hull

Of the men who figured quite prominently in political and civic affairs in the early days, was Doctor A. Y. Hull, father of our Congressman, J. A. T. Hull. He came here in 1849, intending to make this his abiding place. He reconnoitered the town——what there was of it——to find a suitable corner lot on which to build a home. Having selected a favorable location, he went down to the “corner lot market,” on Second Street, where he was very blandly informed that corner lots had gone up——the price was twenty-five dollars. The corner where he the Kirkwood House now

Calvin W. Keyes

Biography of Calvin W. Keyes

In the early part of 1858, Calvin W. Keyes, who traces his family thread through eight generations to the first governor of Plymouth Colony, came into town, looked over the field, and, with the inalienable province of a Yankee, “guessed” he could “get a living here.” He opened a general merchandise store down on Second Street, then the trade center. In September, he decided to make another venture. George Crawford joined wit him, and they moved into what was called the “West” Building, just completed, adjoining the present Register and Leader Block on the east, then the only brick block

George M Hippee

Biography of George M. Hippee

Of the pioneers who came here in 1855, and who have been notably identified with the growth of the city, was George M. Hippee. Soon after his arrival, he opened a drug store, in a log cabin on the west side of Second Street, down near ‘Coon bridge, where he remained several years in a quiet, unpretenious way. In 1856, when the State House location fight was on, he was a non-combatant and took no part, though his mental reservations were with the West Siders. In 1859, business on Second Street began to get crowded, and he ventured up to

Captain F. R. West

Biography of Captain F. R. West

An early settler and prominent man in business affairs was Captain F. R. West. His title was gained from his former connection with a Packet Line on the old Pennsylvania Canal, long ago abandoned. He came to Des Moines in 1854, with some capital, and at once made investments in real estate, a large portion of which is now in North Des Moines. In 1856, he built what is now the Register and Leader Building. The ground floor was occupied by B. F. Allen’s Bank, the rear portion by the United States Land Office, the second floor by the Congregational

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