Centennial History of Polk County, Iowa

Three persons, consisting of my wife, my wife's brother, J.W. Doughty, and myself, have devoted more than three months of unremitting toil, to the compilation of this history. From the day in which we began the work, the material of which it is composed has grown and expanded on our hands beyond all previous conception or anticipation. The limits to which this volume has been of necessity restricted, have compelled us to throw away many pages of manuscript, which ought to be preserved and embodied in book form.

The critical reader will doubtless think of many subjects which should have been incorporated into this history, but which are absent Let him remember, however, that these subjects would have been presented here, if space had been found for them. One department alone of this work The Incidents of History would of itself, if properly amplified, have formed a work very much larger than this volume. In the progress of our labor, we have reverted in thought to scores of events, which, though passing into utter oblivion, we have not been able for want of room, to introduce.

In writing up the Townships, the only facility we possessed in obtaining material, was afforded by correspondents, and not by conversation with pioneers. In the city here, we had the pleasure of talking up these subjects with many gentlemen whose names are published in their proper connection; but with the exception of Thomas Mitchell, John D. McGlothlen, A.S. Rice, and one or two others, we have not had the benefit of a conversation with a solitary citizen from the country. We have written repeatedly to parties in all the country townships, urging them to meet us at some point in Des Moines, or to respond by letter to such interrogations as we thought proper to propound. The result was, that the information we sought was not obtained, except in a few desultory cases. In this contingency, the only thing we could do was to subsidize the published histories of others, or such floating paragraphs in the local journals as might render us assistance. The history, therefore, of the townships, which we have prepared for this volume, is not as accurate, nor as complete as we could wish; but our readers are assured that we have secured to ourselves every possible help in the compilation of this branch of our history.


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The Des Moines River, or "River of the Monks," from which early title its present name is derived, is one of the natural beauties of the County and of the State. Entering the County near its northwest corner, it takes its departure at the extreme southeast. Its principal change of direction in the County is at Des Moines, where it receives an impulse eastward by the discharge of the Raccoon River. Following these two directions of the stream, by two corresponding right lines, we find that the river waters a stretch of country in Polk County, of thirty-five miles in length, while the meanderings of the stream increase this distance to about fifty-five miles. For a distance of about ten miles, however, by the water measurement, the river forms the line between the Counties of Polk and Warren.

Being the largest river of the interior of Iowa, the attention of navigators was drawn towards it in an early day. The lower Des Moines river was visited by steamers as early as 1636. It was not. until the year 1843, that the banks of the river as high up as the locality then known as "Coon Fork," were washed by the waves of a vessel propelled by steam.