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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Des Moines (city)

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DES MOINES, a city and the capital of Iowa and county seat of Polk county, situated at the head of steam navigation on Des Moines river, at its junction with the Raccoon, about 300 m. W. of Chicago; pop. in 1850, 502; in 1860, 3,965; in 1870, 12,035; in 1873, 15,061. The city is laid out in quadrilateral form, extending 4 m. E. and W. and 2 m. N. and S. The Des Moines, flowing from the north, divides it a little E. of the centre, and the portion W. of this river, commonly called the “West Side,” is again divided S. of its centre by the Raccoon. From the confluence of the rivers, on either side, the ground rises gradually toward the city limits to a height of about 160 ft. Enclosed by the rivers on the south and east is a plateau about 1 m. long and ½ m. wide, with an average elevation of 15 ft. above high water, where are situated the post office, court house, and city offices, the principal depots and hotels and the greater portion of the business houses. On the higher ground beyond are some of the finest private residences. E. of Des Moines river is another business locality. rtion of the West Side S. of Raccoon river is known as “South Park.” Capital square, E. of the river, contains 10 acres, on an elevated site, commanding a fine view. The old capitol was erected by the city in 1856, at a cost of $60,000. Provision was made by the legislature in 1869 for the erection of a new capitol, to cost $1,500,000, of which the foundation has been laid. The post office, which accommodates also the United States courts, the land office, and other federal offices, was built in 1870, at a cost of over $200,000. The driving park association possesses grounds, about 100 acres in extent, situated in a bend of Raccoon river, which are provided with suitable buildings for holding the state and county fairs, &c. A public park in the N. W. part of the city, containing 40 acres of native forest, has recently been set apart. The rivers are spanned by six bridges. The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific, and the Des Moines Valley railroads intersect here. A branch of the former is in operation to Indianola and Winterset, and several other roads are in progress. Wood is abundant in the vicinity. There are also extensive coal mines, and deposits of fire clay, potters' clay, lime, &c. The city contains a woollen factory, several plough factories, scale works, an oil mill, founderies, flour mills, two national banks with a capital of $200,000, and one life and two fire insurance companies. Gas works were constructed in 1865. Water works have been erected by a private corporation, with city aid; the water is obtained from Raccoon river, and is distributed through 10 m. of mains. Des Moines is divided into seven wards. There are five public school houses; the number of separate schools in 1872 was 22 (including a high school), having 24 teachers, and an average attendance of 1,018 pupils. The Baptists have a college, occupying a four-story brick building, 80 by 250 ft., situated on an eminence affording a fine view of the city and the valleys of the rivers. The state library contains about 15,000 volumes, and there is a public library with about 3,000 volumes. Three daily newspapers, six weekly, and six monthly periodicals are published here. There are 13 churches, viz.: Baptist, Christian, Congregational, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist (3), Presbyterian (3), Roman Catholic, and Universalist. The Spiritualists also have a society.—Des Moines was laid out in 1846, and incorporated as the town of Fort Des Moines in 1851. A city charter, giving it its present name, was granted in 1857, and the same year it became the capital of the state.