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Iowa is known for its agricultural production, but did you know that it was once a major producer of coal? In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Iowa had more than 200 coal mines, and coal was the state's leading industry.
Des Moines County, located in southeastern Iowa, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Sauk and Meskwaki people, who established settlements along the banks of the Mississippi River. In the early 19th century, European explorers and fur traders arrived in the region, establishing trading posts and creating closer ties with the native inhabitants.

The county was officially established in 1834 and named after the Des Moines River, which flows through it. The city of Burlington, known as the "Old Capital of Iowa," was selected as the county seat. Burlington quickly grew into a thriving trading center, with steamboats bringing goods up and down the Mississippi River. It became an important hub for commerce and transportation in the region.

During the mid-19th century, Des Moines County played a significant role in the development of Iowa. It became a stagecoach stop on the historic Burlington-Mississippi Road, connecting the region to the western territories. In 1853, the largest stone building in the state, the Iowa State Penitentiary, was constructed in Fort Madison, providing employment opportunities for residents.

As the 20th century dawned, Des Moines County continued to flourish. The growing agricultural sector, with the fertile lands along the Mississippi River, contributed to its economic growth. The county also experienced industrial development, with manufacturing plants, including a major button factory and a cereal mill, employing a significant portion of the population.

Today, Des Moines County is a thriving community with a diverse economy and a range of recreational and cultural attractions. It boasts a blend of historical landmarks, natural beauty, and a strong sense of community pride. The county continues to embrace its rich heritage while looking towards a promising future.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Des Moines County, Iowa.

  • 1833 - Des Moines County is established by the Iowa Territorial Legislature.
  • 1834 - Burlington becomes the county seat.
  • 1850 - The railroad arrives in the county, boosting economic growth.
  • 1894 - The Great Western Sugar Company is founded in Burlington.
  • 1911 - The Drake Clock Tower is built in Burlington, becoming a well-known landmark.
  • 1933 - Southeast Iowa Regional Airport is established.
  • 2008 - The Iowa Fertilizer Company announces plans for a large fertilizer plant in Wever.