Des Moines, Washington: A City of Pioneers

Excellent blog on history of Des Moines by a member of The Team That ROCKS! Ryan Allie.  Worth a read if you want to live here or visit.

The Location

Des Moines(pronounced as de moin’) is a magnificent city nestled in the King County of the state of Washington, USA. It encompasses a total land area of 6.3 square miles and is found along the eastern shore of thePuget Sound. If you’ll check the map, you’ll notice that it lies in between two flourishing cities, Seattle and Tacoma respectively. It has been a Northwest community for more than a hundred years and its history dates back to 1867.


The Discovery

It is established in history that the very first settlers in America were actually the Indian tribes or the Native Americans. In the case of Des Moines, any permanent settlement of the Indians was never proven. This is primarily due to the absence of archeological and historical evidence. Nevertheless, there’s adequate proof that Native Americans actually went to the city to fish for salmon and dig for clams. 

In fact, it was during one of their foraging and hunting activities that Des Moines was initially discovered by European explorers. Captain George Vancouver discovered the land on May 26, 1792. While exploring the Puget Sound, he saw a very thick cloud of smoke that pointed out the exact location of the city. At that time, the Native Americans were out hunting for deer and they burned some bushes down to drive the animals out of their hiding places. The fire then produced the thick cloud of smoke that hung on the high bluffs, catching the attention of the curious voyagers.  

Another batch of explorers from the Hudson’s Bay Company also saw the land in 1824 but Des Moines still wasn’t charted. In 1841, an American expedition sailed along thePuget Soundled by Charles Wilkes who was then responsible for the recording or charting of the coastline. They were able to visit a part of the land but it wasn’t only until 1867 that settlers finally inhabited Des Moines. That’s seventy five years from the time Des Moines was first seen by Capt. George Vancouver.  

The Start of Settlement

In 1867, John Moore claimed about 154 acres of land and built the very first cabin in Des Moines. His claim of the estate was granted and the certificate was released the 2nd day of July, 1872. After 12 years of settlement, it was said that he went insane and was then committed to a mental institution in 1879. His land was sold to Fountain O. Chezum who then sold it to F.A. Blasher.

A number of homesteaders took their respective shares of the land and in 1887, Blasher convinced some of his friends to invest in the improvement of the town. He sold his land to John W. Kleeb and Orin Watts of The Des Moines Improvement Company. The said party consequently worked on the platting and selling of the lots. The town’s plat was recorded and was then named Des Moines, after the improvement company itself. If truth be told, the Des Moines News claimed that it’s the best and the most prosperous city on Puget Sound.

The Road To Development

The town developed gradually and started with lumber mills as the very first industry to provide jobs for its people. During the 1900s, World War I was still on that lead to a surprising amount of visitors who then chose to settle in town. Large homes were built, docks were enlarged to make way for the shipment of the farmer’s fruits to the canneries and Puget Sound became a very hectic channel. The Mosquito Fleet, a huge number of private transportation companies, provided the means of getting into the gates of Tacoma, Seattle and Vashon Islands. Des Moines didn’t only provide a means of transportation via water but also served as a haven for food and recreation.

Automobiles soon entered town but roads were unpaved and high bluffs caused a lot of problems in land transportation. So in 1910, gravel and brick roads were constructed. It was in 1916 when the very first thorough fare, the Brick Highway, was finished. During the same year, an automobile ferry service connecting the city to Portage, an isthmus located between Maury and Vashon Island, was also established. Because of these new roads and means of transportation, residents were able to travel to and from neighboring cities. People from Seattle and Tacoma came to visit the so-said countryside. It should also be noted that tourist attractions were built to serve as recreation centers for all residents and visitors. The Des Moines BeachPark and Salt Water Park lured people into the city that visitors eventually moved in to Des Moines.  In fact, the population quickly reached its 2000th mark in 1930.

During these times, farming was the primary source of living for residents. Small farms grew berries and raised chickens which weren’t only for household consumption. The produce were also shipped to other cities and sold in different markets. When the Pacific Highway Southor SR-99 was completed in 1930, the shipment of these goods became a lot easier. Not only that, entrepreneurs also started to put up different businesses in Des Moines. In no time, the city flourished in motels, restaurants and service stations. Shops, boutiques and parks also sprouted one by one, thereby enticing more and more travelers.

The Incorporation

Right after World War II,Des Moines’ population boomed that the city government was no longer capable of providing local control concerning issues of infrastructure and development to its residents. Kent, a nearby town, started to annex lands and instead of becoming a part of the said town, the people of Des Moines chose to finally become their own city. It was on June 17, 1959 when it was incorporated. What followed was the construction of its marina and pier.

A City of Pioneers

In America, almost every state or city has its own nickname. Des Moineswon’t be called “A City of Pioneers” for nothing. John Moore was its first non native resident. In the field of medicine, Dr. Barney Clark was the first person to undergo an artificial heart transplant. Currently, Des Moines is home to 28,000 people. Ferries are no longer present in their harbors but it still remains as the first town that was established along thePuget Sound.  

Post Courtesy of "The Team That Rocks"

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Comment balloon 0 commentsTory Mayfield • January 12 2012 05:48PM
Des Moines, Washington: A City of Pioneers
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