History of the Des Moines River

Local historian Al Nelson gave a presentation Saturday on “History of the Des Moines River.” He showed maps from the 1600s to  1850s and talked about things that affected settlement in the area around Fort Dodge.

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We had about 30 people attend. More came after I took this photo.

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Al Nelson gets ready to begin his presentation.

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One of the earliest maps was drawn by Louis Joliet. He spent about 2 years traveling and taking notes and drawing maps. He was within site of a white settler’s cabin when his canoe overturned and he lost the trunk with his maps and diaries. He drew this from memory.

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This map shows an early spelling/name of the river – a variation of Moingona, meaning of the Moingona people, a native American tribe.

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Early land patents for the area that is now Fort Dodge.

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Each land patent copy had a description of the holder, with William Williams being described as the “Shrewd Networker.”

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The red area was in John Lemp’s name. The yellow area was James Williams’ name. The blue area was in William Williams’ name.

That section was part of the Des Moines River Navigation Act. The state was supposed to make the river navigable but failed, and outsourced the project to a guy who got financial backing from people back East. That’s how the Litchfield Co. was able to acquire so much land in this area. The ins and outs of the situation led to litigation that had land tied up for decades. Some people filed for homesteads with the federal government and improved the land, only to discover the land belonged to Litchfield and many were evicted. William Williams filed land patents through Litchfield and had less trouble, although it wasn’t completely trouble-free.

This did have a negative effect on settlement, as people didn’t want to put a lot of effort into improving land if they didn’t get to keep it. Some moved further west.

It was an interesting program. The Webster County Genealogical Society would like to have Al Nelson come back for another program, maybe next spring. We would welcome ideas for other programs or workshops. If you have any ideas, please email webcoiagenies@gmail.com with your suggestions. You can also leave a message on our Facebook page.

Who says libraries are boring?

We had just a titch of excitement today at the Webster County Genealogical Sociey (and of course, the Fort Dodge Public Library). Around 12:45, a library staffer stopped by our room and said we had to evacuate because they smelled smoke and had called the fire department. We waited about 40 minutes before we could come back inside. Luckily, although the day is chilly, it’s not that cold or very windy.

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The firemen didn’t find anything. The smoky smell persists in the building, but we were allowed to go back inside.

“History of the Des Moines River” program is today

Today’s the day!

Local historian Al Nelson will give a presentation on “History of the Des Moines River” today. We will meet in the large meeting room of the Fort Dodge Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m.

The presentation will cover some of the factors in settling this area. Maps from the 1600s up to 1850 will illustrate the prominence of the Des Moines River for hundreds of years. Some Indian treaties pertinent to our area will be discussed, along with the impact of the Des Moines River Navigation Act.

Al gave me a brief rundown of the Des Moines River Navigation Act and  how it affected settlement here and it was a real eye-opener. I had never heard of it before and I was surprised at how much of an impact it had on Fort Dodge. I don’t know how much detail he’s going to go into on that, but I will say that it’s a chance to get history of the area in a way that is more personal.

I’ve been watching Crash Course! videos about world and U.S. history. They are interesting and informative, but can only cover the subject in a superficial way. I think today’s program is a chance to get an in-depth look at some local history and there’s a good chance that there will be some real surprises in store.

Upcoming events for October

The monthly meeting of the Webster County Genealogical Society will be held at 1 p.m. on Oct. 7. Nonmembers are welcome to join us. We will be voting on our proposed slate of officers:

President: Carol Foltz
Vice president: Joan Ewing
Secretary/Treasurer: Sue Lieske

The newsletter will be mailed out after this meeting.

History presentation

Local historian Al Nelson will give a presentation on “History of the Des Moines River” on Oct. 12. We will meet in the large meeting room of the Fort Dodge Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m.

The presentation will cover some of the factors in settling this area. Maps from the 1600s up to 1850 will illustrate the prominence of the Des Moines River for hundreds of years. Some Indian treaties pertinent to our area will be discussed, along with the impact of the Des Moines River Navigation Act.

September meeting

The September meeting of the Webster County Genealogical Society will be held at 1 p.m. on Sept. 9 at the Fort Dodge Public Library. The reason for the meeting being on the second Monday of the month is because the library will be closed for Labor Day.

We are working on setting up a program sometime in the fall. Details will follow.

Membership dues for 2013-2014 are due in September. We will be electing officers soon.

Volunteers are needed. Please let us know if you are willing to help out at the society. We can be reached by email at webcoiagenies@gmail.com.

Family history events this weekend

Two events in Fort Dodge this weekend focus on local history and memories.

Oakland Cemetery Walk

The Oakland Cemetery Walk will be held today at Oakland Cemetery. Park at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1436 21st Ave. N. Shuttles will take tour groups to the cemetery from 1 to 3 p.m.

An indoor performance will be held at the Bioscience and Health Sciences building auditorium at Iowa Central at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7.

DVDs of the walk are available, as well as presentations from past years. Cost is $7.

This event uses live actors to talk about the lives of people buried in Oakland Cemetery, as if they were that person. Each actor uses research from that person’s life to put together their performance. It’s quite interesting to see people from the past portrayed.

Capturing Memories

A second event this weekend is Capturing Memories. It will be held at the Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S.

Learn about genealogy, creating an oral history, all things to do with ties, scrapbooking, picture blocks, picture quilts and more. Janet Secor will give a special presentation “What’s That Sound?”

Admission: $5 (includes door prizes and refreshments)
When: 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S.
Contact: YWCA, 573-3932, Ext. 202

Capturing Memories event

Capturing Memories will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 9 at the Vincent House, 824 Third Ave. S.

Topics include Who Do You Think You Are? Genealogy, Tell Me About You Create An Oral History, All Things to Do With Ties, Picture Blocks, Picture Quilts, and a special presentation: What’s That Sound? by Janet Secor.

Admission is a $5 donation to the Vincent House. There will be door prizes and refreshments. Call the YWCA at 573-3931, ext. 202, for information.