DeSoto History

This thriving town is situated in Van Meter township, Dallas county, on sections 19 and 30, the west line of the township being- also the west line of the town plat. The town is within two miles of the south line of the township; the South Raccoon river flows within one or two miles north of it, affording excellent water and mill privileges; and the Bulger Creek passes to the south of the town, flowing through a tract of valley land adjoining the town, and thus forming a natural sewerage system extending from the town and surrounding hills to the Raccoon river, and making the location of De Soto a pleasant and healthy one. The town is located on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, on a beautiful hill, the land around it being elevated and rolling (except in the valley of Bulger creek), which lends a charm to the surrounding scenery, and affords numerous and attractive building sites on eminences adjoining the town. While the town is on a hill itself, it seems nestled snugly among the hills which rise up beautifully around it, especially to the south of Bulger Creek; and with the advantages of being thus situated on one of the best railroads in .the State, as well as being surrounded with a large tract of rich farming land and extensive coal-beds, the situation cannot be otherwise than a desirable and important one.

The land embraced in the original plat of the town was formerly owned by Thomas Hemphill and J. J. and H. G. Van Meter, and was donated by them to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. R. Company for the purpose of establishing a town on this site. The tract given by Mr. Hemphill was a part of the south half of the southwest quarter of section 19, and that given by the Van Meter brothel's was a part of the northwest quarter of section 30, the two tracts adjoining each other, and constituting in the neighborhood of one hundred acres of a gift by these parties to the Railroad company. This grant was made and the town laid out early in the spring- of 1868, being surveyed by Capt. A. J. Lyon, who was at that time County Surveyor, and this survey was completed March 27, 1868, and the new town was at once christened De Soto, in honor of some railroad official.

There were upward of three hundred lots embraced in the original plat as surveyed, the greater part of which were soon disposed of and the town sprung up as if by magic, the lots bringing in price from twenty-five to five hundred dollars each, The first lot disposed of in the new town was sold by William Hemphill to a Mr. Jones for $250, as Mr. Hemphill in forms us, very soon after the town was laid out. The above mentioned lot is just east of the hotel, and on it is now an old two-story dwelling house which was built at an early day in the town's existence.

A. J. Lyon & William Hemphill were the first to open a real estate office in the town; and they also built the first house in it, early in the spring of 1868. It was a very small building, only about 10x12 feet, which they used as a land office, but it was large enough to claim the title of being the first building erected in the town, and in it the greater part of De Soto was sold by the above mentioned firm, who for a long time were the only real estate agents in the place.

The first building erected for a family to live in, within the town limits, as Mr. Haycraft informs us, was a small frame shanty, built by Geo. W. Smith in the cast edge of town, and in which he lived sometime. The first comfortable dwelling house erected, Mr. Hemphill says, was a small frame house built by Mr. Wood, early in the spring of 1868, soon after the town was laid out. Others soon followed in quick succession, and during that summer and fall some twenty-five or thirty houses, perhaps more, were erected.

The first brick building in the town was erected by Robert Hillyer, during the summer of 1868, on block 9, just opposite the railroad depot, for a grocery store building. While building this brick, however, Mr. Hillyer lived in a small frame shanty in which he also sold groceries and other necessary articles, this being perhaps the first store started in the new town. As soon as his brick was completed he moved into it, and opened a flourishing store with quite an extensive stock of groceries and other goods. Mr. Hillyer afterward sold this property to J. D. Cavenor, who in turn traded it to Mr. Murry for property in Winterset, Madison county, Iowa, and for sometime Mr. Murry carried on the grocery business in this brick building. It is now used as a dwelling house.

Mr. A. Collins was among the first to open a dry goods and grocery store in the town; but during the year 1868 quite a number and variety of stores were opened and business firms established, and a general air of thrift and enterprise prevailed.

The first car load of hogs sold in the town was sold by G. W. Miller to H. G. Van Meter in 1868. They were sold at DeSoto for seven cents per pound, and shipped by Mr. Van Meter to Chicago, where they brought eight cents per pound. DeSoto has now several stock-shippers, and one of the most extensive buyers and shippers in all these parts: The advantages for shipping at this point are excellent, having a direct line to Chicago by the C, R. & P. R. R., and making it a good market for the surrounding country, which is now yielding annually a large, supply of produ0e to be sent to Chicago from this station. It also has a decided advantage on account of the railroad interests centered there. A good many railroad officers own property in the place, and their influence will tend to promote, its growth and prosperity. Besides, soon after the town was laid out, the railroad company purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land adjoining the original town plat, and laid it out in residence lots of three and five acres each, among which are some most desirable sites for residences, and all of these are not yet disposed of by the company, which possession secures the influence of the company in favor of the town to a great extent.

The company have built a fine, well furnished depot in the south part of the town, which is commodious enough for a town or city of considerable importance; and near it is a large water-tank, which is supplied from a spring some fifty or sixty rods distant, the water being conducted to the tank through cast-iron pipes in plentiful supply for railroad use.

Brick of excellent quality are also being manufactured extensively in several places near the town, from the clay deposits well adapted for that purpose, and plenty of stone and other building material are found at convenient distances from the town, rendering the work of building and other improvements comparatively cheap and easy.

For several years the town grew very rapidly, but of later years, on account of the unsettled state of affairs in financial circles, the rapid growth has become somewhat checked, and of a more steady, enduring character. The population will now number, perhaps, about six hundred.

The town of De Soto was incorporated nearly four years ago. The petition for incorporation was heard before Judge Mitchell, and granted May 24, 1875, and was tiled for record January 1, 1875. J. S. DeMotte, C. C. Case, George Hathaway, Richard French and J. C. Ault were duly appointed as the commissioners on corporation and corporation elections.

The number of inhabitants at that time were about four hundred. The following are the names of the town officers for the year 1878:

Mayor-J. S. DeMatte.

Recorder-E. H. Haycraft.

I. L. Carter,
Ezra Mann,
E. M. Giles,
Jacob Payton,
J. W. Blackman.
Marshal-G. G. Fish.
Justice-Z. S. Whaley.
Constable-G. W. Tomlinson.


The following is a list of the business houses in De Soto at the beginning of the year 1879, as furnished us through the kindness of Mr. Isaac Hoch, and others.

Dry Goods.-There are no firms in the town exclusively dry goods dealers, but all such dealers carry also a general stock of dry goods, groceries, boots, shoes, etc. There are four such firms, viz: William Hemphill, J. W. Blackman, Siegel & Gotstein, and W. H. Dillon.

Groceries-The grocery dealers also as a general thing carry something of a mixed stock, of whom there are four, viz: S. Wright, dealer in groceries, and carries perhaps the largest stock of boots and shoes in the town; J. Dillon & Son, deal principally in groceries; F. W. Gaines deals principally in groceries; E. H. Haycraft, dealer in groceries and notions.

Hardware.-Payton & Mitchell, dealers in hardware, tinware, stoves. iron, etc.; B. F. Irwin, tinner.

Drugs.-E. M. Giles, dealer in drugs, medicines, notions, etc.

Doctors.-S. .B. Campbel1, D. C. Bice.

Furniture.- W. H. Smith, dealer in all kinds of furniture, coffins, etc.

Milliners.-Mrs, Nichols & Snyder, millinery and dressmaking, fancy goods, etc.

Notions.-E. H. Haycraft, notions and groceries; Isaac Hoch, all kinds of notions, books, stationery, cigars, etc., at the post-office. Mr. Hoch is also the postmaster.

Jewelers.-E. L. Davis, watchmaker and jeweler, dealer in watches, clocks, and all kinds of jewelry.

Boot and Shoe-makers.-A. T. Hart, Fred Swanson, dealers in ready and custom-made boots and shoes.

Harness Shops.-J. L. Snyder, dealer in harness, saddles, whips, blankets, etc.

Blacksmiths.-B. F. Way, A. B. Rosenberg, general blacksmithing, etc.

Wagon Shop.-W. H. Nichols. wagon-maker.

Meat-market.-P. Jones, butcher.

Agricultural Depots.-Isaac Hoch, Payton & :Mitchell, dealers in agricultural implements; both firms near depot.

Lumber and Grain.-F. R. Lewis, dealer in lumber and grain, near the depot.

Stock-dealers.-Peter Fish; averages one cat: per day; Hemphill Bros., Hill & Fox.

Poultry-dealers.-I. W. Smith, Abraham Parker, dealers in all kinds of poultry.

Barber Shop.-Ezra Hutchinson (colored), barber and hair-dresser.

Hotel.-J. W. Blackman, proprietor; located near depot.

Livery Stable -J. W. Blackman, livery and feed stable in connection with hotel; near depot.

Insurance Agents.--A. A.. Nolan, F. R. Lewis, Silas Bailey.

Attorney.--A. A. Nolan, attorney and counselor at law.

Notaries Public.-Isaac Hoch. A. A. Nolan.

Carpenters.--R. J. Hook, J. L: Carter, J. M. Lowrey.

Painters.-R. I. Adeno, O. W. Huntington.
Express Agent.-Edwin Conger; also the station and ticket agent.

Telegraph Operator.- William Kibby.

Drayman.-George W. Leonard.

Baggage-master.-L. O. Drury.


Isaac Hoch, postmaster. This office was established soon after the town was laid out in 1868, and the first postmaster was Albert Collins, who retained the office until November, 1875, when Isaac Hoch was appointed as his successor, and has retained the office ever since.


Is situated about half a mile south of town, on a high ridge, being first established in the summer of 1878. For ten years the citizens of De Soto, did without a burying ground they could call their own, and went elsewhere to bury their friends who died, until last summer, when this one was laid off and properly deeded, and since that time more than twenty persons have been buried in it.


DeSoto is an independent school district, and has a fine school and school-building situated in the northern part of the town. The building is a large brick structure, two stories high, and about 30x60 feet. It was built in 1870, at a cost of $5,000, and has four large well ventilated rooms, well furnished and fitted for school purposes.

The school is graded, and has three teachers: C. M. Pinkerton, principal; Miss M. E. Caldwell, intermediate teacher; Mrs. Jennie E. Whinery, primary teacher. There are about two hundred pupils in attendance.


President-L. W. Smith; Secretary-Isaac Hoch; Treasurer-F. R. Lewis; J. J. Van Meter; Ezra Mann; E. M. Giles; I. L. Carter; Peter Fish.

The citizens of De Soto take great interest in their public school, and spare no pains or expanse to make it successful and prosperous. And in this respect their efforts have not been in vain, but are being crowned with a rich reward in the superior educational advantages afforded the youth of the town and surrounding community.


The following particulars of the Masonic Lodge were kindly furnished us by the secretary:
"Fortitude Lodge, A. F. & A. M., De Soto, Iowa, was chartered by the Grand Lodge, of Iowa, June 2, 1869, on petition of M. A. Knight, J. J. Van Meter, H. G. Van Meter, and others.

"The first officers of the Lodge were: M. A. Knight, W. M.; J. J. Van Meter, S. W.; H. G. Van Meter, J. W.; Z. W. Kelley, Secretary; J. D. Perkins, Treasurer; C. C. Goodale, S. D.; Jesse Lee, J. D.; W. F. Brewster, Tyler.

"The membership of the Lodge now is thirty-four, and the officers of the Lodge at present are: E. Conger, W. M.; L. O. Drury, S. W.; G. C. Briggs, J. W.; Wm. Roberts, Secretary; J. S. De Motte, Treasurer; W. D. Clayton, S. D.; J. J. Van Meter, J. D.; M. A. Little, Tyler.

"The Lodge meets in a very comfortable and convenient hall, arranged for their use in Kuhn's brick building, on west Walnut street."


De Soto is very firm on the temperance question, and is one of the six towns in the county that has no saloons.

These were closed out some three years ago, and we are informed the town has had none since. During 1878 an. important temperance movement was started here under the leadership of John W. Harden, of Des Moines, and the interest is still maintained, and we are informed by the secretary that as a. result of this movement, The De Soto Temperance Reform Club was organized March 17, 1878, by John W. Harden, of Des Moines, Iowa, with four hundred members, at which time the following officers were elected: President-J. S. De Motte; Vice-President-J. J. Van Meter; Secretary-J. F. Perry; Assistant Secretary.-Miss May Hemphill; Treasurer-Frank Hemphill; Chaplain-Wesley Payton.

The society has increased in interest as also in numbers ever since its organization, and has at present over five hundred names on its roll of membership, gathering in from the county around as well as the town, and holding regular and interesting meetings.


The beginning of this Church was a class organized by a Methodist minister, Rev. J. E. Darby, in 1868, soon after the town was started, and was the first church organization in the town. It was at first, of course, few in numbers, but having more than human power and wisdom to give it growth and strength, it soon increased in numbers and influence, until it has now become a strong church and a power for usefulness in the town and community.

For several years the people were compelled to worship in private dwellings, school-houses, and other buildings, doing the best they could to continue their regular meetings until in 1872, when was erected the fine brick structure they now worship in, on block 16, lots 11 and 12. It is 60x34 feet, nicely finished and furnished, and cost $6,000.

The present membership of the organization is 110.

The following is a list of the pastors since the organization: J. E. Darby, appointed Aug., 1868; Wm. Hestwood, 1870; J. W. Todd, 1872; T. McK. Stuart, 1873; W. D. Bennet, 1875; W. T. Bartholomew, 1877 the present pastor, to whom we are indebted for the particulars.


This church was organized November 26, 1870, by Elder A. J. Hobbs, who is now of Bloomington, Illinois. The original organization consisted of the following:

Z. W. Kelly and wife, Elizabeth A. Kelly; Silas Garrett and wife, Rebecca A. Garrett; Leonard Williams and wife, Elva F. WilliaIl1s; William H. Beck and wife, Angelina O. Beck; George T. Hathaway and wife, Lucinda Hathaway; Julius J. Van Meter and wife, Amanda K. Van Meter; Hugo Grotius Van Meter and wife, Damaris D. Van Meter; Edgar H. Haycraft and wife, Susan G. Haycraft; Elder John M. Dodge and wife, .Margaret Dodge; Alexander R. Dodge and wife, Sophronia V. Dodge; Joseph O. Ault and wife, Elizabeth Ault; Thurston P. Chase and wife, Phoebe J. Chase; Edgar H. Van Meter; Alfonso Van Meter; Mrs. Cyrene Binkhard; Robert D. Dodge; Harry Dodge; Cicero Dodge; Bernice Dodge; Edwin Conger; Emma Babb; Samuel J. Harper; James Maynard; Mary J. Maynard; Laura A. Way; L. H. Whinery; Solon B. Campbell; W. D. Gross; Julia K. Haycraft-41.

The roll of membership now numbers about two hundred and fifty.

The church building is a frame structure, 33x55 feet, neatly finished and furnished, and built at a cost of $4,000, in 1870. It is located on block 24, lots 6 and 7.

Quite contrary to the ordinary course of .events, and common custom in these matters, this church was built, finished and furnished, even to the dressing-rooms at either side of the pulpit for the use of the minister, which were supplied with dressing-gowns, combs, looking-glasses, toilet set, baptismal robes, and all such conveniences, before there was any organization of the church made, and the entire structure was paid for and free.

Then the elder, as above stated, formed the organization with over forty members, and when he left, after a few months' labor among them, it numbered over one hundred. In June, 1871, one Sabbath evening, a little before time for evening service, this building was blown down by a hurricane, which came up suddenly. It was rebuilt again forthwith, in the same style, and dedicated November, 1871. The following pastors have served the church since its organization: Elders John M. Crocker, William M. Roe, John W. Manser, Barton W. Johnson, C. Chutham--the present pastor.


This church was organized in 1869, being the second in order of organization, with a membership of about twenty-five or thirty, and at one time the membership had increased to the number of about sixty, but emigration and death so decreased their numbers that they have been compelled to be without any regular services for nearly two years, and the church has been closed. The membership was reduced to about eight or ten when the services closed. The organization has never disbanded, and is still retained on the roll, of the Presbytery of Des Moines, in the Southern Synod of Iowa.

The church building was erected in 1870, and dedicated that fall. It is about 30x40 feet, nicely finished and furnished, a frame structure, situated on block 18, lots 8 and 9, and was the first church built in town.

The ministers who served the church from the time of its organization were mostly all stated supplies, and were as follows: Revs. Bayliss, T. S. Bailey, William Campbell, John Sylvanus, R. J. Hughs (now of Adel) and a year ago last summer Rev. M. L. Bardue preached the last sermon that was delivered in the church.

Elders.-R. S. Walker was probably the first; Mr. Collins and William Paine; Mr. Walker continued as an active elder until the church was closed. The present trustees are Ezra Mann and George W. Leonard.

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