There are 14 incorporated communities wholly within the boundaries of Dallas County, as well as one unincorporated settlement, but a number of Metro Area cities also lie within the county’s boundaries.
Through the years a number of other settlements sprang up, but are now only memories.
Early settlers, naturally, built their homes on land suitable for construction, without consideration of plat lines that were laid out quite early in Dallas County’s existence. As the railroad was built through the county, it followed those plat lines and some early settlements died off because of that.
Other early settlements, like Xenia, packed up and moved a few miles from the Des Moines River Valley to the location that became Woodward. With a number of north Dallas County communities located along the old Interurban trolley that ran from Des Moines to Perry, other settlements became "stops" along that rail system. Moran, for instance, was a station for passengers riding the spur from Woodward to the main Interurban line. Likewise, Gardiner became a station for folks from nearby Bouton.
The Interurban provided many county residents with easy access to Des Moines.
Before the rails defined the county’s structure, settlers were still provided mail service. For most, mail was the only connection with the outside world and, even then it took days, if not weeks, to correspond with loved ones left behind.
Mail service was by horseback and the county, at least across the southern portion, was a part of the short-lived Pony Express system.
A number of what are now considered ghost towns were located across the county, many of them springing up in the 1850s and some remaining until the early years of the 20th century. All are not considered ghost towns in Dallas County.
According to the State Historical Society of Iowa, those post offices were:
• Alton: A hamlet at the west edge of the site of the present city of Perry, 1859-69;
• Boone: According to the maps this post office, which existed under that name from 1853-1869, occupied locations in different parts of Boone Township, but finally came to the site of the present-day Booneville;
• Brough: In section 9, Lincoln Township, Post Office, 1873-97;
• Chattanooga: In the south central part of Adams Township, Post Office, 1857-67;
• Chicago: Near the southeast corner of Washington Township, as shown on maps of 1862-78;
• Ephesus: In section 19, Washington Township, as shown on maps of 1887;
• Fairland: In section 16, Grant Township, Post Office, 1881;
• Galway: In the southeastern part of Union Township, as shown on maps of 1857;
• Greenvale: In the northern part of Linn Township, Post Office, 1859-97;
• Harvey Mills: A Post Office in Linn Township in 1881;
• Lanfitt: Listed in the U.S. Postal Guide of 1893 as a Post Office in Dallas County but not found on maps of that period;
• Linn: A Post Office in Linn Township in 1881;
• McKay: A Post Office from 1851-55 when the name was changed to Wiscotta (see Wiscotta);
• New Ireland: A name applied in the early day to the present town of Redfield;
• Nordyke: In the southeastern part of Boone Township, Post Office, 1869-75;
• Osprey: Listed in the U.S. Postal Guide of 1881 as a Post Office in Dallas County, but not found on maps of that period;
• Panther: In the northern part of Colfax Township, Post Office, 1885-1903 (previous to 1885 it had run a few years as Panther Creek);
• Penoach: The name given to the site selected in 1847 for the county seat of Dallas County, a location in the eastern portion of the present town of Adel. It was a village for two years before the name was changed to Adel, and was listed as a Post Office in 1849 as Penoach;
• Pierce Point: In the western part of Sugar Grove Township, Post Office, 1859-69;
• Snyder: In section 26, Des Moines Township, Post Office, 1859-81;
• Tracey: Listed in the U.S. Official Register of 1869 as a post office in Dallas County (it is present town of Van Meter);
• Uncle Sam: Listed in the U.S. Official Register of 1869 as a Post Office in Dallas County, but not found on the maps of that period;
• Wiscotta: In sections 4 and 5, Union Township, about one mile south of the present town of Redfield; it was platted and was for a few years a prosperous village, Post Office, 1855-61;
• Xenia: A platted village on the west line of section 4, Des Moines Township, about one and one-half miles east of the present town of Woodward, Post Office 1861-81 (note: when the railroad went through Woodward, many buildings in Xenia were moved up the hill into Woodward and Xenia soon disappeared from the landscape.
While those Post Office locations and other early communities have long-since faded into the county’s history, a number of settlements in neighboring Polk County have grown and expanded partly into Dallas County. Largest of those, of course, is West Des Moines, which began as the village of Valley Junction but has now grown into a community that boasts the largest school district within the state.
In addition to West Des Moines, Dallas County includes parts of Clive, Urbandale and Grimes. For the present, at least, it appears those are the only communities that will grow into the county, at least in the foreseeable future. If, at some time in the future, Dallas County expands to a 15th incorporated community, that, most likely, would be Booneville, the lone non-incorporated community in the county. Another possibility, of course, that West Des Moines will continue its westward push into Dallas County and will one day annex Booneville.
Here is a capsule look at Booneville and the Polk County communities that jut into Dallas County.
• Booneville: Named after an early family of settlers, Booneville lies just north of the Raccoon River near the southern Dallas County line. As the railroads pushed west out of Des Moines, Booneville became a thriving community. However, the area saw an eventual decline in population as the railroad was used less and less frequently. The community still has its own Post Office.
• Clive: Although the area was platted in 1882, Clive did not become an incorporated community until 1956. Lying between Waukee, West Des Moines, Urbandale and the greater Des Moines Metro, Clive has grown to more than 15,000 in population through the years. Although it’s not known for sure, it’s believed Clive got its name from Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive. Like Waukee, its neighbor to the west, Clive was originally a coal mining town as well as a railroad shipping point along the St. Louis-Des Moines Northern Railway. Most of Clive’s businesses are located along 86th Street in Polk County. For the most part, however, Clive is a "bedroom" community with many of its residents working in the Metro Area. Clive has been a part of the West Des Moines School District since 1962, although students living in the portion of Clive in Dallas County, attend Waukee Schools.
• Grimes: Grimes is named after former senator and third Iowa Governor James W. Grimes, and was incorporated in Polk County on May 7, 1894. Grimes is growing rapidly and now is home to approximately 10,000 residents with a business district that is expanding along the Highway 141 corridor. Annexation in recent years has expanded westward, basically along Highway 44, into Dallas County. The community was consolidated with Dallas Center about 50 years ago into the Dallas Center-Grimes School District; a new high school and middle school have been built about two miles west of Grimes in Dallas County and that is part of the area annexed by the City of Grimes. Elementary schools are located both in Grimes and Dallas Center.
• Urbandale: Urbandale got its name, literally, from a streetcar line. The area was a streetcar suburb that connected Des Moines with four coal mines and was known as the end of the "Urbandale Line." That was during a time when plans to build a railroad from Des Moines to Woodward were abandoned because of right-of-way issues. By the end of the 1940s, the coal mines had closed. The streetcar service ended in 1951. Urbandale was incorporated on April 16, 1917; three years later, the population was 298. Today approximately 40,000 people call Urbandale home – most of the growth occurring within the last half century. Urbandale’s population in 1950 was 1,777 but grew rapidly as more and more Des Moines residents sought suburban living. In 1970, Urbandale’s population was 14,434, but it more than doubled by 2000. Among notable places in Urbandale is Buccaneer Arena, home of the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.
• West Des Moines: Settling of Dallas County might correctly be traced to settling of the Valley Junction area in Polk County. Sac and Fox Indians occupied the area, but a shot fired on Oct. 11, 1845 by a local cattle farmer, caused the Indians to leave. About five years later, a treaty between Indians and settlers, allowed early pioneers to move westward into what is now Dallas County along the Raccoon River. Originally, West Des Moines was a trading and shipping junction and was incorporated as Valley Junction on Oct. 9, 1893. It was home to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad’s switching facilities and repair shops because of its location at the junction of several railroad lines. It was also home to Iowa’s only automobile race track made of wood – Des Moines Speedway, which was constructed in 1915. It was one of 24 such wood tracks across the U.S. during that period. On Jan. 1, 1938, Valley Junction became a name for history as the new city of West Des Moines was born; Valley Junction today is known as Historic Valley Junction. West Des Moines has continued its expansion into Dallas County and is now one of the largest 10 cities in Iowa. West Des Moines’ population in 1950 was 5,615 – today it is home to more than 56,000.
(Ed note: Each part of this series on the history of Dallas County and its communities will be combined in a publication to be printed mid-November. Watch for details.)