50 Years of History.

Learn all about our history, and what has enabled our unique community to thrive for the last 50 years.

The inception

The west area was first settled in 1846 (the same year Iowa became a state) when Ezekiel Hunt established a sawmill near NW 58th Street and NW Beaver Drive (the current location of a pallet company). Over the years the area was known by many names such as Beaver Creek Settlement, Ridgedale and Huntsville. The community eventually adopted the name of Johnston Station named after John F. Johnston who was one of the station agents for the Interurban Railroad. The Interurban Railroad was an electric train (established in 1907) which provided commuter and freight service. It ran from Carlisle, through Des Moines and Johnston, to Perry.

Camp Dodge has served as a military training site since 1908. The Camp sits on 4,500 acres in the northern part of Johnston and is named after General Grenville Dodge, a civil war veteran.

In the late 1920s, Henry B. Wallace conducted experiments with hybridizing corn, which led to the beginning of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company. Mr. Wallace eventually served as the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce and as Vice-President of the United States under President Franklin Roosevelt. By the mid-20th century, Pioneer was becoming the leading seed corn producer in the world. With the success of Pioneer, the area began to attract homes and businesses. The company is now called Corteva and continues expanding in Johnston, employing more than 2,000 people here.

 

City is Formed.

Incorporation did not come until the fall of 1969 when area residents worked together to incorporate the City of Johnston. Because state law prevented the formation of a town within three miles of another city from incorporating, the original city boundaries did not include the Johnston Station area. On September 8, 1969, Mayor Harold Southerwick gaveled in the first Johnston City Council meeting. At the time Iowa’s newest city boasted 2,236 residents. In April 1970, Johnston and Urbandale reached an agreement that allowed Johnston to annex the Johnston Station area.

Nearly 50-years later, on January 7, 2019, Mayor Paula Dierenfeld will gavel in the first City Council meeting of Johnston’s 50th year. Johnston is now a bustling community with more than 21,500 residents. Johnston is recognized as a community of active and engaged residents, strong neighborhoods, vibrant businesses and organizations, and an exceptional school district.

In July 2018 a 50th Anniversary Steering Committee was formed to plan a year-long celebration in 2019. The events involve a mix of activities designed specifically for the 50th anniversary combined with many existing community events that are planning unique ways to recognize this important community milestone.

Johnston Mayors – First 50 Years

Harold Southerwick 1969-1973

Richard Franklin 1974-1979

Ruth Schuler 1980-1981

Mary Ann Roberts 1982-1985

James Powell 1986-1992

Richard Garland 1992 Pro tem

John Ver Hoef 1992-1997

Dallas Patterson 1998-1999

Bob O’Hollearn 2000-2003

Brian Laurenzo 2004-2007

Paula Dierenfeld 2008-present

Farmers Market

JOHNSTON FARMERS MARKET

June, 13, 1989-Present

The Johnston Farmers Market began as an idea by Johnston resident Mary Jane Paez, who saw cherry blossoms in bloom while traveling. She thought Johnston could have something similar. Iowa State Architecture students helped design a City Center which included a Farmers Market. So, the idea of a market began June 13, 1989.

The local garden club was the first market sponsor and it was held in the Johnston City Hall parking lot. The proceeds then, and now, go towards the Johnston Residential Tree Program. The first market purchased the North Star Cherry trees, planted in parks, schoolyards, City Hall, Men’s Garden Club, Public Works and residences, fulfilling Mary Jane’s dream! Some trees still survive.

When Merle Hay was widened in 1993 and 1994, the market moved to Village Square Mall, then moved back to City Hall parking lot in 1995.

The Johnston Lions Club began sponsoring the market in 1999 and they continue today. Proceeds from the market, which runs from dates in May until the first week in October, are still given to the City for its Residential Tree Program as a service of the Lions Club. The Johnston Tree Board now selects a choice of trees that will thrive in our zone for residents to purchase. Over the many years of the Market’s existence, it’s provided thousands of trees for Johnston residents to purchase at a reduced rate, helping make Johnston a cooler, greener and growing community. The Johnston Parks Department coordinates the purchase and distribution of the trees each May.

The Lions Club is grateful to the City for allowing the Market space in the parking lot and helping promote this Johnston long time gem, attracting and welcoming hundreds of residents each week. Vendors number between 25-38 each week during peak growing season & besides fruit and vegetables the market includes art, garden art, crafts, honey, music and BBQ and/or a Food Truck.

 

The Johnston Lions Club began sponsoring the market in 1999 and they continue today. Proceeds from the market, which runs from dates in May until the first week in October, are still given to the City for its Residential Tree Program as a service of the Lions Club. The Johnston Tree Board now selects a choice of trees that will thrive in our zone for residents to purchase. Over the many years of the Market’s existence, it’s provided thousands of trees for Johnston residents to purchase at a reduced rate, helping make Johnston a cooler, greener and growing community. The Johnston Parks Department coordinates the purchase and distribution of the trees each May.

The Lions Club is grateful to the City for allowing the Market space in the parking lot and helping promote this Johnston long time gem, attracting and welcoming hundreds of residents each week. Vendors number between 25-38 each week during peak growing season & besides fruit and vegetables the market includes art, garden art, crafts, honey, music and BBQ and/or a Food Truck.

 

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Saylorville Lake

The Des Moines River, the largest river in central Iowa, has a history of too much or too little water, depending on the season. Major floods occurred on the Des Moines River in 1851, 1903, 1935, 1938 and 1944. Following these floods, the Committee on Commerce of the United States

Senate authorized a study of the Des Moines River in the interest of providing additional flood protection for the city of Des Moines. The Des Moines local flood protection project was authorized by Congress on December 22, 1944. In 1958, after investigating nine sites, six on the Des Moines River, two on the Raccoon, and one on the South Raccoon, Congress authorized construction of Saylorville Lake by the U.S. Army of Engineers at a site about 11 miles upstream from the city of Des Moines.

The principal purpose of the Saylorville project is to provide additional storage to supplement the flood control capacity of Lake Red Rock downstream and help reduce flood crests on the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers. Saylorville Lake, acting in conjunction with the completed local protection works of the city of Des Moines, also provides flood protection for the city.