Raccoon City

Do you know what happens when you stick a couple of curious people in a car for five days with little to do and limited access to social media?

We google stuff.

At least, as long as the cell signal holds out.

We were driving through Des Moines, Iowa (day 2 of our 5 day journey) and trying to figure out why there was a city with an obviously French name right in the middle of the country. My pre-colonial history isn’t great, but I couldn’t recall Iowa having a significant French population. I also wasn’t sure what Moines meant.

Turns out, it means “Monks.”

According to legend (Wikipedia wasn’t sure if it was true) there was a monastery near a waterfall near what is now Des Moines. The monastery was gone by the early 1800s, but the name stuck (alternatively, it could be a bastardization of the Native word for the area. Again, Wikipedia wasn’t sure).

The city started out as a fort where the Des Moines River meets the Racoon River. In the 1840s, the Army captain placed in charge of the fort was supposed to name it. He was in favor of Fort Racoon, but the war department though it lacked, um, gravitas. So he was overruled and it became Fort Des Moines, from which the city now derives it’s name.

Personally, I think our nation was robbed by not getting Racoon City.

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1 thought on “Raccoon City”

  1. I’m always fascinated at how or why places in the USA got their names.
    I think Iowa has a large German ancestry. I could be wrong. I’m from the German area of PA where Anthracite was mined. I worked for Anthracite Radio for a short stint.

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