History of Johnston

West Expansion

The 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 1920’s, 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 DuPont Pioneer and continues expanding in Johnston, employing more than 2,000 people here.

Modern Development

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. In April 1970, Johnston and Urbandale reached an agreement that allowed Johnston to annex the Johnston Station area.

The Johnston Historical Society is located near the Johnston Public Library. The Museum is open the second Sunday of the month (April - November) from 1:00 to 3:00 pm or by appointment 515-331-0687.