The city takes its name from the Des Moines River. Many historians believe the river’s name came from Indians who built mounds in the area and called the river Moingona (river of the mounds).
Des Moines is Iowa’s main commercial center and one of the largest insurance centers in the world. Many insurance companies have their headquarters in Des Moines. State government and the health care industry are other leading employers.
The Sauk and Fox Indians lived in the Des Moines area before white settlers arrived. In 1843, the United States Army established a post where the city now lies. The Army built Fort Des Moines at the site, on land purchased from the Indians. In 1853, the settlement surrounding the fort was incorporated as the town of Fort Des Moines. The word Fort was dropped from the name in 1857. That same year, the Iowa legislature chose Des Moines as the state capital because of its central location within Iowa.
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