Humboldt, Iowa

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Humboldt is a city in Humboldt County, Iowa, United States. The population was 4,452 at the 2000 census.



Frank A. Gotch Park (just south of present-day Humboldt and Dakota City) was a location of prehistoric and some Dakota Indian villages near where the two forks of the Des Moines River meet. During westward expansion in the 1800s, this area is thought to be the location of a fort/trading post called Fort Confederation. According to Federal records in 1825, permission was granted to build the fort to trade with the Ihanktonwan Dakota (Yankton Sioux) Indians. Information about the exact details of the fort are unclear, such as if American or French traders built it, bringing up many questions about this fort.[1][2]

The founder of modern Humboldt, Stephen Harris Taft, laid out the plans for Springvale, the original name of the town, in 1863. It was named Springvale because of the several natural springs found near the Des Moines River. Taft had very big plans for the community, and expected many intellectuals from the East to move to his new community.

Taft had five goals for his idyllic community.[3]

  • The town shall be surrounded and full of trees and forests.
  • The town shall be free of the sale of intoxicants.
  • The town shall be founded upon a saw mill and grist mill on the Des Moines River
  • The town shall have the moral fortitude of a solid church and good schools, and that it shall become a town of thinkers and beauty.
  • The town shall grow with a college of university importance, and have a church that will not dissent into factions.

Taft undertook the great task of turning empty, blooming prairie into the community of his dreams. He brought out a group of settlers (including a doctor) in 1863, and they lived together in the few houses that had been built. The grist mill was built, known now as the Corydon Brown House.[4] The first few years were spent laying out the town. Taft wanted very wide boulevards throughout the town, and the community is still known for its streets.[5] Taft also edited the Humboldt County True Democrat through the offices of the Fort Dodge Sentinel in Fort Dodge.[3] Trees were also planted along all the streets in Springvale, but they have since died off from a disease.

Springvale was renamed Humboldt (after the German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt)[6] in hope of a merger between Springvale and Dakota City (the county seat of Humboldt County), but no merger took place.[7] This is the first of two major shortcomings that would stunt Humboldt's growth and keep it from reaching Taft's goals.

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