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Iowa Park, Texas

07 Jan

Iowa Park (33°57′13″N 98°40′16″Wis located in Wichita County, west of Wichita Falls.  It was founded in the 1880s by General Grenville M. Dodge.  At that time, it was mostly miles of prairie grassland growing on what appeared to be miles of sandy loam.  These conditions and the accessibility of surface water caused Dodge to feel that the location would be favorable for farming.  The area was reached by the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway and first named Dagger Switch, becoming a recognized township in about 1882 .  Shortly thereafter, the Texas Panhandle Company organized immigration trains to encourage settlers to relocate to the area, many coming from Iowa.

A post office was opened in 1888 and the name was changed to Iowa Park in 1891 with the incorporation of the town, influenced by the number of settlers from Iowa.  Many new towns would set aside common areas for churches, cemeteries, schools, public buildings and the like, but the early plan included a city park.

General Grenville M. Dodge was himself quite an interesting individual.  Born in 1831, he served in the US Army on the frontier in military intelligence prior to the Civil War.  He had graduated from Norwich University in 1851 with a degree in civil engineering and moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa where he would make his permanent home as he continued his career.  He began working as a surveyor for the railroads and was in Council Bluffs surveying to find the best rail route through Nebraska when he met Abraham Lincoln at a local hotel.  Lincoln was at that time an undeclared candidate for President in 1860 happened to be in town to look at some property he had acquired in settlement of a debt.  A few years later in 1863, Lincoln would call Dodge to Washington from his post in the Army during the Civil War to take over the construction of the Union Pacific portion of the Transcontinental Railway.  Lincoln’s confidence in him would be rewarded and Dodge would lead Union Pacific to reach the 100th meridian on October 6, 1866 before the opposition.

During the war, he served as Chief of Intelligence under Ulysses S. Grant and had a leadership role in the southern states campaign, during which he participated in the Battles at Pea Ridge, Corinth, Vicksburg and Atlanta.  He resigned from the Army in 1866.  Following the war, his duties included serving in the United States Congress, representing the State of Iowa and serving as a railroad executive for several different companies.  Fort Dodge and Dodge City in Kansas are named for him.  Accordingly, for Grenville Dodge to be the founder of the new North Texas town of Iowa Park was in character.

The community of Iowa Park continued to grow.  Agriculture has always remained a key part of the local economy, benefiting from rail access early on, and later adding other means of transporting crops.  Like other surrounding areas in the Southwest, it has suffered from periodic droughts, the Great Depression and general economic cycles.  The economy was aided around the end of World War I with the discovery of oil.  Likewise, cattle ranching has been an important contributor to the economic stability since the area was settled.  Its population has risen from about 2,000 in the 1920s to level off more recently at around 6,000.

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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in history, texas, town names

 

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