FORT DODGE, the county seat of Webster County, is situated in Wakonsa Township upon the east bank of the Des Moines River, called by the Sioux Indians Eah-sha-wah-pah-tah, Red Stone River, 200 miles west from DuBuque, on the line of railroad from DuBuque to Sioux City, and 80 miles north of Des Moines City. The Valley of the Des Moines River does not present a more powerful attraction at any point through its whole length than the region that lies about Fort Dodge, either in reference to beauty of scenery, richness of soil, purity and abundance of water, extent and variety of mineral wealth, or healthfulness. The site of Fort Dodge was first selected for a military post by Brevet General Mason, then Col. of the 6th Regiment of U. S. Infantry. The object in establishing the post was to keep in check the Sioux Indians, and it was placed at the extreme western part of what was called the neutral ground between the Sioux and Sac and Fox Indians. In the spring of 1850, Major Samuel Woods was ordered on with a portion of the 6th U. S. Infantry, and established the post which was named Fort Clark. But it was found that another detachment from the same Regiment had established another post on the frontier west, which they also named Fort Clark. To prevent confusion in mail matters and in forwarding supplies, the name was changed by order of the Secretary of War, from Fort Clark to Fort Dodge, in honor of Senator Dodge of Wisconsin.
The town of Fort Dodge is situated upon an elevated plateau composed of three terraces, which rise in all about 150 feet above the level of the river. On the east it is approached by an extensive prairie, on the northwest and south it is surrounded by heavy timber, the banks on the west side terminate precipitously, forming an amphitheatre around the town, and adding exceedingly to the beauty of the scene, which is certainly unequalled by anything west of the Mississippi River. The Des Moines, a pure, bright, clear stream, flows over a rock and pebble bottom at the base. Streams enter into the river above and below the town; Soldier Creek, on the north, and Deer Creek on the south. On the east side of the Des Moines, immediately above the town, the Lizard River empties into the Des Moines. This stream affords good water power. All these streams are skirted with timber. The Des Moines at this point is about seventeen rods in width, and abounds with salmon, muskalonge, pike, bass, perch, and other fine fish. As before stated, the site of Fort Dodge was selected as a military post. When the plan and arrangement of the buildings was under consideration, it was determined by the officers to build as convenient as possible to the fine springs, and where they would be sheltered from the northwest winds by the fine grove of timber. When the post was established, it was the opinion of all that it would be a frontier post for some years. It was also the opinion of the officers that owing to the beauty of the location, its resources, and healthy position, that a town of some importance would be built on the site; they came to this conclusion from examination of the maps, and finding the location was very nearly on a straight line from DuBuque to the south pass in the Rocky Mountains, which, at that time was the point that all emigrants made for. Reasoning in this way it was determined to place the buildings in line—the main Fort buildings being intended to form one side of a street.
The main buildings of the Fort now form principally the north side of William Street, beginning between 5th and 6th Streets, on what is now in the town plat, Lot No. 4 in Block No. 2, and extending west to lot No. 5 in Block No. 6.
The first sermon preached in Fort Dodge was by Rev. J. H. Burleigh, of the Methodist Church. He came to the Fort in the fall of 1851, and was furnished with a large hospital tent, which was pitched on the ground now lot No. 11, in block No. 3, where he held a three days' meeting, very much to the gratification of the officers and men.
The reservation of land laid out for the use of the post, was four miles north and four miles south of the Fort, and two miles on each side of the DesMoines River, making a strip of land eight miles in length, and four miles wide, with the Fort in the centre. The treaty of 1852 with the Sioux Indians was confirmed, and the United States Government by that treaty purchased of the Sioux all the territory in Minnesota, from Lake Pepin to Rock River, on the St. Peters. Also all lands of the Sioux lying within the limits of the State of Iowa. This embraced the lands west of the DesMoines River. Capt. Dana of the 6th U. S. Infantry and others, were ordered to select a site for a permanent post on the north line of the new purchase The selection was made at the junction of Rock River and St. Peters, (or Minnesota River,) about one hundred and fifty miles north of Fort Dodge. In the latter part of July, 1853, the troops at Fort Dodge were ordered to abandon the post, and march to the St. Peters to assist in building the new Fort. The country between Fort Dodge and the point they were ordered to being unexplored, it took them until late in September to finally leave Fort Dodge, being baffled by high waters, &c. The new post established was named Fort Ridgley. The principal cause for the abandonment of Fort Dodge as a military post, was the decision given by the Commissioner of the Interior of the United States, that the grant of lands made by Congress in 1848 to the State of Iowa for the improvement of the DesMoines River, extended from the mouth of the river to its source. By that decision it was found that the land (section No. 19, T. 89, R. 28 W.) was embraced in that grant, and belonged to the State of Iowa.
When the troops abandoned Fort Dodge, Wm. Williams remained, being conversant with the whole state of affairs, and turned his attention to securing the section on which the Fort was built with the improvements, the War Department having determined to leave all but the steam engine and saw mills. The only persons remaining when the troops left were Wm. Williams, his son, James B. Williams, and a discharged soldier, Joseph Sweet, who was  employed by the officers to take charge of some articles left for a time in the Commissary buildings. Sweet soon left, and Sergt. John M. Hefley, another discharged soldier was employed in his stead. Wm. Williams, in connection with John Lemp, of Muscatine, succeeded in purchasing section No. 19, on which the Fort was built, together with the improvements, from the State of Iowa.
In March, 1854, Wm. Williams, with the assistance of —- Woods, Surveyor of Boone County, proceeded to lay out the original plat of Fort Dodge, which embraced the line of Fort buildings. At that time the only inhabitants of the place were Wm. Williams, James B. Williams, John M. Hefley and wife, and Wm. R. Miller and family, (Miller and family having made a claim about nine miles from the Fort, had fled from the Indians to the Fort.) In April following, Robert Scott and family and John Scott came in, seeking refuge from the Indians. In June, C. C. Carpenter came, and in July the following persons with their families arrived. Preston and John Vancleave, Volney Knight, A. S. Seovel, Edw. McKnight, George C. Goss, Geo. Williams, John Yost, Geo. H. Rodgers, Wm. Plumb and Robert Johnston. Soon after the following persons arrived and settled: E. H. Albee, C. Hardman, George W. and Wm. Young, Enos and D. Mallory, Frederick Boott and E. E. Colburn. These may be called the first settlers in Fort Dodge. After their arrival, having in town about twenty children, it was proposed to open a school. Cyrus C. Carpenter was employed, and as teacher opened the first school. Wm. R. Miller opened the first house of entertainment, in the building called the Wakonsa House.
When the troops first arrived to establish the post, the Indians fell back some distance, but on the withdrawal of the garrison, they began to return to their old haunts, and caused great uneasiness, particularly among the women. Constant alarms were kept up, until a sufficient number of men were settled in the town to repel the attacks of small parties. In the spring of 1855, John F. Duncombe, H. Beecher, C. Hazard Vincent, W. O. Ruggles, E. G. Morgan and several others arrived, and permanently settled. Congress at session of 1854–5, established the land district. From the fall of 1854 till the opening of the Land Office 5th of November 1855, there was a gradual increase of population in the town. In July, 1855, the town plat was extended by an addition of 210 lots laid out around the northeast and south of the original plat. This addition was surveyed by Sam'l M. Robbins. Several other additions have been made, as follows: In April, 1857 Morrison & Duncombe's addition was laid out. In January, 1857, Plumb's addition, and in July, 1858, West Fort Dodge, or Colburn's addition.
The first buildings put up aside from the Fort buildings, were by Messrs. Gilmore & Chandler, on lot No. 3, in block No. 8, and by Mr. Corbin on lot No. 3, in block No. 8. The first postmaster was Wm. Williams. The first store was established by Messrs. Williams & Lemy. The first physician was Dr. S. B. Olney, the first lawyer John F. Duncombe, Esq., and the first land agents Gilmore & Chandler. The first newspaper was the Fort Dodge Sentinel, first No. issued August 31st, 1856, published by A. S. White, (John F. Duncombe and A. S. White, editors.) The first druggists were G. & C. C. Bissell. The first lots purchased in Ft. Dodge were purchased by Hoyt Sherman and E. W. Lucas, of DesMoines.
When the Land Office opened, crowds of speculators and land sharks came in, and for a time they appeared to be determined to take the place and surrounding country by storm. The Railroad Company (DuBuque & Pacific) located finally their road in June, 1856, making Ft. Dodge a point, the Fort Dodge Company giving them the right of way, and donating to them the necessary depot grounds; also agreeing to lay out into lots all the land lying adjoining the town plat, and along the DesMoines River, giving the Railroad Company every alternate lot. This is known as the Railroad addition. In May, 1856, another addition was laid out adjoining the plat of Fort Dodge, and is known as East Fort Dodge, or Snell & Butterworth's addition. From the location of Fort Dodge it is destined to be an important place. It commands the trade of at least ten counties lying north, west, south, northwest and southwest. On the completion of the DuBuque & Sioux City and the DesVoines Valley Railroads, it will be the great shipping or forwarding point for the northern tier of counties.
The Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Catholics, German Reformed (or Lutherans,) and Congregationalists have each an organization, and all have built good churches, except the Congregationalists. There is one public school of from 175 to 200 scholars, and in addition to this a German Lutheran school. The Catholic denomination have also established a Female Seminary, under the direction of the Sisters of Charity. There are at present six dry goods merchants, four grocers, two drug stores, one clothing store, two hardware stores,one book store, one watch and jewelry establishment, two tailors, one carriage and wagon-maker, five blacksmiths, nine carpenters, two plasterers, one house painter and glazier, two stonemasons, two bricklayers, one saddle and harness establishment, two cabinet makers, four boot and shoe manufacturers, three saloons, one livery stable, two tin and coppersmiths, two brokers, six lawyers, four physicians, one printing office, the Iowa Northwest office, and one flouring mill and saw mill, convenient to town. A large amount of business is done by the merchants. The trade in furs is large, something like $50,000 worth annually; also pork, beef and butter to a large amount, are shipped from this point. There are two hotels, the St. Charles, kept by Wm. Black, who has recently purchased and fitted it up, and the Wakonsa House, kept by S. Hinton. There are nine lines of stages arriving and departing as follows: three daily, four tri-weekly and two weekly. The post office at Fort Dodge may be considered a distributing office for the northwest. The population of Fort Dodge, (including the additions,) at this time, (June, 1865,) may be put down as being between 1,200 and 1,500, and increasing rapidly. The United States Land Office for the Northern District is established here. There is also a Masonic Lodge, Ashlar Lodge, No. 111. Fort Dodge is situated in the midst of a mineral region. For the area of ten miles square around it there are large deposits of iron, bituminous coal, good cannel coal, gypsum, cement, red ochre, &c., which only want capitalists to develop.  (Hair's Iowa State Gazetteer..., 1865)

Total Population 1860
City or Town