A History of Dallas County: Minburn

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Daniel F. Rogers, one of Minburn's founders.
Jesse Billings (J.B.) Hill, one of Minburn's founders.
Students stand in front of one of the first schools in Minburn.
Welcome to Minburn!
Minburn’s historic mill wheel now preserved in history.
Minburn’s history was marked by a fire that wiped out much of the downtown area.
One of Minburn’s depots
Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan during a “whistle stop” in Minburn.

After Adel became the County Seat of Dallas County, the area north of that community became known as “Pinhook Country.”

When Minburn was founded in 1869, folks didn’t bother using that name, but just called the community “Pinhook.”

That didn’t last long, however, as Minburn began to grow when the Des Moines Valley Railroad laid tracks through the area. Founded in 1869, Minburn was officially incorporated on May 24, 1892, becoming the 10th incorporated community in the county.

When Minburn was picked as site for a depot along the railroad, settlement came quickly. Minburn was founded on land purchased from Daniel F. Rogers, who arrived in the area from Illinois, and Jesse Billings (J.B.) Hill who arrived from New York. The original settlement was on the Rogers’ land, while the west half of the original community was on land owned by Hill.

Hill and Rogers reportedly wanted to name the town Norwood. But, as legend goes in the town, an advance agent for the railroad came through and named the town “Minburn.” There are two stories about the name. One is that “Min” is a Scottish term for “small” and “burn” refers to stream; hence, the name is derived from the community’s proximity with the Raccoon River. The second story came from founding father J.B. Hill himself, who reportedly said that “Min” is a Latin term meaning small and that “burn” means “fry.” Thus, Mr. Hill said, Minburn could be called “small fry.”

Whatever the truth may be, Minburn has been part of Dallas County for nearly 150 years, ever since the railroad laid tracks through the area in 1869.

Although the community’s population has fluctuated during the decades, it’s currently home to about 400 residents.

Because the site was selected as a stop-off spot for the railroad, a depot was one of the first buildings constructed.

While track was laid by the Des Moines Valley Railroad, it was subsequently leased by the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad in the 1890s, then sold to the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad in 1906.

The original wood depot burned in 1914. The current depot has been restored.

Although the last freight train through Minburn was in May of 2004, while passenger service ended with the final train run on April 19, 1959.

The city was in a frenzy on September 9, 1917 when a train wreck occurred just outside of town.

The demise of the railways began with the final train on the line in 2004. Later that year Union Pacific filed with ICC for abandonment of the line.

Now, the old train line has undergone a “rebirth” of sorts as the tracks are gone and a new segment of the Raccoon River Valley Trail has been completed from Waukee through Dallas Center, Minburn and to Perry.

Completion of that portion of the recreational trail makes Minburn a center of the longest trail of its kind in Iowa as it stretches beyond the county’s borders.

Education has always been a priority with early school conducted in log cabins in the area.

More than 50 years ago, Minburn joined with the Gardiner School, along with Washington Township School to form the Central Dallas School District. Minburn is now a part of the Adel-DeSoto-Minburn district.

The pace of living in Minburn has remained steady through the years, even though only a handful of businesses remain.

The skating park is still used for both skating and music concerts and the community continues to host one of the areas largest Fourth of July celebrations in the area.

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