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History

History

Once home to the fiercest Indian tribes of all, DeSoto was settled by men and women with unquenchable spirit, stirred by thoughts of wide open spaces in part of Jefferson County;

Osage and Cherokee Indians inhabited other parts. They all pitched their tents along the Joachim and built villages by the clear waters of the rivers and streams that still feed our countryside today.

A Frenchman was probably the first white man to set foot on this land. He came twice seeking the legendary “mountains of silver,” which were supposed to be plentiful here. On his second trip in 1723, he claimed the land and established a fort in the name of the French King Louis XV. Although most of the early settlers were French, many were descended from Irish families.

DeSoto was part of the Louisiana Territory and was transferred from France and Spain, back to France again and in 1803, was sold to the United States. During that same year, Isaac Van Metre came to the place that was later named DeSoto and erected a cabin. He was attracted to the spot by a spring so he cleared an acre and built a cabin. However, soon after it was determined that the land really belonged to Walter DeWitt who had never developed the land. A settlement was paid to Van Metre and he left the country. A marker now stands to commemorate the first log cabin built in DeSoto.

The first plat was filed in the recorder’s office on September 27, 1857 and on the same day the first construction train of the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company reached DeSoto. Then came the Civil War. Although DeSoto had a population of only 200, sentiments were divided.

After the war came a new era of transportation and DeSoto began to flourish. The railroad’s name changed to Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1873, it established a major rail car repair facility in DeSoto. During this great progress, “silk stocking hill” was built. Throughout the city shining examples of a bygone era still stand serving as private residences after 150 years.

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