History of Johnston

The west area was first settled in 1846 (the same year Iowa became a state) when Ezekiel Hunt established a sawmill near NW 58th Street and NW Beaver Drive (the current location of a pallet company). Over the years the area was known by many names such as Beaver Creek Settlement, Ridgedale and Huntsville. The community eventually adopted the name of Johnston Station named after John F. Johnston who was one of the station agents for the Interurban Railroad. The Interurban Railroad was an electric train (established in 1907) which provided commuter and freight service. It ran from Carlisle, through Des Moines and Johnston, to Perry.

Camp Dodge has served as a military training site since 1908. The Camp sits on 4,500 acres in the northern part of Johnston and is named after General Grenville Dodge, a civil war veteran.
Ottos Deep Rock
In the late 1920s, Henry B. Wallace conducted experiments with hybridizing corn, which led to the beginning of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company. Mr. Wallace eventually served as the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce and as Vice-President of the United States under President Franklin Roosevelt. By the mid 20th century, Pioneer was becoming the leading seed corn producer in the world. With the success of Pioneer, the area began to attract homes and businesses. The company is now called Corteva and continues expanding in Johnston, employing more than 2,000 people here.

City is Formed

Incorporation did not come until the fall of 1969 when area residents worked together to incorporate the City of Johnston. Because state law prevented the formation of a town within three miles of another city from incorporating, the original city boundaries did not include the Johnston Station area. On September 8, 1969, Mayor Harold Southerwick gaveled in the first Johnston City Council meeting. At the time Iowa’s newest city boasted 2,236 residents. In April 1970, Johnston and Urbandale reached an agreement that allowed Johnston to annex the Johnston Station area.

Nearly 50-years later, on January 7, 2019, Mayor Paula Dierenfeld will gavel in the first City Council meeting of Johnston’s 50th year. Johnston is now a bustling community with more than 21,500 residents. Johnston is recognized as a community of active and engaged residents, strong neighborhoods, vibrant businesses and organizations, and an exceptional school district.

In July 2018 a 50th Anniversary Steering Committee was formed to plan a year-long celebration in 2019. The events involve a mix of activities designed specifically for the 50th anniversary combined with many existing community events that are planning unique ways to recognize this important community milestone.

Johnston Mayors - First 50 Years

Harold Southerwick 1969-1973
Richard Franklin 1974-1979
Ruth Schuler 1980-1981
Mary Ann Roberts 1982-1985
James Powell 1986-1992
Richard Garland 1992 Pro tem
John Ver Hoef 1992-1997
Dallas Patterson 1998-1999
Bob O'Hollearn 2000-2003
Brian Laurenzo 2004-2007
Paula Dierenfeld 2008-present

Planned Events and Activities

  • Sunday, June 9: 1:00 p.m., Historical Mural Tours, Simpson House, 6161 Northglenn Drive. Guided tour of the historical murals at Lawson Elementary School and clay tiles located at the intersection of NW 86th Street and NW 62nd Avenue. The guided tour will begin and end at the Simpson House Museum. Participants must have their own transportation. 
  • June 13-16: Johnston Green Days, 6400 Pioneer Parkway 
  • Thursday, June 13: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., CultureALL: Terra Park, 6400 Pioneer Parkway, Cultural educators immerse participants of all ages in authentic, hands-on programs and performances
  • Saturday, June 15: 7:00 a.m., Johnston Public Library Foundation 5-K run, Terra Park, 6400 Pioneer Parkway
  • Saturday, June 15: 10:00 p.m., Fireworks: Terra Park, 6400 Pioneer Parkway, Display will feature consumer fireworks and is sponsored by Blazing Glory Fireworks.
  • Tuesday, June 18: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Neighborhood Picnic, Crosshaven Park, 7909 NW 95th Street
  • Tuesday, July 16: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Neighborhood Picnic, Adventure Ridge Park, 10201 Windsor Parkway
  • Sunday, August 11: 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., No Man's Land Trench Run, 7105 NW 70th Avenue
  • Sunday, August 11: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Sundae in the Park, Johnston Commons, 6700 Merle Hay Road
  • Sunday, August 11: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Camp Dodge Tour, Town of Herrold, the bridge and Gold Star Museum
  • Tuesday, August 13: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Neighborhood Picnic, Dewey Park, 5225 NW 64th Place 
  • Saturday, August 24: 8:00 a.m., Mayor's Run for the Trails, Terra Park, 6400 Pioneer Parkway  
  • Friday, September 27: 6:00 p.m, Johnston 50th Anniversary Gala, Hyperion Field Club, 7390 Beaver Drive. A celebration featuring a fashion show with clothing from 1969; popular music from 1969; appetizers; speaker presenting an overview of what was happening in Iowa, the nation and the world in 1969; and present video from the events.
  • Friday, October 18: 5:30 p.m., Art in the Barn, Simpson Barn, 6169 Northglenn Drive
Although most of the events have been scheduled, there are plenty of opportunities for citizens, businesses and organizations to get involved. Planning the celebrations will continue until the event takes place and volunteers will be needed to work at the events. If you are interested in working on the planning an event or volunteering at an event, contact Johnston City Hall 515.278.2344 or email Kaitlyn Royer.

Fundraising is critical for the success of the 50th anniversary celebration. The committee is working on a fundraising campaign to raise funds to support the events. Information on how to contribute can be found here.

Historical Society

The Johnston Historical Society is located near the Johnston Public Library. The Museum is open the second Sunday of the month (April - November) from 1:00 to 3:00 pm or by appointment 515-331-0687.