The town site was platted by the Providence Western Land Company, and it was named for one of its agents, the Reverend Jesse W. Denison. The site selected was close to the geographic center of the county, and it had the advantage of being located between the Boyer and East Boyer rivers. The community was laid out in 1856, and the town plat—some 700 acres—was a large one for the time. The plan of the town had several unusual features, including major streets 100 feet wide and, as Andreas noted, “handsome and eligible blocks … reserved for public parks and other purposes.” 3In addition to the usual full blocks set aside for the future county courthouse and high school, two public parks were planned—one circular, the other octagonal—and an oval scheme of streets and open space was established on Prospect Hill for an anticipated college. By the early 1870s a branch of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway had traversed the community, and by 1900 four additional railroads entered the town.
Alfred Theodore Andreas, Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875, 490.
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