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Meet some of the historic characters from the city of Des Moines, WA

History Made Life-Size is a public art project conceived and produced by Dan Wend, as part of the City of Des Moines' 50th Birthday Celebration. The project was made possible by a grant from 4Culture, a King County public arts funding organization, with the assistance of the Des Moines Arts Commission.

With the help of the Des Moines History Museum, eleven citizen pioneers from the formative years of the community were researched, and chosen to be included in this public art project. Their photographs were scanned, digitally colorized and enhanced, printed full-size onto vinyl, applied to a PVC panel, attached to plywood, sealed and mounted onto cinder blocks for display around Des Moines.

They have attended several celebration events, including an Open House Birthday event, The Waterland Parade, Fourth of July Fireworks, and a Concert in the Park series.

Photo Projects
Light and Motion
History Made Life-Size

Archives / Stock Photography
Vintage Automotive
Mountains & Wilderness

Rural America
Dunes & Shorelines
Architectural Elements
Historical Images

Canyons / Deserts
Foliage / Florals
Photo / Art

Contract Photo Projects
Special Projects

Through this website, Dan is now offering prints and cards of his work. He is available on a limited basis for contract photo projects. Contact Dan if you have questions or need a quote at dan@wendimages.com.

Thank you for visiting.


The history of Des Moines, Washington is woven from the hard work, passion and ingenuity of those who made up its rich past. Through this project, the present-day residents of Des Moines have gotten to know characters from the past who walked the boardwalks, taught math to their great-grandmothers, and drove the Des Moines Motor Stage all the way to Seattle and back!

Meet a few upstanding citizens who helped make Des Moines what it is today.



In 1907, "Daddy" and "Mother" Draper founded the Des Moines Children's Home and Industrial Training School which they devoted themselves to for twenty years. They adopted hundreds of abandoned, orphaned and homeless children, taught them trades and how to play musical instruments and sing. The "Jolly Entertainers" performed in a small "opera house" theater converted from a barn and once toured 38 states and parts of Canada. They all played a part in helping make Des Moines Children's Home one of the only self-supporting children's homes in history.


"Jobby" Neal was one of the Neal brothers from Nova Scotia. They were some of the most enterprising of Des Moines' early citizens and ran the Des Moines to Seattle Motor-Stage Company in 1914 - a time when northwest roads were primitive at best. They also operated Neal's Pavillion for 17 years, a dance hall located at what is now Des Moines Beach Park.

Jobby's brother Melward was the first local resident to serve in the Washington State Legislature.

Rilda Martin came to Washington State from Wisconsin with her parents in 1904 and served as president of her 1911 graduating class in Des Moines. After attending and graduating from Bellingham Normal School (now Western Washington University), she taught school in Neah Bay. In 1918, she married Otto Moses and soon after, moved back to Des Moines where she became Des Moines' first kindergarten teacher. She taught classes in the basement of the Des Moines United Methodist Church until 1966, instructing over 1,200 children in her years as teacher. Rilda was a very active citizen who made her home, raised her family, worked, socialized and prayed in Des Moines, until her death in 1988, at the age of 95. She was one of our true pioneers.



Reverend Fritz Hjelm (pronounced "yelm") served as pastor of the Covenant Church Camp from about 1931 to 1939. The Covenant Beach Church Camp, was located at what is now known as Des Moines Beach Park. Reverend Hjelm was in charge of the Young People's evening fireside services in front of the fireplace in the Auxiliary Hall in 1934 and was one of the speakers at the new Covenant Bible Camp's first Annual Conference in 1932 - giving both lectures and sermons. In 1937, he was President of the North Pacific Missionary Conference, and presided as the platform chairman at the annual conference. Pastor Hjelm was also an editor for the Tabernacel Klockan, a noteworthy and widely read church newspaper, initially published in Swedish.


  Civil War veteran, Nathan E. Munger was an early resident of the Zenith neighborhood in Des Moines. The Munger family grew flowers to sell on the 5 acre property they owned. Captain Commons, another civil war veteran, lived across the street from Nathan and it was said that the two men continued to fight the war for as long as they lived, by moving the boundary road marker continuously. Each man insisted the other had his fence too far out in the road. Nathan and his wife Clara were members of the Des Moines Grange No. 471.

Myrtle Jones Elsey was an enterprising resident of early Des Moines who operated the town's first beauty shop. Her original business was in her father-in-laws' house, on 6th Avenue between South 222nd and South 223rd streets. Myrtle and her husband, Everett Elsey later built a new house with a shop in front at 11th Avenue South and South 220th Street. As a young woman in 1909, Myrtle was on the Des Moines Woman's Basketball Team with her friend, Rilda Martin Moses. Mrytle Jones Elsey's husband, Everett was the grandson of one of Des Moines' early settlers, David S. Elsey who homesteaded and farmed 40 acres in Sunnydale. Everett's father, John C. Elsey operated a sawmill in Des Moines, and platted and sold the remaining parts of the townsite of Des Moines in 1896.

Agnes Marshall served as Head Librarian for Des Moines from 1947 until 1963. The library got its start at Grist's General Store, where citizens would borrow books discarded from Seattle's public library. It was located originally at the Des Moines School until it burned in 1925.

Agnes ran the library in a small room at the Field House that held 9, 594 books! Her home still stands on Marine View Drive, in downtown Des Moines.


Rollin Ashley Case, Jr. was born in 1893 in Tacoma, Washington. He was one of four children in the family of Rollin A. Case Sr., a former representative of the territorial legislature from Asotin, and prominent local real estate man. The family moved to Seattle in 1900, then two years later to Des Moines. In 1914 he married Marion Wilcox of Sunnydale, and after the death of his father, moved with his family into the family home on 10th Ave.S. near what is now the Des Moines Yacht Club.

Rollin worked in Seattle at Sears, Olympic Garage, and Ernst Hardware for many years. For a short while he was employed by the Des Moines Bus Company, followed by a job at Seattle Brass Co. where he made brass items such as light fixtures. He was an accomplished musician, playing piano, organ, drums, saxaphone and xylophone. Rollin Jr. volunteered his musical talents with numerous groups, playing at clubs, events and private gatherings. He was also an organist who accompanied silent movies at a theater in Sunnydale for several years.

As young men, Rollin Jr. and his brother, Gahail were members of the Des Moines Baseball Team in the early 1900's, competing with teams throughout the region. Rollin Jr. later was their coach.

Rollin Case Jr. died in 1944 at age 50 from a heart attack. His widow Marion lived in the family home until her own death in 1993 at 97.


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