Virginia homesteader and cattle farmer James Cunningham Jordan moved his family in 1846 (the year Iowa entered statehood) to their new property in an area that would later be named Walnut Township, located five miles west of Fort Des Moines No. 2 on the northern bank of the Raccoon River, he not only staked his family’s claim, but sowed the seeds for Valley Junction (now known as Historic Valley Junction), which blossomed into West Des Moines.
Ms. Gately’s recounting of Jordan’s impact not just on the area that became West Des Moines, but in the state of Iowa as well. Jordan was a prominent and influential businessman, politician and abolitionist. He would first play a vital role in Des Moines, where he helped secure the railroad, relocate the state’s capitol, establish the State Bank of Iowa, create Iowa’s insurance industry and was elected to the Des Moines City Council, Polk County Board of Supervisors, Iowa Senate and Iowa House of Representatives. Most importantly, his home, which is now that headquarters for the West Des Moines Historical Society, served as a safe house for African-American slaves who escaped the South via the Underground Railroad.