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The Jordan House The Jordan House
Photograph courtesy of West Des Moines Historical Society

James C. Jordan
Photo of James C. Jordan taken while he was serving in the Iowa Senate
Photograph courtesy of West Des Moines Historical Society

James Cunningham Jordan, one of Iowa’s most influential early settlers built this house, probably in phases, between 1850 and 1870. Jordan was born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in 1813 to John and Agnes Cunningham Jordan. He began raising and selling livestock and later turned his attention to real estate and promoting railroad development. Jordan was director of the State Bank branch in Des Moines and in 1854 was elected to the Iowa Senate, representing Valley Junction (now West Des Moines). He was influential in introducing legislation to move the state capitol from Iowa City to Des Moines.

Jordan's house was a known stop on the Underground Railroad. He was a staunch aboltionist, and has been called the “Chief Conductor” of the Underground Railroad for Polk County. Jordan's pastor eulogized him by stating “In the troublous days of slavery this great heart reached out and helped the oppressed, seeking the north star of freedom.” Jordan assisted John Brown on his famous last trip from Kansas before the raid at Harper’s Ferry, when Brown and his party of escaping slaves camped at Jordan's farm in February 1858.

The Jordan House is located a 2001 Fuller Rd., in West Des Moines, Iowa. Today the Jordan House serves both as a museum for West Des Moines and as the office of the West Des Moines Historical Society. It is open for tours May-September on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and Sunday afternoon from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. There is a fee for admission; call 515-225-1286 or visit the house's website for further information.

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