On February 17, 1859 John Brown’s group, made up of 12 escaped slaves and Brown’s 10 men (all heavily armed) arrived at the farm of James C. Jordan and rested overnight in the timber. The Jordan House was built in phases beginning in 1850. It is located in West Des Moines, and is now a museum.
Jordan was born a southerner, but turned against slavery as a young man in Virginia after helping chase down fleeing slaves from a neighboring plantation. In 1846, James Jordan migrated to Iowa and settled in Walnut Township, along with his wife and children. Jordan was a successful businessman, farmer and banker. He also served in the Iowa Legislature and led the charge to move Iowa’s State Capitol from Iowa City to Des Moines. He platted Valley Junction and established a railhead there, later, in 1938, the community became West Des Moines.
James Jordan died in 1893 and is buried at the Jordan Cemetery.