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Jordan House: Central Iowa’s Connection to the Underground Railroad

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  February is Black History Month and the West Des Moines Historical Society invites the public to view a local connection to the underground railroad. The Jordan House in West Des Moines has public tours every Friday and Sunday 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Jordan House was built in 1850 and became a designated stopping point on the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom. The executive director of the West Des Moines Historical Society Gail Brubaker said while many people stopped at the house, they most likely never set foot in the actual home.

“Jordan was one of the largest land owners in the state so there were thousands of acres of corn and beans and places to hide, barns and out buildings, it really didn’t make much sense for freedom seekers to hide in the basement,” Brubaker said.

“[James C. Jordan] was one of the first settlers here to what was at that point Walnut Township, we weren’t even a state then, in 1846.  [He] was an entrepreneur, a farmer, a politician, a really important guy,” Brubaker said.

Brubaker says the Jordan House is one of several designated stopping points in Iowa along the Underground Railroad but it is the only one in Central Iowa that is open to the public.

There are many portraits of the Jordan family and their friends on the walls of the house which goes to show just how tight-knit of a community West Des Moines was over 150 years ago.

“And that is a part of the reason the Underground Railroad was so successful because everybody who was involved, in many times, was related through birth or marriage so if you gave up the next station master on the underground railroad you very possibly could be giving up a relative,” Brubaker said.

The Jordan House is full of history and stories, and there are many events coming up including “An Evening with Roger Maxwell” on Monday February 19th at 7 P.M. at the West Des Moines Learning Resource Center.

For many more events visit www.wdmhs.org.