Knowing Your History
The History of Valley Junction
by Michael Conlon, Editorial Intern
Valley Junction has a long and storied history of being a foundation of West Des Moines. Before Valley Junction started to become what we know it as today, there were two different Native American Tribes, The Sac and Fox Tribes, that inhabited much of the Midwest and local area.
Valley Junction was founded by a cattle rancher from Virginia named James Cunningham Jordan. As the story goes, James Jordan, late in the evening of October, the 11th in the year 1845, fired a gun that scared off the tribes living in the area. He later stayed in the area, becoming the first settler which would lead to the founding of Valley Junction.
Valley Junction gained its name because of the importance railroads played in the forming of the town. Valley Junction became a hub for many different railway companies that had different facilities and railroad lines that all met in the area at the time. Valley Junction was an important switching station for several railway companies including The Chicago, Pacific Railroad, and Rock Island Railroads. The name Valley Junction came from different rail lines forming a literal junction in the heart of the area. The valley aspect of the name came from the beautiful river valley of the Raccoon River. Valley Junction became an official city in October of 1893. This railway junction brought many people to the town creating a steady source of growth and vitality to the region.
Valley Junction was a major trading and shipping hub in Iowa and this soon became the backbone of the economy. Without the railway, Valley Junction would not have become the major hub where people would choose to live or become an important stop for those moving farther out west into the ever-expanding country. Within a handful of years, the small town of Valley Junction grew to a town of more than 1,000 residents and greatly helped in the development and growth of West Des Moines.
Because of the railroad, Valley Junction would continue to grow, having a rich and storied history becoming the place it is today along with the vibrant West Des Moines area. West Des Moines has an incredible history with many chapters to it and Valley Junction’s early history is one of those chapters.