To get a true feeling for Valley Junction as it is today, one needs to understand the spirit of the early residents whose vision and unique character left a lasting impression on the area.
It all began in 1846, when James C. Jordan, Valley Junction's first settler, pitched a tent between two oak trees on the western side of the Des Moines border. An individualist with a strong sense of moral values, Jordan eventually built a house on the site which later became a stop on the "Underground Railroad". Jordan was also active politically, serving as a county supervisor, and both a state senator and representative.
Valley Junction itself experienced a major economic boom between 1891-1896. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad moved its East Des Moines roundhouse, switching yards and repair shops to this area which until then had primarily been a community of coal miners. With the news of the railroad's move into the area, several area businessmen formed the Hawkeye Investment Company and purchased 40 acres of land east of 8th Street and a "downtown" was born.
By 1893, Valley Junction bustled with horse-drawn traffic, a trolley line, eight-foot-wide wooden sidewalks, and dirt streets lined with three banks, three drug stores and several "boarding houses" of questionable character. The railroad had made Valley Junction a popular stop where 26 passenger trains arrived and departed daily. As the boom continued and new citizens arrived, the community added many houses, two new schools, four organized churches, and a newspaper.
Today, the charming past is still thriving in Valley Junction. Visitors can enjoy more than 150 specialty stores, art galleries, fashion boutiques, restaurants and antique shops, each with a unique historic character.