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James H. Jordon


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/3/2001 at 08:15:16

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties - 1890
James H. Jordon, the pioneer Indian trader, who for many years did business within the present limits of Van Buren County, was born in Mercer County, Kentucky, September 29, 1806. His parental great-grandfather emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky with his family, when Peter, the father of our subject was born. Both the father and the grandfather served in the War of 1812, and the former rose to the rank of General. In the Keystone State, Gen. Jordon married Sallie Baker, a native of that state, and unto them were born six children, but only two are now living—Mrs. Nancy Wheat of Kentucky and James H.
Our subject received good educational advantages for that early day. In addition to attending the district schools, he pursued his studies in Frankfort and Lexington. When only sixteen years of age he pushed his way westward. In September 1822, he left home, making the journey on horseback, crossed the Ohio at Louisville, and passing through Vincennes, Indiana; continued on his way to St Louis which was then but a village. Having spent most of the winter in Palmyra Missouri, which was then the outpost of civilization, he came into the Indian country, and from that time until 1835, when he made a permanent settlement near Iowaville, he followed trading with the red men, having trading posts in Farmington, Bonaparte, Kilbourn and Doud’s Station, in Van Buren County, besides many others elsewhere. A trading post consisted of a log house, which the Indians built for him or he rented, at a place agreed upon to meet and trade. At these places the nation would come en masse to receive their supplies. A large circle would be formed around the goods and three of the wise men were sent in to see they had full measure. For every yard of cloth measured off one of the solons would drop a hazel stick, and for a half yard would break one in two. When the count was decided correct a family came within the circle and was fitted out from top to bottom, ribbons and all. This was charged to the nation to come out of their annuity. The private debts were contracted to be paid for in furs, but, if any failed to meet his obligations, they were paid by the nations.
Mr. Jordon traded with the Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Pottawatomie and some with the Sioux Nation. Black Hawk was a Sauk chief. When the Black Hawk War broke out Mr. Jordon was ordered out of the Territory to report at Palmyra Missouri, where he enlisted in a regiment whose duty it was to guard baggage wagons and haul settlers, who had located out some twenty or thirty miles, back to the town for safety. After the war he again resumed the trade, which he continued until 1840, doing a yearly business of about $50,000. Mr. Jordon was acquainted with a number of the great chiefs and a warm friendship sprang up between him and Black Hawk, who, about 1837, made his home with four rods of Mr. Jordon’s house. They ran foot races, hunted and associated together and nothing ever marred their friendly relations. At his dying hour Black Hawk gave Mr. Jordon a sword and a bowie knife as tokens of esteem. The sword is now the property of Arthur Hinkle, a grandson of Mr. Jordon’s. The Indians and the traders, for that matter, never washed their clothes. On one occasion our subject was going to Burlington, and in honor of the event he thought to wear some newly washed clothes. An Indian squaw washed two suits of underwear for him and in the operation used up a box of soap. When asked how much she charged, she replied “sowerkot” hard to wash. She wanted $50 in money, a blanket each for herself and husband, a fine shirt, ten or twelve dollars worth of calico, a shawl, blankets and clothes for her children.
Being fully convinced that a good wife is worth her weight in gold, Mr. Jordon, November 27, 1838, near Bonaparte Iowa, married Miss Frances M. Williams, a native of Woodford county Kentucky, born June 22, 1817. When young she emigrated with her parents to Columbia Missouri and while in Bonaparte on a visit, she became the wife of Mr. Jordon. They had three children, but all are now deceased—Henry C.; Sarah F., wife of Capt. A. Hinkle, and Victor P. The mother died October 14, 1887.
Politically, Mr. Jordon was a Whig in early life, but since has been an ultra Democrat. Though eighty-four years of age, he is quite active and his hair is lightly touched with gray. Hi is the only living specimen of those hardy rugged characters that first set foot on Iowa soil.
I am not related, and am posting this biography for those who may find this person in their family history.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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