James Depew Edmundson

James D. Edmundson was born in Burlington, IA in 1838 to William and Priscilla Edmundson. The family moved to Fairfield where another boy, William, was born. In 1841 Priscilla died giving birth.
The elder William went to Mahaska County, while James and his brother went back to Burlington to live with relatives.

The family eventually moved to Oskaloosa, IA.  1857 he walked to Newton, IA to attend school.  While there he lived with his Uncle David. In 1860 he was a page with the 8th General Assembly in Des Moines. This was the same year he passed the Bar. He moved to Glenwood in 1861 to practice law with a former schoolmate. The practice of law was not profitable for J.D., but he was fortunate to be appointed deputy-provost marshal for Pottawattamie County.

James Edmundson moved to Council Bluffs in 1866 where he partnered in business with D.C. Bloomer. After 4 years they ended their partnership and James began a successful and lucrative career in real estate. He helped found the Council Bluffs Citizens Bank in 1882. In 1897 he purchased a controlling interest in the First National Bank.

James married Jennie Way Hart in 1871. Jennie Hart was born in 1848 in Rock County, Wisconsin. She attended the Rockford Female Seminary from 1865 to 1866. In 1868 she moved with her family to Council Bluffs. Sometime in 1878 Jennie suffered an injury at a party. As a practical joke a chair was pulled out from underneath her. The unexpected fall injured her spine.

It’s difficult to tell how serious her injury was, but there’s no doubt she was in serious pain. After the accident her name appears just a few times in the newspaper society pages. In the mid-1880s she must have enjoyed some improvement in her health. Her obituary in the Omaha Daily Bee mentions that he had received “metaphysical treatment”. In September of 1886 James and Jennie started out on a 6 week pleasure trip to Colorado. In May of the following year, they started out on an extended trip to Europe.

During the trip Jennie fell ill and the trip was cut short. They returned to Council Bluffs in early September of 1887. It appears she never fully recovered after the trip.

Jennie Edmundson died February 12, 1890 at the age of 42. She was laid to rest in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

In 1894 J. D. Edmundson married Laura Kirby, a local widow.  Laura Barclay was born in 1850 in Pennsylvania.  Her early life was spent in Mt Pleasant, IA and Shenandoah, IA.  Laura married M.C. Kirby in 1878.  Unfortunately Mr. Kirby passed away in 1882 and Laura moved to Council Bluffs where she lived with her aunt and uncle.

James and Laura were married on January 1st and immediately left on an extended honeymoon in Europe. In 1900 the couple moved to Des Moines, IA.

The Women Christian Association Hospital was founded in 1886 and filled an immediate need in the community. Over the years the hospital quickly outgrew its space. In 1907 the hospital was looking for funds to build a new building. Mr. Edmundson was approached and agreed to help if the hospital’s name was changed to the “Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital”. Over the ensuing years, J.D. Edmundson gave $265,00 to the hospital.

James continued his real estate pursuits while in Des Moines and built himself a fine house on Grand Avenue. He had a keen interest in grammar and correct expression. During a trip to Denver in 1908 Laura Kirby Edmundson passed away. She was 58. She was buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

J.D. Edmundson lived the rest of his life in Des Moines. He died April 18, 1933 at the age of 94. At the time of his death his estate was valued at $1,004,839.00 (in today’s dollars that would be close to 23,000,000.00). In his will he left $50,000.00 to Jennie Edmundson Hospital, but his biggest bequest was to the city of Des Moines. He gave the city $600,000.00 to build and furnish the Des Moines Art Center.

James Depew Edmundson is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.