History of Sac City, IA (Part 1)
From: History of Sac County, Iowa
By: William H. Hart
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana 1914


Sac City possesses one of the choicest natural city sites in all western Iowa; in fact, outside of perhaps Iowa Falls, Charles City and a few others, there are, in all Iowa, none with more beautiful natural surroundings than Sac City, on the Coon river.

The city is located on sections 23 and 24, of township 88, range 36 west. It was platted in July, 1855, the surveying being executed by he who in later years was so well known as Hon. John F. Duncombe, of Fort Dodge. The town plat or map in the county records was executed by W. H. Fegely, July 3, 1855. The town site proprietors were Judge Eugene Criss, W. S. Wagoner, Henry A. Evans and Joseph Gammon. Hence it will be seen that the city is now almost fifty nine years old. It is between five and six miles northeast of the center of the county. The business section is for the most part located along the river, while the residence portion is chiefly on higher ground. The altitude above sea level is one thousand two hundred and eighty feet. The Coon river encircles the town most of the way round. Native forest trees are scattered here and there over the entire town site. The second growth oak trees are a beauty in summer and winter, and make the building spots ideal in character - a joy forever, because of their rare beauty and shade.

Book "A" of deeds in Sac county, page r, has the following: "The lots in Sac City are sixty feet wide and the alleys are twenty feet wide. Platting was executed by W. H. Fagely July 3, 1855. Its situation is beautiful. The North fork of Raccoon river nearly surrounds the town. Beautiful prairie lands of the richest quality of soil border it; a heavy growth of excellent timber lies adjacent; springs of the clearest, coolest water abound, breaking out along the banks of the river. The stage road from Fort Dodge to Sergeant's Bluff runs through the town, on Main street. The distance to Fort Dodge is forty three miles, nearly one half of the way to Sergeant's Bluff. Stones are planted on each street as indicated by the red crosses in every street. The plat was drawn and surveyed by John F. Duncombe, and the proprietor's names are Eugene Criss, W. S. Wagoner, Henry A. Evans and Joseph Gammon."

The population of Sac City, at various dates, has been as follows: In 1880 it had 595 inhabitants; in 1885 it had 1,200; in 1890 it had 1,249; in 1893 it had 1,601; in 1900 it had 2,079; in 1905 it had 2,120, and in 1910 the United States census gave it as 2,201, but it is considerable in advance of that today.


This term was for years applied to Hon. Eugene Criss, the real founder of the town, and the Sioux City Journal, in 1903, took occasion to notice Judge Criss' death in the following language, and it may well be incorporated in the annals of this county, both of these distinguished pioneers now being deceased:

"The death of Judge Eugene Criss at Sac City, in his eighty first year, marks the passing of one of northwestern Iowa's real pioneers. He settled on the present site of Sac City in 1855 and for many years pursued the life of a frontiersman, trading with the Indians, having Keokuk for his trading place. His house was the stopping place of travelers between Sioux City and Fort Dodge. He kept a country store, was county judge, supervisor, mayor of his town and was a representative in the Iowa Legislature when Sac, Ida, Woodbury and Plymouth counties were all in one district. He was a sturdy character, held in high esteem and implicitly trusted during the formative days of Sac county. All northwestern Iowa was in one neighborship and everybody knew Judge Criss. Last year, in July, three thousand people gathered at his home and celebrated his eightieth anniversary, thereby giving evidence of the confidence, love and esteem in which he was held."

During the early months of 1855 there might have been seen a covered wagon coming over the Mississippi river from the Wisconsin shore, and in that conveyance was Eugene Criss, who was in search of a water power and desired to make settlement in a new and untried country. He crossed the great rivers of Iowa - the Cedar, Iowa, Des Moines and Boone - and finally landed on the banks of the North Raccoon river, in Sac county where he proceeded to erect the first log house in what is now Sac City, and established himself in the hotel business and at the same time kept a stage station and general store for the accommodation of the surrounding settlers in this section of Iowa. This log house was located at the top of the hill, near where the east bridge now spans the Coon river, and directly across Main street from the present residence of his widow, now aged about ninety one years.

The younger generation who have grown up here can scarce realize that so prosperous a city, with its wide, well kept streets, its beautiful buildings, its brilliant electric lights, its many sightly homes, its flourishing business district, was all accomplished within the memory of not a few still living here, who saw the first beginnings of the sprightly little city. And, too, that less than sixty years ago here roamed the wild beasts of the field and the no less savage red man. In these seemingly short years has the city sprung up and passed through its struggles as a pioneer village, been incorporated and now is known far and near for its enterprise and good moral character as a municipality.


After Judge Criss opened his little general merchandise store on the south side of East Main street, the next to embark in trade was William Todd, who added a general store, suitable to the wants of the people at that time. This was a hewn log house located on the southwest corner of the block facing the court house square on the east.

Coming on down to 1873, the business factors of the town were outlined in the Sun, the following cards, etc., appearing in the files of that paper in that year: A. Mitchell, agent for the Illinois Central, at Newell. Iowa; Levi Davis, real estate, taxpayer and full set of Sac county abstracts; Ed. R. Duffie, attorney at law, Sac City; C. D.. Goldsmith, attorney, at Newell, Buena Vista county (now Judge Goldsmith, of Sac City); William H. Hobbs, Sac City, notary public, real estate and taxpayer; D. Carr Early, real estate and broker, Sac City; National Life Insurance Company, the only insurance company in the United States chartered by act of Congress, J. N. Miller, local agent, Sac City; F. Cobb and J. E. Armstrong, veterinary surgeons. Sac City; Dr. J. M. Patty, homeopathic physician, will be at Sac City every first and fifteenth of each month, to treat chronic cases. Office is, when at home, Carroll, Iowa; A. T. Brenton, M. D., Sac City: J. H. Gould, sign, house and general painter, Sac City; hotel, Lamoreaux House, W. V. Lamoreaux, proprietor, Sac City. Here one finds good stabling attached. Hacks run to the north daily and for the south each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Stevens House, Newell, Iowa, C. N. Stever, proprietor. Northwestern Drug Company, E. W. Foy, Newell, Iowa, supplies for physicians and surgeons, in Buena Vista, Calhoun, Clay, Sac and adjoining counties - orders promptly filled. Will Allen carried an advertisement for his cheap cash store and names two thousand dollars worth of men's and boys' clothing; also sugar at from six, seven and eight pounds per dollar. A. Platt & Co. (A: Platt and J. L. Criss), general dealers, Sac City, Iowa.

In the matter of the milling interest it may be well to quote the Sun of its issue in April, 1875: "We went over Monday to look through Judge Criss's flouring mill. It was in full blast, with plenty of custom work, rushing along at a rapid rate. The Judge has five thousand bushels of his own wheat to make into flour as soon as possible. Parties are coming to this mill from a long distance, and the prospect is good for a big milling season."

The subjoined item from the Sac Sun in 1895, gives interesting outline history of the various milling changes in Sac City: "J. E. Robbins' pioneer mills burned November, 1895; it was a fine new 'roller' system. Fifteen thousand bushels of prime milling wheat was burned, with the newly furnished milling plant. The unfortunate history of milling here is about as follows: First a saw mill in 1866, by pioneer Eugene Criss, who, in 1871, established a flouring mill, and for a time Asa Platt was connected with this mill, after which came J. L. Comstock, A. D. Peck, Rev. Robert Smylie and J. H. Baxter in 1882. Criss made money for a number of years, but the property failed to be a paying investment to the men who succeeded him, and in 1886 it fell into the hands of Judge Criss again, and soon he sold to W. G. Wine - about 1889 - and he sold to Mr. Robbins, who owned it when it was burned in 1895. It had not paid for more than a year prior to its burning, since 1872-73.:

After the burning of the mill a stock company of home capitalists was organized and the mill was rebuilt and run with a capacity of seventy five barrels per day of excellent flour. It was started as the new organization's property in February, 1896.

Another account of the mills was published as follows: "On Coon river, adjoining the town, and only a quarter of a mile from the court house, are the City Mills, the property of pioneer Eugene Criss. They have three run of stones (one for the making of patent flour) and the mill is propelled by the waters of the Coon river, which stream Mr. Criss threw a dam across in 1862. In 1857 he built here a steam mill, but after his dam was built run both mills by water power. After the building of railroads and the getting in of pine lumber, the saw mill had about served the purpose for which it had been constructed and the whole was changed to a flouring mill plant in 1871, when the first grist was ground during the month of December."


The history of the various hotels in Sac City would of itself make a very interesting chapter, but all the space allowed in a work of this character and scope is the following on this topic: At the time of the opening of the present Park Hotel, in September, 1912, Attorney W. H. Hart was assigned a paper or remarks on the hotels of the past in Sac City, and from this account the following has been extracted: The first hotel was that built by pioneer Eugene Criss, in 1855, just east of what is now Monument Square. It was a log house, fourteen by seventeen feet, with a loft reached by means of a ladder. There was only one room below, and this served as kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom for the landlord and his estimable wife, who is still living, past ninety years of age, and resides on the opposite side of the street. One corner of this lower room was partitioned off by a curtain and there Mr. and Mrs. Criss had their sleeping apartments.

In 1857 this, log house was enlarged to seven rooms. This was the best hotel between Fort Dodge and Sioux City, and it was on the government stage route between the two places named. Here shopped as guests many well known men of the great West, including the first United States senator, Gen. George W. Jones, of Dubuque, Captain Pollock and General Sully, of the United States army, Hon. John F. Duncombe, of Fort Dodge, who was a frequent visitor here in court time for many years. The upper room, or loft, was provided with home made beds of poles fastened together with slats nailed across the tops, covered with straw ticks called excellent in those pioneer times. Later, thins hotel was conducted by Asa Platt. Next came the Lamoreaux House, late in the fifties, by M. S. Lee. It stood on the corner now occupied by the John Fox block, and was kept by William Todd several years, then fell to the Lamoreaux family and still later to D. J. Clark.

The next in order, perhaps, was the Hendrickson House, built by William Chapin, and run a few years later by A. H. Hendrickson, for whom it was finally named. This was known as the most prominent hotel in Sac City for many years, and was visited by all travelers in the great Northwest. Hendrickson was succeeded by Jed Landon, and he in turn bye Mr. Hendrickson, a second time. A. C, Thomas and wife also conducted this hotel, and they were immediately succeeded by D. M. Farmer, the present landlord and owner of the new Park Hotel. This house was a part of what is known, and has been for some time, as the "Park Hotel."

The Baxter House was built in 1873 by Anson Baxter, It was originally built east of the northeast corner of the court house square and afterwards moved to the west half of the block, on which the present hotel now stands. It was operated many years by Mr. Baxter, and later by George Stanley, and then known as the Stanley House,

The Shirk House, now known as the Transient, was built by D. E. Shirk and wife in 1879-80 and managed by them until the death of both, It then became the property of S. L. Watt and was operated by C. W, Ward for a time and fell into the hands of William Weldon.

Other hotels have been the Bauer, by W. P, Bauer, now a residence property. The Nieworth House was also used for hotel purposes for a number of years by W. F. Moyer and of late by Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Nieworth.

The Beimer House, at the Northwestern depot, was built by John H. Beimer. Could these old buildings but talk, what tales they could relate of bygone days.

The present Park Hotel is built and run on purely modern plans and is a credit to the county and city of Sac. It was opened September 19, 1912.


The Sac City Creamery was established in 1879, formerly situated a mile and a half from town. G. M.. Parker later built a fine brick building; had an engine room, ice house and wash room connected, This was built in 1882 and cost five thousand dollars. Operation in the creamery commenced in April, 1882. It was run on the cream gathering plan.

The Sac City Greenhouse, C. A. Nokes, proprietor, is one of the beauty spots of this city. It is located on West Main street, near the Northwestern depot, where a fine, large assortment of the choicest array of flowers may be seen at all seasons of the year. This industry was established in the nineties. Both Mr. and Mrs. Nokes thoroughly understand their business and most of the floral offerings for adornment at home, at funerals and weddings in this section come from this greenhouse.

The greatest industry of the city now is, perhaps, the plant of the Cement Product Company, which corporation was formed in 1912, and took over the interests of the Sac City Cement Pipe Company, owned by J. J. and J. P. Hammen. The first officers of the present corporation were: J. J. Hammen, president; J. J. Radford, vice president and secretary; R. F. Mallory, treasurer, This concern manufactures a superior cements pipe for ditching and sewer purposes, which finds sale in all parts of the country. Their works are near the Milwaukee depot, where most of the raw material, such as sand and fine gravel, is found in great abundance. The machinery is all modern and the capacity is large.

Most certainly the canning factory is one of Sac City's best enterprises, during the season in which it is operated. In 1900 this plant was located in the western part of the city, and its first cost was about thirty thousand dollars. Up to 1910 it was under the supervision of H. H. Allison, who conducted a successful canning season with the return of each year's crop as long as he was connected therewith. During Iwo Mr. Allison disposed of his interest in the factory to W. C. and A. H. Ellis, of Vinton, this state, A. H. Ellis having charge of the plant in Sac City. Under the new management this factory has had many new improvements installed. The canning of sweet corn is the principal work of this factory. The canning season usually lasts about a month - sometimes three weeks and again five weeks' run. During this season there are required about three hundred and fifty men and women to care for the product. About two million cans of excellent grade sweet corn is annually canned at this factory - a great industry for prairie Iowa and Sac county. Sweet corn has become profitable to raise in this section. for it brings in to the farmer many dollars which he needs before the marketing of his regular field corn crop.

In 1908 this canning company purchased the plant at Storm Lake and have, in addition to their large interests at Vinton. been running these two in western Iowa. All these factories turn out a large annual output which finds ready sale in nearby cities. through grocers and commission men. "The Sac Brand" sells in case lots everywhere.

Among the earlier enterprises may be mentioned an iron foundry and machine shop, of which the Sun in 1879 said: "The iron foundry of Sac City was established by Thomas Wood, uses an eight horse power engine and employs five workmen. Here portable steam engines are manufactured; also oil mills made. With these works is the only foundry and machine shop in the county."

Another of the industries of Sac City that naturally finds place in this connection is the lightning rod manufacturing plant of Martin & Company, who are the successors to the firm of Dodd & Elwood, who finally established great plants in both Des Moines and Omaha. Sac City is the home of this superior lightning rod - a twisted wire of copper material. In short, the idea was conceived of by Platt Armstrong at Lake View when he tested his theory on a barn he had built at an early date, and from what he discovered finally developed into the copper rod now so popular all over the country.


In many ways one of the most valuable industries in Sac City, at present, is the wholesale and retail monument works of W. B. Wayt & Son, This business was established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1867 by W. B. and B. F. Wayt, under the name of B. F, Wayt & Brother, A few years later the plant was moved to Jefferson, Iowa, and in 1889 moved to Sac City. At first it was located in a small shop on Fifth street, in a room twenty by twenty feet. There the business was carried on along business lines, ever seeking to do excellent work and treat patrons fairly. As the business increased, more room had to be provided and in a few years the shop was moved to a building on the corner of Fifth and Audubon streets, and there it assumed larger proportions than before; the trade began to reach out over a much larger scope of territory, and in the month of December, 1913, it was removed again to a new building, near the Chicago & Northwestern railway depot. At this date (March, 1914) only the basement of their new quarters is occupied. When completed, the building will he a brick and stone building twenty seven by one hundred feet, with two floors. Electric power and compressed air equipment are installed in this factory, from which annually goes forth an immense amount of fine granite and marble monument work, to all parts of the Northwest. Ten men are constantly employed and from five to seven solicitors are on the road taking orders. This firm does an annual business of about eighty thousand dollars.

When the business was established at Sac City Mr.Wayt's brother remained at Jefferson. L. R. Wayt, the son of W. B. Wayt, of Sac City, was taken in as a partner in 1901, and has been instrumental in helping to greatly enlarge the business, and in 1906 a wholesale department was established, which has proven very successful.

Besides their business in Sac county, this enterprising firm maintains an office for purchasing its foreign granite, at No. 46-A Union street, Aberdeen, Scotland. They also are stockholders in a granite quarry at St. Cloud, Minnesota.

It was this firm, of whom Sac City is justly proud, that so liberally donated the beautiful and expensive monument at the foot of the new section of the city cemetery, dedicated to the memory of the fallen heroes of the Civil War, an account of which has already been given in another chapter in this work. This firm constructs mausoleums and large monuments as specialty work, and do a large wholesale and retail business.

The extensive seed house of Conger, Ball & Company, of Sac City, was established in 1907 and their present large warehouse, on the Northwestern railway tracks, was erected in 1910, It is thirty by one hundred feet in area and three stories high. Here all kinds of farm and field seeds are handled in a retail and jobbing way. Seed corn, grain seeds, clover and timothy seeds are all carried in immense quantities. Many of these superior seeds are grown in Sac county, and find ready sale in western Iowa and some jobbing is extended into adjoining states.

The Sac City Nursery is the property of W. W. Stokes, and is situated within the corporate limits of the town. It has been in existence a number of years and carries a good variety of fruit and shade trees, shrubs, etc., all suitable for this part of the country, There are only two nurseries in Sac county, the one above named and one in operation at Grant City.

The Sac City Catering Company was incorporated in 1913 with a capital of ten thousand dollars. The object of this company is to manufacture and sell Guernsey ice cream, sherbets and fancy ices throughout the surrounding country. The company will establish a complete bottling works, and for the present season will occupy a part of the Sac City creamery building. but expect in 1915 to erect a large, modern building of their own. The officers of this corporation are: L. R. Waft, president; J. H. Anthony, vice president; C. M. Whitted, secretary; O. C. Pfaff. treasurer. The business of making such articles is lariely, on the increase in America, and here, right in the field where the dairy and cream interests are large, is a suitable location in which to build up an extensive business along this line.

Marion Mock's feed mill is another useful and growing industry which furnishes the community with ground feed, and the concern also retails and wholesales family flour, etc. Their plant is near the Northwestern station in this city.

The Sac City Creamery is doing an excellent business. Its proprietor is A. E. Schultz, who established the plant in May, 1913. He occupies the cement block building erected and used as a garage by R. D. Bechler. Mr. Schultz was engaged in like business at Grant county, Wisconsin, for eighteen years and was president of the National Creamery Association. This plant in Sac City is furnished with modern machinery and has a daily capacity of three thousand pounds. Four or five men here find constant employment. The butter from this creamery finds ready sale in Boston, Massahusetts. The cream is brought in from a radius of ten miles from Sac City.


What was known as the Allen Institute, a hospital for the cure of those addicted to the liquor, tobacco and opium habits, was established in Sac City in 1893 and finally incorporated with a home capital of fifty thousand dollars, for the treatment of such unfortunate cases, Dr. J. I. Allen and Frank C, Hoagland were the originators and held similar remedies as were then popularly known as "Keeley Cures," The president was Mr. Allen; vice president, C. A. Pratt; S. M. Elwood, treasurer; D. G. Platt, secretary. They held the exclusive rights for Iowa on their remedy.


Sac City ran along as other country county seat towns in those times did, until 1875, when it was duly incorporated under the laws of the state. Eugene Criss, known as the "Father of Sac City," was elected the first mayor of the place when it was incorporated. He addressed the trustees (council) upon taking his seat as follows: "Fellow Citizens, I do not feel at perfect. liberty to enter upon the duties of my office without first tendering you my thanks for the confidence you still have in me as the pioneer of your beloved city. It is nearly twenty years ago since I built the first cabin of your town, when the marks were yet fresh from the wigwams of the hostile Sioux Indians, who had chosen, as they later informed me, as the pride of their lives, this location. Nearly twenty years of the prime of my life have been spent right here, and today I can say that my expectations have been more than realized. Some of the most magnificent structures have been erected where but a few years ago all was in a stage of a real wilderness, Everything around us has the appearance of prosperity and happiness, and for this, with many other reasons, we ought to be thankful to God.

"And in entering upon the duties of our different offices to which we have been elected, let us try to have all our efforts crowned with success. And in order that this may be, it becomes our duty in framing ordinances that we observe the Sabbath day and that all public places be kept closed, except hotels and others in cases of necessity. Relying upon all good citizens to aid us in this new enterprise, we believe our labors will be crowned with success."

The first year's report on finances in the newly incorporated town shows the following: Revenues - Billiards, $87.50; beer and wine, $75.00; bagatelle, $10; restaurants. $12; dog tax, $51; shows, $8.00; sidewalks, $60.75; auctioneers, $5.00; fines and peddlers, $2.00; total, $311.74.

The city has progressed with the passing of the years, until it has come to be known as a "clean city," and also a saloonless city.

The incorporation owns a good city hall, in which the council chamber and fire department are located. Sac City now has an indebtedness of about fifteen thousand dollars. The city has been in the hands of good officials, for the most part. Among its mayors may be mentioned such men as Phil Schaller, W. H. Hart. J. M. Highland, D. Carr Early, C. E. Lee, J. H. Tait, Dr. J. H. Stalford, Orville Lee, W. O. Gishwiller and Dr. W. H. Townsend.


In the month of July, 1884, the authorities of Sac City contracted with Fairbanks, Morse & Company, Chicago, to furnish all the necessary materials to be used in the construction of a waterworks plant. The price paid for such material was three thousand five hundred dollars. The plant was located west of the Northwestern tracks. At first a wind mill afforded the power with which the water Was pumped from a large well, to a tank holding one thousand six hundred barrels of water. The pump's capacity was five hundred barrels per day. The contract for digging the trenches was let to an Ida Grove man at one dollar and sixty cents per rod. The entire work of putting in the plant was fixed so as to be completed September 1, 1884.

This plant was never a success, and the town was under a great strain each year for want of good, pure water in a sufficient quantity to supply all demands upon it. Change after change was made until, in 1894, a company of enterprising citizens purchased a boiler and good pumping outfit, and leased same to the city authorities, after which a better service was given. In 1899 a new reservoir was added, giving double the capacity of the former one. The supply of water - the purest to be had in the country - is obtained from a series of big springs, out to the northwest of the city a mile or two, the same being piped to the immense stand pipe in the city.

The electric lighting proposition was brought up in February, 1898, and submitted to the people, who decided by a large majority to install a fifteen thousand dollar plant, the same to be provided by individual subscriptions in stock of fifty dollars per share, This measure was adopted by the vote of the people, by a majority of two hundred and one. The plant was installed and the city first had electric lights September 14, 1908. The next great lighting improvement was in July, 1911, when the present electrolier system of street lights was set in motion. A demonstration was had; music and an automobile program and parade was carried out. This system was installed by a Des Moines firm and cost one thousand five hundred dollars for the twenty five poles erected with their five globes of beautiful light.


Ever alive to the best interests and protection of the property of the place, Sac City has a well organized, well trained fire company which stands high among the companies in the western part of the state. It has a membership of forty, divided into two wings or divisions, Summit Hose Company and the Clipper Company, the former having headquarters on the hill, which the latter has its home at the City Hall. The best type of young manhood makes up these two fire fighting companies. They are well supplied by the city with the best of equipment, such as plenty of hose, hook and ladder apparatus, nozzles, hydrants, etc. When the alarm is given and the wagons start citizens know the fire will soon be extinguished. The firemen are backed by the best waterworks system possible to provide, a stand pipe full of water, with great natural pressure. There are now forty eight fire plugs or street hydrants in use. The department has two chemical engines, two hose carts, and two hook and ladder outfits.

The city officials in the month of March, 1914, are: Mayor, N. O., Gishwiller; clerk, W. F. Weary; treasurer, C. C. Jameson; police, George I. Cory; night watchman, J. E. Austin; health officer, Dr. W. J. Findley; city councilmen, J. Wilbur Neal, B. S. Wallace, Wesley Gilbert, John Anthony, J. I. Prentice, B. A. Young.

In March, 1907, an election was held in the city to determine on some course to be pursued by which the city might be assured of better park accommodations. It was proposed to take over the defunct agricultural city, and bond the town for twenty years by a two mill tax. There were two hundred and eight women voted and four hundred and forty two men, and the measure carried by sixty our majority. No further action was ever had in the matter.

[Continued in Sac City History part 2.]

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