History of Sioux City, IA (Part 1 General History)
From: History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa
A Warner & Co., Publishers
Chicago Illinois, 1890-91


SIOUX CITY is 507 miles west from Chicago via the Illinois Central railroad. It is situated in the northwest portion of Woodbury county, and is on the eastern bank of the Missouri river at the only point where the bluffs come near the stream on the Iowa side. Nowhere does the force of the expression, "God made the country, but man made the city," apply so befittingly as in the case of Sioux City, which has come to be known far and near as the Corn Palace City of the World, owing to the four annual exposition palaces which she has had magnificently decorated within and without by none other than the staple product of this section of country - Indian corn.

It has, for its immediate trade - territory directly tributary to it - northern Nebraska, South Dakota, northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. This section comprises within its limits, millions of acres of fertile prairie land, including the recently opened Sioux reservation of 11,000,000 acres, as yet untouched. In addition to her immediate surroundings she is just commencing to draw from the untold mineral wealth of the famous Black Hills district, as well as from the unsurpassed livestock and ranch sections of Montana, utilizing the latter by the large packing house industry, which bids fair to be a sharp rival of Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City.

Nine railroads already radiate from this gateway to the west, while other equally important lines are at this writing under course of construction.

With the exception of a small bottom land plateau on which the original city plat was made, Sioux City was left by one of Nature's freaks with a very uneven, hilly and broken surface. To the person who never visited this point prior to the railroad era, 1867, or perhaps even as late as 1885, it would indeed be difficult to picture the topography, as viewed by the little band of pioneer settlers who came here in 1855-56. They looked out upon hillsides and corresponding valleys, which today have been reduced to nearly a dead level, with cable and electric street car lines diverging in almost every direction, and which run at low grades over land at one time too steep for a horse to travel over.

One addition to another has been made since the original platting of Dr. John K. Cook in 1854. until at this time the incorporation takes in nearly all of the township, a narrow strip along the northern boundary excepted.

Sioux City has an assessed valuation of $16,000,000. She has thirty miles of water mains and one hundred and sixty fire hydrants. There are four daily and thirteen weekly newspapers. A magnificent library building, to cost $100,000, is now in course of construction. Her streets are well paved with over twenty miles of block paving. She has twenty two miles of sewerage and a pumping station costing $25,000. Her postal business during the year of 1889 amounted to $61,000, outside of a money order business of $500,000.

The place is noted for her forty church societies and excellent public schools. Being in the center of the great western corn belt, she builds her business hopes, and realizes the same, on the vast amount of corn, cattle and hogs, together with her pork and beef packing industry, which is coming to be among the greatest in the land.

The history of Sioux City dates from May 5, 1855, when Dr. John K. Cook, a government surveyor who surveyed northwestern Iowa into sections, came with instructions from an association of leading politicians and capitalists of the state, prominent among whom were Gen. George W. Jones, of Dubuque, the first representative the territory of Iowa had in congress; Augustus C. Dodge, also a United States senator from southeastern Iowa; Bernard Henn, congressman from Fairfield district; Jesse Williams, of Fairfield; William Montgomery, of Pennsylvania, and S. P. Yeomans, afterward register of the United States land office at Sioux City, to choose for them the site of a city, which they believed, in the nature of things, must one day become a great commercial metropolis. How well he fulfilled their wishes has been demonstrated by the wonderful growth of the place.

Through the influence of powerful friends, the city was made the headquarters for all government expeditions against the hostile Sioux Indians, and later made the terminus of several of the land grant railroads. The United States land office was also established here in 1855.

Under this patronage, and the tireless activity of the leading men in its community, probably, more than its natural advantages, the city has grown to its present prosperity and promising future. The population, which numbered but 400 in 1857, and 7,625 in 1880, has advanced until the present, 1890, United States census places it in round numbers at 40,000.

This is a greater percentage of increase than that of any other city in America in the last decade, with perhaps the single exception of Superior City, Wis. Owing to its frontier location, Sioux City, which took its name from the Sioux river (which has its confluence with the Missouri at this point), and originally from the Indian tribe by the same name, has been quite replete with historical events.

It matters not from what direction one enters the city, or from what point midst its environments he views the site of the place, the picture is at once charming and full of interest. Especially is this true where one is acquainted with some of its early history. On the high bluff overlooking the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers, just to the west of the city, rests the remains of old War Eagle, the celebrated Indian chief, whose part in Indian warfare is too well known in history to be further referred to in this connection. Beside him rest also his two daughters. From the spot where these Indians were buried may be seen one grand panoramic landscape view, painted by the hand of nature. The winding channel of the Big Sioux traces itself around in all sorts of fantastic shapes through the rich bottom land on either side. The long chain of ridges, assuming almost mountain like proportions, extend far to the north, between the Big Sioux and Broken Kettle creek, in Plymouth county. As far as the eye can reach, the great and ever turbulent waters of the mighty Missouri sweep down from the northwest and Yellowstone country, and are lost in the distance, as the stream flows downward toward the far off gulf.

Entering the city from the south, over the "Omaha" line of railway, one crosses a gigantic iron bridge which spans the Missouri and links the two commonwealths, Iowa and Nebraska, together. Just to the east of the end of this bridge, on the Iowa side, may be seen Sioux City's most beautiful, as well as valuable suburb, Morning Side, from the heights of which one obtains a birdseed view of the city proper, which so interests him, that, after taking a second look at the massive stone residences and the Methodist University (the pride of the suburb), he jumps the motor car, and, whirling through the deep cuts, crosses the Floyd river, leaves the great packing houses and stockyards to the left, and is soon within the din and bustle of a genuine and solidly built western city. If at night time, it presents a bewildering illumination of modern time, lit up by arc electric lights, which stand like so many sentinels on guard, through the long watches of the night.

With the rising of the morning sun, one beholds the incoming and outgoing railway trains, some of which speed on up the pretty valley of the Floyd river, halting at the busy manufacturing suburb of Leeds, where the tall smokestacks of foundry, shop and mill blacken the morning air, and cause one to think of a city a century old.

A ten minute ride on a cable car brings one to the northern portion of the city where man's tact and ingenuity have been taxed in leveling the score and more of hills and filling the intervening valleys. This is destined to become the principal residence part of the city. The present terminus of the cable line is over three miles out, and the power house is situated about midway. This is the only cable line in Iowa today, and was built by men who have faith in the future of Sioux City.

Whether one stands at the north end of this line and overlooks the Perry creek valley, or retraces his steps to the bank of the Missouri, or climbs Prospect Hill, he is impressed with the same feeling - that he is in the center of a wonderful farming section. Dakota county, Neb., the finest agricultural district in all the west, presents a feast to the eye, while the heavily loaded trains of grain and stock, which are just crossing the magnificent new, combined wagon and railroad bridge, from the Nebraska shore, convinces one that the same inexhaustible resource is found along the entire pathway of the "Short Line," running from Sioux City to Ogden, Utah.

In 1880 Sioux City had a population of 7,500; in 1884, 15,514; in 1886, 22,358; in 1887, 30,842; and in 1890, 38,700.

The past four years show indeed a marvelous growth in Sioux City, and 1890 bears comparison well with former years, splendid as their record has been.

Examination shows that the same story is told, whatever witnesses are called as to the city's progress, whether the witness be the banks, the packing industry, the postoffice, the railroads, the express, telegraph or telephone companies, or the record of building improvements, private and public. They all testify to the one central fact of the sure and rapid growth of Sioux City.

The manufacturing interests are just beginning to develop. There are now seventy different concerns, including one of the largest linseed oil mills in the world, and a roller flour milling plant which has a thousand barrel capacity daily. The oat meal mills, Paris stove works, covering five acres at Leeds, and the paving brick industry are second to none in the great west. [See Commercial and Industrial chapter elsewhere.] July 1, 1855, a postoffice was established under President Pierce's administration, at Sioux City, Iowa. Dr. John K. Cook, one of the government surveyors and town site 'proprietors, was the first postmaster. He kept the office in a log building near the river, on lots now occupied by the wholesale house of Tollerton, Stettson & Co. It is said by some of the old pioneers that Dr. Cook's office was the crown of his hat for some time.

Great has been the change in Sioux City since the mail was thrown from the stage coach tri weekly, to the log house on Second street, between Pearl and Water streets, and the present free delivery system of today, with carriers delivering the mail four times a day, some on foot, some in a buggy and still others riding a Columbian bicycle, over a mile stretch of paved streets!

Dr. Cook was succeeded in office by Charles K. Smith, who retained the position until the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, when A. R. Appleton was commissioned by President Lincoln in 1861; he served only a year and was succeeded by J. C. C. Hoskins, who held the position nearly sixteen years. In 1878 E. R. Kirk was appointed, under President Hayes' administration, holding the office eight years, until he was removed for political reasons by President Grover Cleveland, in December, 1885, at which time E. B. Crawford was appointed and held the office until September, 1889, when he was removed by President Benjamin Harrison. E. R. Kirk was then appointed and is the present postmaster.

John K. Cook, the father and founder of Sioux City, it will be observed, was the first postmaster. He held the position, nominally, for two years, but the last year the work was attended to by S. T. Davis. Over twenty years after Dr. Cook went out of the office, he was notified that his account as postmaster had been audited, and that a balance of $30 was due him. Indeed, an honest government.

Sioux City leads all other offices in Iowa in growth during 1889. The receipts for that year gave an increase of $10,000 over the year prior. The postal receipts for the years 1887-88-89 were as follows: In 1887, $39,684; in 1888, $50,777; in 1889, $60,810. The money order business for the first half of the year 1889 amounted to $255,112. The total expense of the eleven carriers for 1889 amounted to $9,394.

February 1, 1889, the office was removed from Garretson Hotel block, on account of lack of room, to its present spacious quarters, every foot of which is now used. The business of a postoffice is always indicative of the general commercial standing of a town or city. It was made a money order office July 1, 1865. The first order was issued to John M. Pinckney, for $20, payable to John R. Welch & Co., at Chicago. During the twenty five years that have elapsed since then, there have been 86,067 orders issued, also 86,125 postal notes. It was made a free delivery office October 1, 1884, and now employs fourteen men as carriers.

It was in 1857 that Sioux City first saw the advantages of becoming an incorporated place. Under the old code of Iowa, such a step could only be brought about by a special act of the state legislature, which body, in January, 1857, granted such privileges to this city, which had less than 400 population at the time. Many of the persons who figured conspicuously in those matters are still residents of the city, some of them among the wealthiest and most highly esteemed of the present populace, who, upon perusing this item, will revert with no small degree of pride to those early years when they laid the corner stones and built the framework of a place now taking second rank to none in all Iowa.

As an old pioneer of the place remarks, "the first dozen years of our incorporated life did not amount to very much." Laws were different then, and, indeed, the demand for municipal government was not very great. Up to 1868 the mayor had no voice in the city council, and seemed a mere figure head, whose only duty was to sign warrants. Here, as everywhere throughout Iowa, the change of the law of 1862, caused much legal difficulty in. making good the acts of incorporations. Sioux City abandoned her original charter in 1862, and then incorporated under what they believed to be a law, but courts finally questioned the legal step. But in 1874 the state passed a law covering and making good all prior ordinances and rules, and from that date on, places were incorporated under a general law. Sioux City continued toe be a city of the "second class" until her population reached 15,000, which was in 1886. At that time she incorporated as a city of the "first class."

The following list gives the names of the mayors of the city from 1857 to 1890, inclusive:

1857. J. B. S. Todd.

1874. H. L. Warner.

1858. Robert Means.

1875. H. L. Warner.

1859. William H. Bigelow.

1876. S. B. Jackson.

1860. G. W. Chamberlain.

1877. S. B. Jackson.

1861. John K. Cook.

1878. S. B. Jackson.

1862. John K. Cook.

1879. S. B. Jackson.

1863. William R. Smith.

1880. C. F. Hoyt.

1864. Charles Sent.

1881. William R. Smith.

1865. J. L. Follett.

1882. William Z. Swartz.

1866. George Weare.

1883. William Z. Swartz.

1867. C. K. Smith.

1884. William Z. Swartz.

1868. F. M. Ziebach.

1885. D. A. McGee.

1869. F. M. Ziebach.

1886. J. M. Cleland.

1870. D. T. Hedges.

1887. J. M. Cleland.

1871. S. T. Davis.

1888. J. M. Cleland.

1872. a W. Singsnorth.

1889. J. M. Cleland.

1873. R. F. Turner.

1890. E. C. Palmer.

The following were the first city officials of Sioux City:

J. B. S. Todd, mayor; W. M. Buchanan, marshal; C. K. Smith, recorder; S. A. Ayers, treasurer; T. J. Stone, assessor; Justus Townsend, Franklin Wixson, E. K. Robinson, John H. Charles, Enos Stutsman and H. C. Ash, aldermen.

The present city officials are as follows:

Mayor, E. C. Palmer; clerk, W. G. Linn; auditor, W. G. Linn; treasurer, John Hittel; councilmen, George Meyrs, L. H. Grumn, W. J. Risley, W. E. Powell, W. C. Cody, Knude Sunde, Thomas Malone, G. Meade; chief of police, John F. Shanly.

The city has been divided into six wards.

The present police force numbers fourteen, besides the chief police

The fire department consists of four well drilled companies. George M. Bellow is chief. But few cities in Iowa are better equipped against the fire fiend than Sioux City.

Leeds. - This part of Sioux City was platted in the spring of 1889 by the Leeds Land & Investment Company, with George W. Felt as its projector, and is located about three miles from the city proper, up the Floyd valley, and has come to be the manufacturing site of the city. The growth of the place has been phenomenal. In December, 1889, nothing marked the spot but the sign board "LEEDS." Today (October, 1890) finds a thriving town, with hissing steam jets and roaring forges. During this month this suburb has been annexed to the city, and is now under the same government. It is on the Illinois Central, Omaha and Sioux City & Northern railways, and is already the scene of activity in the line of factories. Here we find the Great Northern roller mills, the Paris stove works, covering twenty rods square, the scraper works, the Sioux City engine and machine works, and a boot and shoe factory already begun.

Other suburbs of Sioux City are Morning Side, to the south and east, a lovely resident spot, and the seat of the University of the Northwest and College of Liberal Arts; Riverside, a few miles to the west, on the banks of the Big Sioux river, connected with the city by a rapid transit line; also Lynn, to the east of Leeds. Morning Side is attracting a large number of people as a home site, and already many residences costing from $5,000 to $50,000 are located in this beautiful suburb, and consequently property is rapidly advancing in value. Thousands of the wealth and culture of this rapidly growing metropolis will be residing here within the next few years.

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