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Nebraska...Our Towns

South Sioux City

Dakota County

Pontoon and Northwestern rairoad bridges across the Missouri before the "regular" was built in 1888.[Moseman]
1952 flood, one of the hazards of locating near the Missouri River
The Combination Bridge between the two Sioux Cities, 1896. A portion of the pontoon bridge, asteam ferry boat, and old Covington site in background
South Sioux City from the air, 1989. [SSC Chamber of Commerce]

Sergeant Floyd, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition who was buried on a bluff near here in 1804, was probably one of the first white men in what is now South Sioux City. The story of our town is entwined in the tale of several towns and activities on both sides of the Missouri River.

Gustave Pecaut, a French-speaking native of Switzerland, emigrated to America and engaged in fur trading, building a cabin near the river in 1854. During the winter of 1855-56 a group of men cut wood and hauled it across the frozen river to the people living there.

A town site was registered in August 1856, and named "Harney City" for the general in charge of the troops stationed in the vicinity as protection against Indian raids. Existed only on paper, this town failed to develop.

Another town site was surveyed near the Burlington Railroad in 1856. Named "Pacific City," it was granted incorporation papers in 1858. The ravages of floodwaters quickly discouraged the inhabitants, and a later flood, when the river changed its course, left what became known as "Silver Lake" at this site.

Transportation between the settlements on opposite sides of the river was by ferry in the summer and on the ice during the winter. John Feenon launched a crude-looking flat boat in 1855. Several ferries and the steamer "Robert Burns" shuttled people and goods in 1857.

The Harney City location, taken over by a new town site company, changed its name to "Newport." Before filing the official papers in 1857 however, it was given the name "Covington." Later that year another plat was incorporated as "South Covington." These towns merged in 1870.

In 1856, between Covington and the bend on the Missouri River, a Mr. Stanton laid out a town which he named for himself. At its peak, "Stanton" boasted 30 buildings -- 13 of which were saloons.

Sioux City, across the river, was notorious for gambling, prostitution, and saloons, despite Iowa law forbidding these things. When Rev.George Haddock, crusader against such vices, was assassinated in 1886, public opinion united to drive out these evil elements. As a result, saloon keepers and gamblers fled across the river, setting up shop in Nebraska. Violence and sudden death were commonplace. During the few years of their existence, these early towns won reputations for lawlessness equal only to those of Tombstone and Deadwood.

Still another town was platted and incorporated in 1887. This settlement called itself "South Sioux City."

With all the traffic, a pontoon toll-bridge was built across the Missouri in 1889. Early in the 1890s public opinion in Iowa swung the other way and saloons were again permitted to reopen in Sioux City. Liquor dealers moved back to the "big city," leaving Covington's gambling houses empty.

Recognizing the need to "organize or dissolve," South Sioux City leaders brought the matter of the consolidation of these rival villages into one town. In a special election in 1893, the merger was approved. Both Stanton and Covington became part of the present city -- parts of which had been washed away by the ever-changing Missouri River. In an attempt to bring law and order to the community, Dakota County authorities ordered all remaining gambling houses closed, and a new image of law-and-order was initiated. In 1895 the "Combination Bridge" was built across the Missouri. It was large enough to accommodate trains, street cars, pedestrians, and horse-drawn vehicles.

The population has risen steadily since the early 1900s. In its Jubilee Year the count was 4,000. In its centennial year, the population topped 9,000. Farsighted people, concerned about education, completed a high school and an indoor-outdoor swimming pool for school and public use in 1968, and a new Junior High in 1975.

The Sergeant Floyd Memorial Bridge across the Missouri was built in 1976. The four-lane Siouxland Veterans Memorial Bridge, completed in 1981, however, was closed just six months later when a structural crack was discovered.

South Sioux City offers almost every type of business, civic organization, and activity. Camping and recreational facilities on the 22-acre Scenic Park, located at the east end of the bridge, has been renovated and repaired. The town's centennial, celebrated in 1987, provided an opportunity to take stock of the events that shaped our history, and chart a course for the future of this, the 15th largest city in Nebraska.

 

From material submitted by Lori Steenhoven, South Sioux City Chamber of Commerce, 2700 Dakota Avenue, South Sioux City, NE 68776.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Early History of South Sioux City , a centennial book, 1987, available through the chamber office.