Buena Vista County, IA
IAGenWeb Project

Sioux Rapids

Sioux Rapids, as a town, dates from the year 1882. when, on the 1st day of May a meeting was held in the office of Hoskins & Toy, bankers, and the first step was taken to incorporate.  Twenty-six years before Abner Bell and his party of settlers came to the county and located near the site of the town and remained there.  This was the principal settlement in the county and remained so until the south part of the county settled up after the coming of the Dubuque & Sioux City railway.


In the year 1858 Luther H. Barnes, an early settler, laid out a town plat on extensive lines and called it Sioux Rapids.  Mr. Barnes believed the location would attract a population of large numbers and be equal to the larger cities of our country, but he was doomed to disappointment.  He left the country, having sunk all of his fortune in this unlucky enterprise, and badly broken in spirits.  The settlers never took Barnes seriously and when he had departed they used the stakes which set out his city for firewood.


Nothing came of the town and site until the year 1869 when Richard Ridgway, who had taken the land upon which the site was situated, as a homestead, and who built a house where J. P. Farmer's home now stands, sold it to D. C. Thomas and David Evans and they at once platted it into town lots.  They gave it the name of Sioux Rapids, the name selected by Luther Barnes.  The same year the county seat, which was situated upon section 7 of Lee township, was moved to the village of Sioux Rapids and located on block 12.  A courthouse was built in 1871, and the town began to assume the appearance of the metropolis of the county.


Business houses were at once attracted to the town. Gilbert, Halverson & Jacobsen opened the first store in the town and they were succeeded by other firms.  J. M. Hoskins opened a loan office and later a bank, James F. Toy of Storm Lake being interested in the venture with Mr. Hoskins.


The first officers  elected in 1882 were as follows:  James M. Hoskins, mayor; Thos. H. Pittam, recorder; John Halverson, P. W. Goodrich, P. F, Swan, Henry Jacobsen, George A. Thompson and H. D. Smith, councilmen.  Since then J. J. Deupree, J. J. Duroe, Miles Moe, W. E. Brown, F. F. Faville, Lyman

Johnson, D. F. Johnston, H. H. Hunter, F. A. Gabrielson, E. D. Peck, A. L. Freelove, A. L. Zinser, M. W. Hoskins, A. B. Snyder, D. C. Skinner and H. C. Plager have been mayor, the latter being the present incumbent.  At this time F. B. Parker is clerk and H. H. Hall, E. C. Mattesen, C. B. Anderson, P. A. Saxerns and 0. P. Olson are councilmen.


On January 1. 1877 the courthouse was burned to the ground and as a county seat fight had been instituted by Newell and Storm Lake the county supervisors refused to authorize the building of a new building.  In 1878 the question of location was submitted to a vote of the people of the county and the courthouse was transferred to Storm Lake.


This was a bad blow to the town, and naturally the citizens felt disappointed for a time, but the coming of the Chicago & Northwestern railway in 1882 was what the town needed more than the courthouse and new vigor was at once felt in every line of activity.  New business houses were built and the population increased rapidly.  In 1885 the census showed six hundred and sixteen people. 


In 1900 the M. & St. L. railway was built through from Spencer to Storm Lake and this again added new stimulus to the business of the town, which is still felt.


A water works system was installed in the town in 1889 and four years the town bought the electric light plant, which is now being operated by the municipality. Power is furnished by the milling company and a low rate is charged to consumers, yet the town is making a profit on the service that will

soon pay for the investment.


Every line of business is well represented. There are two banks, three general stores, hardware and drug stores, clothing and furniture stores, and everything that is demanded in a good, live town.





In the issue of the Sioux Rapids Press for June 11, 1885, an anonymous writer paints a picture of the town as it appeared at that time, and as it looked in 1867.


"Eighteen years ago we passed through Sioux Rapids and stopped at a log hotel nearby.  Then we could travel for miles across the prairie without passing a house, and stand on more than one hill and look in vain in every direction for sign of a human habitation. Again, after an absence of three years, we visited the place to find a few scattered inhabitants living near the county seat.  The town consisted of a few small houses and had grown in importance since our previous visit.  Among the inhabitants was a lawyer with a long head and a lame leg who entertained us in primitive style in a mansion built of sun dried bricks.  A young and inexperienced doctor boarded at the log hotel on the hill and wanted to sell us a homestead claim in the suburbs, four miles distant, for four hundred dollars.


"Then there was no church edifice or resident preacher, and but little to betoken the progress that has been made.  A strolling preacher reasoned of righteousness, repentance and judgment to come in a small building which was crowded with the lame lawyer and his twenty-nine neighbors.


"Now how changed! Some of the old settlers have moved into houses not made with hands; others have sought homes in other portions of our fair land and little is to recall the Sioux Rapids of 1870.


"Again we stand mid scenes of the past to find a city where wild beasts dwelt and a thriving people growing rich where solitude was only broken by the war whoop of the savage and the cry of wild birds and beasts.  Brick blocks and  palatial residences have taken the place of adobe houses and log huts and man's energy, attended by God's blessing has developed some of the vast resources of our soil and changed the wilderness into the fruitful land."

Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole.  Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa.  Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 177-79.