Go to: Township History * Home Page *

Harrison County Iowa Genealogy


Little Sioux Township
Brief History
Article contributed by Mark Grassman

Little Sioux Township lies in the northwest corner of Harrison County between the Missouri River to the west and high loess bluffs to the east, which rise out of the bottomlands. The earliest inhabitants of the area were Indians, whose history and culture is known only from artifacts recovered from ancient mounds and other archaeological sites.

Indian inhabitants of the region during historical times included the Omaha, Pottawatomie, Sioux and Winnebago. Fur trading conducted by few Europeans was an important industry in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Indian inhabitants of Harrison County and their cultures were rapidly displaced by the westward expansion of the United States following the Louisiana Purchase (1803).

In 1804 Louis and Clark were probably the first Americans to see what is now Little Sioux Township. By the first half of the 1850's settlement by Americans eager to farm the rich bottomlands was well underway. In 1853 the Indian wife of Charles Larpenteur, one of the earliest settlers of Little Sioux, was killed by Omaha Indians involved in a dispute with the Sioux. Settlers near Spirit Lake, Iowa, north of Little Sioux, were massacred by Sioux Indians in 1857. It was feared the massacre would discourage settlement, however, this was not to be the case.

Other historical events generally associated with the westward expansion of the United States have also had a marked impact on Little Sioux Township. The migration of the Mormons across Iowa, and the growth of the railroads significantly affected the early development of Little Sioux. In 1844 the Mormon city of Nauvoo was among Illinois largest and wealthiest cities. After Joseph Smith was killed by a mob, Brigham Young decided that the Mormons could escape persecution by settling in Utah. As they moved west, some Mormons settled in Harrison County and established communities before 1860. The community established in Little Sioux had over 200 members by 1888 and included some of its prominent citizens.

The first railroad line to cross Iowa from Clinton to Council Bluffs was completed in 1867. Three years later there were four railroads running across the state. The Union Pacific Railroad began expanding its line west from Omaha in 1867, and the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. The Iowa Central Airline Railway extended its tracks northward from Council Bluffs toward the town of Little Sioux. The Iowa Central Airline Railway is listed among the earliest grantors of land in the Harrison County Deed Index.       Although the railroad ran west of Little Sioux, the town of River Sioux developed along the railroad, and Little Sioux was accessible and prospered in the 1870's and 1880's. This prosperity was reflected in the social life of the town. In the early 1900's there were baseball and football teams, a dance hall on Solomon Smith Lake which featured well-known bands, fairs and plays.

The history and life of Little Sioux Township is described in "Bicentennial History of Little Sioux Township; Little Sioux, River Sioux, Iowa 1976", Intercollegiate Press, Inc. Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Although the book is not indexed, it presents numerous name lists, individual biographies and family histories.

A Surname Index of families featured in the book has been compiled by Mark Grassman.
Copies of individual biographies in the 1976 Bicentennial History of Little Sioux Township, Little Sioux, River Sioux, Iowa are available through the HCGS.


Excerpts from the "History of Iowa; Its Settlement and Growth", published by the Western Publishing Company, 1882, Sioux City.

RIVER SIOUX

This thriving place is located on the Sioux City & Pacific Railway, at or very near the junction of the Missouri and Little Sioux Rivers, on the south side of the latter stream. It contains a population of 225. The town, although unincorporated and small, is delightfully situated in the midst of heavy timber, of various kinds, and is one of the most progressive business places in the county. The town owes its origin to the advent of the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad, the authorities of which platted it in October, 1868. The original town site was a few hundred yards north of the present one, on the north side of the Little Sioux River. This location, however, was found to be too low for a town site, as it was subject to inundation, and the town was accordingly removed to its present location. This transfer was made in the summer of 1876. The new location showed the wisdom of those who chose it, as it is the highest point of land on the railway south of Sergeant's Bluffs. On the original town site there were but three settlers, Reuben NEWTON, depot agent, S. CHASE, who lived there prior to the advent of the railroad, and E.J. DAVIS.

The land to which the town site was finally transferred was owned by Henry HERRING, E.J. DAVIS and James CRABB and the undivided half of eighty acres, was by them given to the railway company with the understanding that the town should be removed thereto.

As before stated, the business of Little Sioux, in proportion to population and number of establishments, is quite large. The following are the various kinds of business, ennumerated: Two general merchandise stores, drug and grocery store, drug store, hardware store, three saloons, hotel, lumber yard, two saw-mills, blacksmith and wagon shop, grain and stock dealer, butcher shop.

The professions are represented in River Sioux by two physicians, two lawyers and one civil engineer.

As River Sioux is situated in the midst of a productive country, which is rapidly increasing in population, the shipments of various kinds of produce are necessarily quite large, and they are rapidly increasing in amount and value. At present they will aggregate from two to three car loads per day. The business of the station is ably handled by the agent, R. NEWTON, who is at present the oldest settler on the town site, he having removed thereto with the transfer of the town site. Although River Sioux cannot properly be described as a port of call for Missouri River steamers, vessels of this description have in previous years come up the Sioux as far as the town, and it is thought that a systematic course of dredging and widening of the channel would make it possible for this description of craft to come up at all stages of water. In justice to dissenting opinion, however, it must be stated that there are those who regard such a scheme as chimerical to the highest degree.

Churches, schools and societies

Methodist Episcopal Church Society --- This society has no church building, but is composed of about thirty members. The congregation meets in the town hall. The society has been in existence only since the organization of the Little Sioux Circuit in 1876, and has no resident pastor, and it is now one of the appointments of the Little Siux Circuit, of which Rev. H. J. SMITH, of Little Sioux, is the minister. The erection of a church at no distant future is being discussed. Outside of the members of the society, there is a good attendance of non-members, and there is more than a probability that the society will soon see a church of its own.

Besides this society, there is no other organized religious body in River Sioux, although occasional services have been held in the place by the clergymen of other denominations.

Odd Fellows --- There is a lodge of Odd Fellows at River Sioux. The lodge contains twenty-three members, and was organized in January, 1879. The followingis the list of elective officers first installed: N.G.,J. SIMMONS; V.G., J. BOWIE; S., C.A. DEMUN; T., S. DEMMON. The present elective officers are: John WHITING, N.G.; Henry HERRING, V.G.; James HARMON, S.; John HENRY, W.

Good Templars --- Although there is no temperance organization in River Sioux, an effort is making looking towards the orginization of a subordinate lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars.

Public Schools --- The school district, of which Sub-District No. 6 (River Sioux) is a part, is Little Sioux Township District, which was organized in April, 1857. Sub-District No. 6 was organized September 21, 1874, and Charles McEVERS was elected the following spring as sub-director. The present officers of the school township are: Samuel ELLIS, President; Samuel DEWELL, Secretary; Charles SMITH, Gilbert SMITH, S.A. PAGE, Samuel TAYLOR and George W. ROCK. Sub-District No. 6, has at present a neat little school-house 26x40 feet in dimensions, but as there are ninety children of school age in the Sub-District, the space is inadequate to its wants, and the coming season a larger structure will be erected at a cost of $3,000. The school is under the supervision of E.A. BALDWIN, of Little Sioux, and is in a flourishing condition. although containing but one room, two departments have been maintained until recently, but lack of space necessitated the discontinuance of one department. This state of affairs is to be remedied hereafter. Upon the completion of the new schoolhouse, the District will be made Independent.

LITTLE SIOUX

This town, which has as handsome a location as any of the Missouri River bottom, or in fact, in the State, is situated on the south side of the Little Sioux River, about one mile east of River Sioux and the Sioux City & Pacific Railway. The town dates back to the year 1855, when forty acres of the present site were laid off by S.W. CONDIT and T.B. NEELEY. A short time afterward, Messrs. CONDIT and MARTIN laid off forty acres more. Another forty-acre tract was again platted in the year of 1857. The parties making the last addition were Joseph JENKS and Jasper BONNLY.   D.M. GAMET, merchant of Little Sioux, now the oldest settler on the town site - recorded the first plat. Mr. GAMET was at that time Treasurer and Recorder at Magnolia, then the county seat; but he shortly afterwards moved to Little Sioux, where he has since remained. Mr. GAMET established the first general merchandise store in Little Sioux in 1857. He was also engaged in the hotel business, his hotel being headquarters for the stages belonging to the line between Sioux City and Council Bluffs. Although Mr. GAMET is at present the oldest settler on the town site proper, and settled in Western Iowa in 1846, there were others who made Little Sioux their place of residence prior to his advent. Among these latter may be mentioned Messrs. S.W. CONDIT, T.B. NEELEY, and Gabriel COTTON, the first and the last of whom are deceased, and J.L. PERKINS, whose reputation is international in connection with the propagation of potatoes. Mr. PERKINS, who was born a pioneer, came here in the year 1853. He resides at present but a few yards beyond the town limits. Moses GERMAN, now living outside the town limits, came in 1854. The S.W. CONDIT, before mentioned, came in 1849. Jasper BONNLY came here in 1856, and still farms near the town. Avery BARBER, now of Nebraska, also came here about the same time. There are also other old settlers residing in the neighborhood who came but a short time subsequently. At the time Messrs. CONDIT, NEELEY and COTTON settled within the limits of what is now Little Sioux Township, Harrison County, though named, was not organized.

Though Little Sioux has been established for a long time, it made no marked growth till within the past half-dozen years, and most of the buildings are of recent erection. Notwithstanding this fact, it would be difficult to find a handsomer or more enterprising town of the same size in any portion of Iowa. This in spite of the fact that through a misapprehension in regard to matters, the Sioux City & Pacific Railway left the town a mile distant from its track, and makes it dependent upon the station of River Sioux for its transportation facilities. Nevertheless, the citizens of Little Sioux are hopeful of a direct east and west line's running through the town at no far distant day. In case this hope should be realized, the 400 population of Little Sioux will be doubled within a very short time thereafter. The citizens are enterprising in the abstract, and though they missed one chance in securing a railroad, they have in everything else been up to the times. One mark of this trait of character is the erection of a large iron bridge across the Little Sioux River at this point. This bridge was built ten or twelve years ago at an expenditure of about three thousand five hundred dollars. The bridge is 200 feet in length and consists of three spans.

The various business lines of Little Sioux, classified, are as follows: Three general merchandise stores, two grocery stores, jewelry and miscellaneous store, grocery and stationery store, shoemaker shop, drug and grocery store, drug store, barber shop, hotel, two restaurants, livery stable, boot and shoe store, two furniture stores, meat market, blacksmith shop, blacksmith and wagon shop, grain and stock dealer, lumber and hardware dealer, agricultural implements, warehouse, saw and grist mill and milliner shop.

The professional men are two clergymen, one lawyer, and three physicians. The postoffice, which was established in the early history of the place, is presided over by T.J. LANYON. It is like that of River Sioux, not a money-order office. In addition to the branches of business already given, several insurance companies are represented by local agents.

The exact shipments of grain and other produce from this point, cannot well be definitely ascertained, but they are quite considerable, and are constantly increasing.

The stocks of goods carried by the merchants of Little Sioux are quite large, and in several cases would be creditable to a town of 1,500 inhabitants.

Churches, schools and societies

Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints --- This sect, monagamous Mormoms, is in point of numbers, better represented than any other church in Little Sioux, and many of the leading business men of the place are connected therewith. This congregation represents a section of that portion of the Mormon Church which separated from the original Mormom Society under the leadership of Brigham Young. Joseph Smith, Jr. son of the founder of the Mormom Churches, is at the head of the reorganized branch, which numbers some 15,000 adherents. The headquarters of this branch are at Lamoni, Decatur county. The society has had an existence in Little Sioux for twenty years, and the congregation at present numbers about 140. The society has a church which was erected in 1876, at a cost of several thousand dollars. The size of the structure is 24x50 feet. The presiding Elder for this branch is D.M. GAMET, who holds services every Sabbath.

Roman Catholic Church Society --- The Catholics of the neighborhood have hitherto been without either a church building or church society, and have been compelled to go elsewhere to enjoy the benefits of their form of worship. Although still lacking a society, the Catholics of the neighborhood have just finished a church building 26x40 feet in dimensions, and a society is in process of formation. The only Catholic service, as far as is known, ever held in Little Sioux proper, was on the Sunday preceding the opening of the church, January 29, 1882. This service was held in the house of M. MURRAY, and conducted by Rev. Father Michael LYNCH, who will preside over the new church in addition to the previous charges of Dunlap, Missouri Valley, and Magnolia. The congregation of the new church consists of about twenty families, or 100 people, and services will be held once in four weeks.

Methodist Episcopal Church Society --- The first sermon preached in Harrison County under the auspices of this society, perhaps of any society, was in June, 1852, at Harris' Grove, by Rev. William SIMPSON; but the first sermon preached in the immediate vicinity of Little Sioux, was in 1865, by Rev. J.M. RUSK, who, when the county was divided into two circuits in 1857, assumed charge of the Western Circuit, and continued as its pastor for two years. The first class formed in Little Sioux was in March, 1864, from which time the society began its growth. The first regular preacher, who officiated at Little Sioux, was Rev. J.W. ADAIR. The Little Sioux Circuit was detached from the Magnolia Circuit in 1876, and as it now stands it consists of Little Sioux, Soldier Valley, River Sioux and Mondamin. The present pastor, who resides in Little Sioux, is Rev. H.J. SMITH. The Little Sioux Society owns a building about thirty feet in dimensions. There are twenty-four members, and a good attendance of non-members. Services are held once in two weeks.

Universalist Church Society --- This society was organized in the latter part of 1870, by Rev. E. VEDDER, of Dunlap. Mr. VEDDER held the position of pastor but a short time, when he was forced to resign on account of ill-health. He was succeeded by Rev. James HOYT, of Belle Plaine, who continues to hold services once in four weeks. The society has no church buildings, and its meetings are held in the public hall. A movement has been inaugurated, however, for the erection of a church edifice. The membership is from thirty to thirty-five.

Union Sabbath School --- Although there is no denominational Sabbath School in Little Sioux, there was organized some time ago a Union Sabbath School with an attendance of thirty-five. R.C. WEST is the present Superintendent.

Little Sioux Lodge A.F. & A.M. --- This body was organized in 1878 with the following officers: H.M. HUFF, W.M.; P.B. TERRY, S.W.; A. GLEASON, J.W.; B.F. CROASDALE, S.; S.J. SMITH, Tr.; G.F. STRAIGHT, S.D.; E.A. BALDWIN, J.D.; N.F. HILLARD, T. The present officers are: N.F. HILLARD, W.M.;F.C. SCOFIELD, S.W.; C. ELLIS, J.W.; B.F. CROASDALE, S.; S.J. SMITH, Tr.; W.L. WOODWARD, S.D.; Isaac HUNT, J.D.; T.J. LANYON, T.

Public School --- The public school of Little Sioux is a graded one, and comprises three departments, grammar, intermediate and primary. The Principal, Thomas MACFARLANE, has charge of the first named department; the Intermediate is under the care of Miss Alice SMITH, and Mrs. C. DONALDSON is teacher of the lower department. The school district is the Independent District of Little Sioux. It was organized from Township District No. 1, July 31st, 1879. The first school officers for the district were Michael MURRAY, President; L.S.G. SILLSBEE, Secretary; A.M. ELLIS, Treasurer. The present officers are: Michael MURRAY, President; I.W. BASSETT, Secretary; C.E. COBB, Treasurer. There are 175 pupils in the district. The school house is a two-story structure, 30x65 feet, with four rooms, though but three of the rooms are in use. Another teacher, however, is to be engaged the coming year.

Little Sioux Home Literary Society --- This society is devoted to intellectual and social improvement. It has been in existence but a short time, and as yet is not very firmly established. The society meets every other Friday, in the public hall.

Return to Township Histories

To Harrison County Home Page