The late 1800s were years of tremendous economic growth and expansion across the United States. Cities like Sioux City were no exception. Between 1870 and 1890, Sioux City’s population grew from 3,401 to 37,806. Men like Daniel Hedges, John Peirce and Arthur Garretson drew incredibly wealthy by investing in Sioux City housing, business and industry. Most of the money they invested, however, was not their own. They convinced investors from the Eastern United States and Europe to fund their projects in Sioux City.
For a while, it seemed like there was no end to the great prosperity that marked the 1880s. Towns like Sioux City were booming everywhere. Railroads linked growing towns to larger markets. Farmers produced more than ever before. Manufacturing firms were growing and unemployment was low. Then, a world wide financial panic, the Panic of 1893, brought everything to a screeching halt.
The clocks in the Swift and Company building froze at 11:33 a.m., marking the moment a mighty explosion ripped through the structure. It was right before Christmas, December 14, 1949. The blast blew out parts of the west wall of the building and shattered all the windows. Floors and walls collapsed. The account in the Sioux City Journal declared, "Heavy steel doors and equipment throughout the structure were blown about like matchwood." The blast left a nightmare of twisted steel and tangled debris. Twenty-one people died and more than 90 people were injured.On the day of the explosion, many workers were having lunch in another nearby building or the loss of life would have been even greater. Immediately, everyone ran to help. Despite overwhelming ammonia and gas fumes, workers began a frantic search through the wreckage, looking for their co-workers and friends.
June 8, a Monday morning, seemed to be shaping up to be a pleasant sunny spring day. Sunday had been a day of heavy rain, but the sky had cleared. The Floyd was running high that morning, but no one suspected the disaster that would arrive in the middle of the morning.
The city didn't realize the amount of rain that had fallen in the northern area of the Floyd drainage basin. Between 8 and 11 inches of rain had fallen in the Sheldon area. A swift moving wall of water approached the city. By 11:00 that morning, Leeds was flooded. On Floyd Avenue, only the tops of cars could been seen. Volunteers came from all over town to help rescue stranded people. 41st Street, a gravel road, was on higher ground and not flooded. This was the only way for people to enter or leave the area.
The land directly north of Sioux City is quite hilly and all drains into Perry Creek. In early July of 1909 very heavy rains fell into this area. The creek began to rise. By July 9 the creek was out of its banks.
After a long and snowy winter, March temperatures in the Midwest warmed dramatically. This caused the deep snowfields to melt quicker than normal. Plans were made for the high waters, which were sure to come. They didn't have to wait long.
On March 31, the Floyd rose to a 20.3 crest north of town. This was the highest in fifteen years. The Springdale area had to be evacuated. The storm sewers back up, causing flooding along Stueben Street and south to the Soo's ballpark. Things were about to go from bad to worse. The Missouri River was also on the rise.