For the earliest Sioux City settlers, the only way to cross the Missouri River to Nebraska was to take a boat or swim. At first, a fleet of flatboats transported people and goods back and forth across the river. Next, a steamboat ferry operated by the Sioux City Land and Ferry Company provided service. That company failed to make a profit, however, and the steamboat ferry was abandoned.
The first Sioux City Streets were unpaved, rutted and dirty. Depending on the weather, they might be thick with swirling dust or soupy with mud and water. A rainy season might make them almost impassible for the carts, wagons and horses. Then they would dry out rough and coarse, full of wheel ruts. Homes and businesses usually kept their entrances above street level to prevent the water, dust and mud from coming into their buildings.
It wasn't until the 1880s that Sioux City streets began to be surfaced. But the usual "pavement" wasn't concrete. The streets were "paved" with round cedar blocks. The blocks, a little bigger than a pie plate and ten inches thick, were closely placed on a six-inch layer of sand. The gaps were then filled with a mixture of tar and sand. The entire surface was covered with a layer of gravel and tar. It wasn't perfect, but it was much better than dirt.
The first street railway company to operate in Sioux City was the The Sioux City Street Railway Company. The company was started by a group headed by Fred Evans, but it was bought out by James and Frank Peavey in 1888.
During the 1880s, the Morningside area of Sioux City began to develop as a pleasant suburb east of the downtown area. It had advantages over the north side. Since it was not as hilly and steep, streets and lots required less grading. Unfortunately, the journey from downtown Sioux City to Morningside was not an easy one. Wagons and buggies had to cross swampy land, the Floyd River and eighty-four railroad and streetcar tracks!
When Sioux City first began to grow, most people arrived by either steamboat or stagecoach. In the eastern United States, railroads were being built to connect all major cities. The first railroad to develop in Iowa was in 1865, along the Mississippi. However, plans were soon developed to expand the system to all major Iowa cities.
Sioux City developers knew that if the town wanted to become a major city, it would need to be one of the first to have railroad access. Not only did railroads move people, they also moved materials and manufactured goods.