The first steamboat came up the Missouri to Sioux City in the spring of 1856. The river route was then the only one open for the bringing in of heavy freight; and the material for a number of residences and business houses, and several stocks of goods came in on this first boat. With the settlement of the country around the city, came a demand from the military posts and mining camps further up the river, for any surplus produce marketed in the city, and orders for goods began to be sent down to Sioux City. The up-river business of the city grew steadily, and new boats were added every year to the carrying trade. The opening of the rich mines in the Black Hills greatly increased this business, and there has been a steady increase in the amount of grain, pork and merchandise sent from the city to points further up the Missouri.
Sioux City is the headquarters of the Peck line of boats, which line comprises the steamers C.K. Peck, Nellie Peck, Terry, Peninah, Meade, and Far West. The Benton line, Coulson line and Kountz line of boats also find much profitable freight at this city. Costly experience has proved to the satisfaction of river men that the winter harbor here is the safest on the upper river, and numbers of the river steamers are put on the ways at this city for repair every winter.
Many of Sioux City’s business men are interested in stock raising, mining, the fur trade, and other up-river enterprises, and their connection with the “up-country” forms a bond of union of great help to the trade of the city. Several hundred thousand bushels of corn and oats are sent every summer to points further up the Missouri, and more than half the immense out-put of the pork packing establishment finds a market in the same quarter, while the growth of the wholesale trade of our merchants in these parts has kept steady pace with the growth of this newest portion of the new Northwest.
During the winter of 1878, Congress made an appropriation for the improvement of the river, and the protection of the levee at Sioux City, and has, each subsequent winter, made further appropriations for carrying on the work. The first systematic attempt to prevent the encroachment of the river on our levee was made during the summer of 1879, by Major Yonge, of the United States Engineer Corps. The work has been carried on every season since with results, on the whole, satisfactory. The banks on either side now appears to be permanently fixed, and much valuable data has been obtained that will be of use when the improvement of the entire river below Sioux City is attempted, by government, as it evidently will be in the near future.
Source: Woodbury County Iowa, History of Western Iowa, 1882