Special Report: “Little Chicago”

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In the late 1800s, the streets of Sioux City looked like something straight out of old spaghetti western.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – What Sioux City is today is, in many ways, very different than it used to be. In the late 1800s, the streets of Sioux City looked like something straight out of old spaghetti western.

Sioux City was growing in the 1880s, and with that growth came a lot of illegal activity. That lead to a famous unsolved murder and a whole lot more.

“1880s Sioux City is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. It’s a pretty wild place,” said Tom Munson, with the Sioux City Public Museum.

Sioux City, nicknamed “Little Chicago” back then, was a center for growth and crime.

“The state of Iowa passes a prohibition law prohibition of alcohol similar to the prohibition law that was around in the 1920s that which we might be more familiar,” said Munson.

“Little Chicago” however decided to openly defy the new law to continue to gain income from alcohol sales. That is until the Reverand George C. Haddock came to Sioux City in 1885.

“He’s not a very well-liked guy,” said Munson.

Haddock came with a mission to remove all the illegal alcohol from Sioux City.

“They don’t want Haddock here they don’t want their beer to go away,” said Munson.

Franz Brewing Company and Rudolf Selzer were the two breweries in Sioux City at the time. Neither hid their disdain for Haddock.

“He is confronted by a group and from that group, a shot is fired. Haddox falls to the street and died,” said Munson.

It was a shot heard around the country.

“This is really bad publicity for Sioux City to have a minister gunned down in the street. There are headlines in newspapers across the country, ‘Does God rule or the Devil in Sioux City?’ Yikes,” said Munson.

John Arensdorf was the first man to stand trial for Haddock’s murder. He was the foreman of the Franz Brewing Company.

“After one of the Arensdorf’s trials, there is a great photo of Arensdorf hanging out with his jury. Maybe the jury was tainted by Arensdorf somehow, I don’t know,” said Munson.

The second person to stand trial was Fred Munchrath Jr. a reputed member of the mob, Munchrath was convicted but spent only 3 months in prison before having his sentence suspended.

After that, Sioux City was as dry as the rest of Iowa.

“The state really started pushing harder against saloon owners. Saloons shut down, the breweries shut down, but not for long,” said Munson.

Both of the breweries jumped the river to Covington, what is today known as South Sioux City.

“What they ended up setting up in Covington were kind of ramshackle sheds. I mean really anything they can do,” said Munson.

If you look closely around Sioux City, you’ll find some of these historic spots.

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino sits on the land where Haddock was murdered 133 years ago.

“He would not have approved of that,” said Munson.

Just across the street from the Hard Rock sits a memorial to Haddock. Ironically, on the land where the Franz Brewing Co. once stood.

These days, of course, alcohol is again legal in Sioux City. In fact, downtown is home to a number of bars, micro-breweries, and a growing nightlife, but it’s far from the streets of old.

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