Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sioux City History and Culture by Bicycle Part 78: Perry Creek

Since 1892 Sioux City residents have had a love and hate relationship with Perry Creek. Residents used to and still love to use the creek for recreation. People used to wade and possibly even fish and now people bicycle, walk and run along the bank on the new trail. They also used to love to dump their garbage along the bank of the creek.

Residents also have hated every time creek would flood and overflow it's banks. When ever that happened it left nothing but devastation behind. The creek flooded a total of 22 times between 1892 and 1990 Over the last +100 years the creek has undergone many changes. Here is a chronological history of Perry Creek with photo's and stories of those who knew and know the creek well. The source of information on the creek is the Sioux City Journal, the Sioux City Public Museum and the Sioux City History web site. The stories, titled Perry Creek Stories are from peoples accounts of what they remember from when the creek would flood. The stories were collected for the Perry Creek Festival.

Not every flood will be posted about here. Just the most notable ones.

1892 to 1908
Perry Creek did flood during this 16 year time span. No information is known on the damage or devastation it caused.

Perry Creek Story #1 - 1908
From the May 28, 1908 Sioux City Tribune

Swelled by enormous rainfalls the waters of Perry Creek rushed over its banks last night about 1 0'clock and rapidly inundated many residence blocks on the West side. The family of J.C. Skakel, an employee of Bruen's potato chip factory, occupied a house nearest the banks and did not awake until the tables anc chairs in the lower rooms began to float around. The water rose so rapidly that within a half hour the the house was flooded to the ceiling, the family taking to the second floor for safety. The police did not reach the family without the aid of a boat. Patrolman Danielson, Nicholson, Ohlund, Colvin, James and Lester were sent in search of a row boat and returned with on about 3 o'clock. In the interim the water had continued to rise and the people were leaning out of the upper windows, pleading to the spectators who lined the banks to save them. The family of five were taken out of ht house, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Skakel and three small children, Maggie, George and Curtis. With the heavily loaded boat it seemed almost impossible to pull back across the waters of Perry Creek but with the assistance of Patrolmen, Ohlund and Lester, who waded waist deep in the stream, the landing was made.

Perry Creek Flood of 1909

In 1934, a drought had spread over the Midwest. June 6, the drought broke in the Siouxland area with the arrival of heavy rains. The rains continued heavy from Wednesday afternoon until Friday. By late Wednesday, the creek had overflowed its banks in several areas of the city. The Country Club area, Fifteenth and Hamilton, and Twelfth and Sioux Street were the hardest hit. Like the 1892 Floyd flood, a wall of water rolled into the city forcing the evacuation of 350 families from their homes. The Fourth Street business area was covered with water from Clark to the creek. By the time the water receded more than 600 families had been forced from their homes. Twenty-five homes had been totally destroyed. One home had been ripped from its foundation and floated down the creek, through the conduit, and out into the Missouri. Thankfully no one was killed but damage to property was substantial: estimated to be between three and five hundred thousand dollars.

Perry Creek Story #2 - 1944
Oral History Interview with Alvina Guinther

Alvina Guinther called the Sioux City Public Museum in July of 2007 to give a short account of her memories of the 1944 Perry Creek Flood. In the end, Alvina stated, "Everything turned out all right", even though it must have been a frightening ordeal for this single mother of four young children. "I lived at 822 Omaha. I would run from my house to the creek every so often (on July 7th) to watch the water rising in the creek. When it came up on the bridge I knew it was time to call a cab and leave. I took my children to a hotel on Fourth Street." Alvina was fortunate that the water did not damage her belonging that she had left behind when they fled to flood waters. So everything did turn out all right for Alvina and her children, although many other people lost a great deal. Fortunately no one lost their life in the 1944 Perry Creek Flood, however two men died in the 1909 Perry Creek Flood.

Perry Creek Story #3 - 1944
Italian POWs in Sioux City

After the Perry Creek Flood of July 12, 1944 Sioux City desperately needed help cleaning up the streets, houses and yards. On July 28, a military detachment from the U.S. Army 7th Service Command in Omaha, brought in around 40 WWII Italian Prisoners of War to clean the mud out of basements in Sioux City. The prisoners were detained at West Junior High School while they weren't working. In just 30 days they had cleaned out over 160 basements. While in Sioux City POWs were the center of attention for many curious on-lookers, especially teen-age girls, who would watch them from the fence around West Junior High School. Martha Simmons, a volunteer at the Sioux City Public Museum, said that she didn't get as crazy about the POWs as did her older sister and friends. She does remember the large POW sewn or printed on their shirts.

Martha remembers other incidents that happened during the flood. Martha's sister was trying to walk home from her night shift at the Sioux City Battery Co. during the flood by wading across West 7th Street. She realized too late the current was stronger then she anticipated as she was being swept down the street by the rushing water. All of a sudden, a man who had been watching her attempt to cross W. 7th street came to her aid and pulled her to safety. Martha also remembers going to Robert's Dairy where they had set up a room for people to get typhoid shots. "The babies just cried that night because their arms hurt from the shot and it was so hot. And the smell was so awful after the flood", Martha recalls. "People filled their old cisterns in their yards with debris from the houses and yards".

In 1949, Sioux City had avoided a spring flood by dynamiting ice jams on the Floyd River north of the city. The September 11 flood caught everyone by surprise. Yet another heavy rain caused rapid rise in the creek overflowing its banks. Sewers that emptied into the creek backed up flooding many basements. Many basements in the Crescent Park area had more than three feet of water standing in them. Part of the newly constructed Gordon Drive was washed away.

The last time Perry Creek flooded was in 1990. The damage and devastation was no less then any other time in the past when it had flooded. What was different however is this time it was finally decided something had to be done to tame the creek. The city leaders of the time got together with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin to discuss what was needed to make this happen. The money was raised and a 4 phase plan was put together to reconstruct the Perry Creek Channel for better flood control. The project cost $97 million and was finally finished in 2008.

Read the story about the newly completed project here:
$97 million flood control tames Perry Creek

Perry Creek Story #4 - 1990
Up from the Floods: A Tale of Two Neighborhoods
by: Tim Orwig
Reprinted from the 4th Street Review

What had been my basement study was now unrecognizable. Slimy mud covered everything: bookcases filled with books, the veneered library table, boxes o butterfly specimens, snapshots from my trip to South America, my journals. Almost everything was destroyed: tapes from my college radio show, Grandfather's shop cabinet, a classic Silvertone guitar with its amp case. My electric typewriter disappeared; can Smith Coronas float?

When our house was devastated in the 1990 Perry Creek flood, I learned the power of nature to change lives.

May 19th, 1990. Although it was a Friday night, I stayed home, watched television and listened to the torrential rain. We lived in the 1900 block of Geneva Street, a half a block from the Perry Creek. Around 9:00, I walked over to the W. 20th Street bridge. Another man was standing there, shining his flashlight into the dark waters below. They seemed just a yard or two from the bottom of the bridge, running very fast.

When I returned home, some water had seeped into the basement from the saturated ground. I began picking up the books and papers that littered the floor of my office, and setting them on my desk or the frezer. At 11:30, water covered the corner of W. 19th and Geneva, and began to fill the street. About midnight, it started overrunning the curbs, heading towards our house like a hooro movie monster. I drove Mother and the dogs to my sister's house, and returned with Scot, my sleepy nephew.

I loaded what I could in my little Toyota liftback: a computer I had borrowed, our family quilts and genealogy, an antique clock, the microwave and my camera. Water was rising faster. A loud crash was followed by a second, as the foundation buckled and the basement began filling with water. "We have to leave," Scot yelled. We left.

The weeks after the flood were very difficult. We cleaned muddy debris out of our basement and hauled trash to the curb. Family and friends helped us move our remaining belongings into storage. I still remember Phil Hey cursing good naturedly at all our heavy oak furniture. Finally the house stood empty. But even worse was the long proccess of rebuilding.

Perry Creek has not flooded since 1990. With the flood control that is now finished it should never flood again. There are state of the art sensors that line the bank that can close flood control gates to prevent the sewers and streets from being flooded. The channel has been made wider, deeper and no longer has the sharp bends and turns that contributed to the flooding of the past. All of the garbage people used to dump into the banks of the channel have been removed. This actually caused problems when ever it would flood. It would come lose and cause dams to form which helped the water over flow all that much more. There is also now a beautiful greenway that many plants and animals call home as well as a multi-use recreation trail. Perry Creek is much longer then the new flood control portion of it. The flood control/greenway/redesigned channel/trail goes from Hamilton and Stone PArk Blvd's south east into downtown. The creek continues underground at Wesley Pkwy and 6th Street while the trail follows until it bends east near the Battery Building terminating at Pierce behind Famous Daves Resteraunt.

Here are photo's of what the channel looks like today:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sioux City History and Culture by Bicycle Part 46: Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve (repost)

This is a repost of Part 46, the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve. I recently and finally got out there to take the photo's. I am glad I waited because I got a lot of the beautiful fall colors.

I deleted the original blog post. Here is the new one:

The Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve spans 1,500 acres along the Missouri River, this area was donated to the people of South Dakota in 1984 by Mary and Maud Adams, granddaughters of original homesteader Stephen Searl Adams. They envisioned the area as a place where others, particularly youth, could enjoy the land and learn more about the natural world surrounding them. Mary and Maud wanted to give others a "place for inner renewal."

The preserve also features several restored buildings, taking the visitor back in time. The Shay-Adams Home contains many of the original furnishings, and accompanied by a barn, country school and church, the area seems to come alive with history. Adams features more than 10 miles of trails that wind through prairie, forest and along the riverbank. And, with over 100 species of birds, a variety of native plants and a number of different animals, visitors are immersed in nature. Wildlife viewing blinds, the displays in the visitor center and nature programs all add to the experience.

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve