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Students investigate Sioux City’s past in college course

June 9, 2018

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Hallie Misiaszek knows a good scandal when she sees one.

That’s why the Morningside College criminal science and social behavioral major has been investigating the seedier side of Sioux City’s infamous past.

Plus Misiaszek is getting credit for it.

The Mitchell, South Dakota, native is one of the students who enrolled in “Sex, Drugs & Sioux City: An Exploration of Community Scandals,” a Morningside May Term class which examines a variety of social, political and economic scandals that all took place on or around Pearl Street between the 1880s and the 1980s.

“I had no idea that Sioux City had such a colorful past,” Misiaszek told the Sioux City Journal . “It’s giving me an entirely new perspective on the community.”

According to Morningside political science assistant professor Valerie Hennings, the 1886 murder of Prohibition-minded preacher George C. Haddock on the corner of Third and Water streets put a spotlight on Sioux City’s outlaw past.

In addition, the 1954 brutal murder of two children stirred up a public paranoia and rampant homophobia that led to the arrests of 20 Sioux City men whom authorities never claimed had anything to do with the crime.

“A scandal can reflect the attitude of a city,” Hennings explained. “It can also have a short-term or long-term effect on communities.”

Student Amber Callahan said the city’s rough image in the late 19th century can be attributed to the fact that the economy was built around the Missouri River.

“The river brought some interesting characters and interesting types of businesses to town,” she explained. “At one point, Sioux City had more bars than it had churches.”

A biology and pre-med major, Callahan utilized old newspapers and archived material from the Sioux City Public Museum and the Sioux City Public Library to assist in her research.

“We had to go ‘old school’ when digging up information,” she said. “You couldn’t really Google the stuff we were after.”

What was the weirdest piece of information that Callahan’s research turned up?

“There was the story of a man who walked into a Pearl Street saloon and discovered what he thought was an oversize grape lying on the ground,” she remembered. “The grape turned out to be an eye that had just been gouged out of somebody’s skull.”

That morbid little anecdote will be perfect for the “Scandals of Sioux City” walking tour the class will present at the final project of the four-week class.

The tour project will involve creating a brochure, a map and a script based upon research done by the 17-person class.

This includes a talk on Pearl Street brothels and a visit to Dead Man’s Corner, which earned its nickname due to a unusually large number of murders occurring there.

“Dead Man’s Corner was actually Second and Douglas Street,” chemistry and biology major Rylee Frake said, nonchalantly. “You can’t see it anymore but it was located where the back of the Tyson Events Center is.”

Hennings said that the course was designed to provide students with an opportunity to learn about events that happened in Sioux City that may not necessarily be a source of pride for the community. Still, the incidents remain important because they represent the development of the city.

Such stories surprised nonprofit management major Sarah Schwartz.

“I’m from Le Mars and should’ve already know some of these stories but I didn’t,” she said with a smile. “Who knew Sioux City’s history was so juicy?”

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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