Old Missouri River Trail monument to get new plaque; park will clear path to monument

November 11, 2018

SIOUX CITY -- A long-abandoned stone monument in War Eagle Park is going to get some love from the Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department, as well as a new face and maybe a base.

Matt Salvatore, director of the department, said the city plans to clear an access path to the Old Missouri River Trail monument, a small gray boulder in a thicket on the eastern side of War Eagle Park. He said the soft-surface trail, which would be perhaps 100 yards long, could be finished before the end of the year or perhaps this winter.

The Sioux City Daughters of the American Revolution built the monument in the late 1920s to commemorate the Old Missouri River Trail, which had been used by local Native Americans since at least the 19th century. Though the trail was once well-known among locals, the trail and stone marker were forgotten in the 20th century.

Earlier this year, Marta Nelson, the secretary of the Martha Washington Chapter of the DAR, began a search for the Old Missouri River Trail monument. Its location was revealed by former Sioux City Journal photographer Ed Porter after the Journal ran a story about the missing monument in May.

Porter had known about the stone for 30 or 40 years, but was not previously sure what it was. It sits amid overgrown plants and aging garbage adjacent to property owned by Jackson Recovery Centers.

After comparing drill holes in the stone’s face to the original blueprint for the monument’s bronze plaque, Sioux City Public Museum Archives Director Tom Munson came to the conclusion that the lonely boulder was indeed the monument. Comparing historic maps of the trail to modern topographic maps, he also concluded that the rock had never left the trash-strewn area where it now sits -- that area was likely an entrance to War Eagle Park in the 1920s.

With the monument discovered, Nelson reached out to the city this summer, and they agreed to a walking path to the monument. Salvatore said that the process of making a small path is not especially challenging -- mostly it’s just clearing plant growth and putting down a walking surface.

″(The Parks and Recreation Department) thought it was a wonderful idea, it would be more reason for people to visit War Eagle Park,” Nelson said.

The monument’s bronze plaque is long missing. But armed with the original 1920s plaque blueprints, DAR regent Elizabeth Rosenbaum found that the foundry that made the original plaque is still in business, and a brand-new duplicate was ordered. Rosenbaum also reached out to a local Native American representative for approval -- the land near War Eagle’s grave is considered sacred -- and they were given the go-ahead.

Meanwhile, Nelson seeks someone who can make a new concrete base for the monument, as the original is either gone or has worn away to nothing.

The Sioux City Historic Preservation Commission recommended the DAR apply for a Missouri River Historical Development grant to help pay for informational signage to explain the significance of the monument and the Old Missouri River Trail.

Finally, at some point in the future, it’d be nice to get the actual Old Missouri River Trail (or rather, a segment of it) marked so that it can be walked and enjoyed. But the other elements -- the new plaque, the small path to the marker, the new concrete base and some informative signage -- will probably come first.

“That might be a project for later,” Nelson said. “But, let’s get this part done first.”

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