“He was one of those far seeing men who, underneath their practical business exterior, looked into the future through the lens of imagination.” -- Daniel Hedges’ Sioux City Journal obituary
Charles Hedges, the older of the brothers, was born in Indiana in 1834. His family moved to Keokuk, Iowa. Then, he and his father came to Sioux City in 1857, and Charles became a partner with J. Bosler in a private bank. Charles immediately became involved in the community. He was quickly named as county treasurer and recorder, a position he held from 1857 to 1861.
Daniel Hedges arrived in Sioux City shortly after his brother. Born in Indiana in 1838, Daniel also moved to Keokuk and then to Sioux City. At first, Daniel worked in his brother’s bank, Bosler and Hedges. Then Charles and Daniel began to partner in their many successful enterprises.
Charles Hedges was appointed as supplier to the Yankton Agency. He lived there part of the time until 1868 when he moved back to Sioux City permanently.
The Hedges Brothers were very successful and well regarded in Sioux City. Records indicate that their annual business in some years amounted to $600,000. (That is equal to nearly six million today.) They were very involved in community affairs and they were known for giving personal attention to all of their enterprises.
Because of their close involvement with the community, everyone in Sioux City was deeply shocked and saddened by the untimely death of Charles Hedges in 1877. He was in the Dakota Territory, helping to move a herd of five thousand cattle. On a Thursday morning, he left the group and headed for the Brule Agency forty miles away, saying he would send back supplies on Friday. When he did not return and the supplies did not come, a search began. They found his wagon and horses, and his body was found on the prairie nearby. Twenty-one dollars and a silver watch were still in his pockets. It appeared that he was killed from an accidental discharge of his own revolver. His hat was found nearby with a bullet hole in it. The men buried him on the spot while they awaited instructions from Sioux City.
A delegation from Sioux City, headed by Col. James Sawyers, proceeded to bring Charles’ body back home. Sawyers brought along a large zinc casket which could carry the wooden coffin in which Hedges was originally buried. They brought him overland to the Missouri River, then by boat to Yankton. Then, his body was placed on the Dakota Southern train to Sioux City. Upon his arrival in town, a procession escorted his body to his business office in the Booge Block for overnight. His funeral was scheduled for the next day.
On the day of the funeral, the whole town was in mourning and businesses in Sioux City were closed in the afternoon as a sign of respect. The Sioux City Band, playing a funeral dirge, led the procession from the Hedges’ offices. Next came the hearse, followed by two ministers, Mayor Jackson, the city council (of which Hedges had been a member), the four units of the volunteer fire department, and a group of citizens walking four abreast.
The procession ended at Daniel Hedges’ home at 518 Jackson Street. The funeral was held in the yard, and Charles was temporarily buried in a corner of the yard. He was later reburied in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Sioux City Journal reported that the funeral was the largest ever known in this part of the country, and they estimated that 2,500 people attended.
The city council met in special session to decide on official action in regard to Hedges’ death. They passed several resolutions in his honor, including: “Resolved, that in his death, Sioux City has lost one of her best and ablest men, and one whose energy and ability has given in a great measure life and vitality to our young city.”
After his brother’s death, Daniel Hedges continued in the businesses the brothers had started together. The first meetings for the corn palaces were held in his offices and he became very involved with their development. He served one term as mayor. He had a great interest in making Sioux City an important hog and cattle market and was the first president of the Union Stockyards Company. He was very interested in the railroads and was involved with rail expansion in the area. With John Peirce, he developed the north side of Sioux City, grading hills, installing miles of sidewalks, and building the cable car line to 40th and Jackson. He was a promoter of the combination bridge and was involved in building the elevated railway.
Hedges was a wealthy and respected man in the community and one of the few millionaires in Iowa. For most of his years in Sioux City, he and his family lived in an elegant home at the southwest corner of Sixth and Jackson Streets. They later built a beautiful home at 2803 Jackson.
The Financial Panic of 1893 signaled the end of the boom years in Sioux City and the end of Hedges fortune. The failure of the Union Loan and Trust Company left Hedges virtually penniless, and he moved to California in July of that year. The Sioux City Journal wrote: “The reverse was hard for him to bear, and it was to get away from the memory that haunted him, as much as anything else, that he left Sioux City.” He died in San Francisco ten years later in 1903.
Marks, Constant R, editor. Past and Present of Sioux City and Woodbury County, Iowa,
S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1904, Chicago.
Sioux City Journal, August 16, 1877: August 29, 1877, August 30, 1877; May 2, 1903
Hedges Brothers biography file, Sioux City Public Museum Research Center