Edwin Peters (1836-1917) was an early Sioux City promoter, developer and speculator. He is perhaps best known for developing and promoting the area of the city known as Morningside.
Peters was born on a farm in Pennsylvania October 23, 1836. He graduated from the National Law School of Poughkeepsie, New York when he was just 21 years of age. After a move to Niagara Falls, he spent a year with the law office of A. P. Floyd. Then, in 1861, President Lincoln appointed Peters to the position of deputy United States Marshall. Later, he was commissioned Deputy Collector of Customs at Niagara Falls. While in Niagara Falls, Peters married Sarah Scott and also developed a growing interest in insurance and real estate.
During the spring of 1870, Peters left Niagara Falls and came to Sioux City to take a position with the bank of Weare and Allison. While at the bank, Peters continued his interest in the insurance business. Soon, he joined with George Murphy in purchasing the insurance branch of the bank and together they opened the first savings bank in Sioux City
During one of his frequent walks near the city, Peters discovered a lovely parcel of land southwest of the city limits. He became captivated by the area and recognized its potential. So, just the second year after his arrival in Sioux City, Peters bought the 300-400 acre tract at a cost of $7 to $10 an acre. With a group of others who had come with him from Niagara Falls, Peters built a house on the site and established the settlement he named Morning Side.
Peters promptly bought an additional 120 acres and built the house his family would call home until 1892. The land eventually became part of what is now Morningside College and the house served as a campus building.
Unfortunately, not long after opening his insurance business and establishing Morningside, Peters suffered a head injury, which left him unable to work for nearly four years. In 1877, he traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he had an appointment as the first treasurer of Pennington County. Later, he was commissioned there as a probate judge.
Peters did not stay long in the Black Hills, however. Just one year later, in 1878, he came back to Sioux City to stay. He returned to his home in Morningside and devoted much of his time to the development of the suburb. Many prominent Sioux City families established homes in Morningside, including the Garretsons, Jacksons and Pelletiers.
Peters helped establish the Sioux City Rapid Transit Company, becoming its president in 1888. In 1890, that company began construction of the Elevated Railroad, an elevated and ground railway system that provided convenient access to the developing suburb of Morningside. He was also involved in the founding of the University of the Northwest in Morningside, which eventually became Morningside College. He became a vice president and chairman of the executive committee. The University purchased part of the Peters estate for its campus.
The Peters family lost most of their fortune in the Financial Panic of 1893. In later years Peters recalled, "Before the crash, we were millionaires. If I had turned my holdings in Morningside three months before the bubble broke I would have been worth upwards of $1,500,000. After the crash I was penniless. I was wiped out, and I found paper on my hands that left me $7000 in debt."
Despite the heavy losses, Peters stayed in Sioux City and worked hard to repay all of his debts. He continued to be a respected leader in the community.
In an article celebrating Peters' 80th birthday, the Sioux City Journal stated, "Besides being the father of Morningside, Mr. Peters might also be termed the father of the park movement in Sioux City." He was head of the Park Commission that presented Grandview Park to the city in 1908