The Sergeant Floyd plied the Missouri River for more than 40 years as a workhorse for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, moving men, equipment and supplies.
The vessel set navigation buoys, assisted in dredging operations and carried Army engineers and visiting legislators on inspection tours. During those years, it became a familiar sight along the Missouri.
The venerable boat was launched at the Howard Shipyards in Jeffersonville, Ind., on May 31, 1932.
The remarkable journey of that vessel and how it ended up in Sioux City will be part of an 80th anniversary open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Sergeant Floyd River Museum & Welcome Center, at 1000 Larsen Park Road. The first 80 visitors will receive door prizes.
"Because we are a welcome center and museum located on a boat, we get a lot of comments from visitors that they’ve never seen anything like this,” manager Kathy Meisner said. “And, we’re free. “
By the mid-1970s, technology had changed and the Corps of Engineers didn’t need the Sergeant Floyd for river work. It was on the verge of being decommissioned in 1975 when Congress authorized its conversion as a floating bicentennial exhibit touring the inland and Gulf Intracoastal waterways.
When that mission was over, Sioux City leaders tried to obtain the boat, with former councilman Stanley Evans leading those efforts.
According to Journal archives, in 1983 then-City Manager J.R. Castner said, “At a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce office to discuss the lack of service at the Sioux City Airport, I was called out for a telephone call from Congressman Berkley Bedell’s office. They told me that the Corps of Engineers had given the Sergeant Floyd boat to the City of Sioux City. I went back to the meeting and said we have an airport that can’t fly, and now we have a Navy!"
NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, a South Dakota native, helped dedicate the boat on July 29, 1983. In 1989, the boat was declared a national historic landmark.
In retrospect, it would seem the vessel was destined to find its final home on Sioux City’s riverfront because of its namesake -- Sgt. Charles Floyd. He died Aug. 20, 1804, in what was to become Sioux City, the only member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition to die during the voyage.
The museum features replicas of riverboats crafted by the boat’s first manager, Blair Chicoine. The late Strode Hinds, a Lewis and Clark historian, helped Chicoine make the exhibits.
A 1990 Journal story quoted Chicoine as saying, “River traffic is why Sioux City became Sioux City. Until railroads came in, the river was the only feasible way to move passengers and freight. It was the only way to supply fur trading posts and later the Gold Rush and the military.”
In addition to the riverboats, the museum is filled with maps, historic photographs, Lewis & Clark information and a life-sized model of Floyd.
The boat also is a designated a welcome center for the states of Nebraska and Iowa.
Unlike a year ago, when the boat had to close for four months due to historic Missouri River flooding, the visitors are back.
“Our traffic is up now,” Meisner said. “It’s good to be back and helping people.”