SIOUX CITY | In 1882, 21-year-old George M. Kellogg's running abilities landed him a job on Sioux City's volunteer fire department.
In the 1880s, firefighters pulled hose carts by hand. Being fleet of foot was one of the requirements to be accepted as a volunteer. The firefighters could run rapidly while pulling the hose cart to a fire. Kellogg continued to work at Standard Oil while working as a volunteer.
In 1889, a city councilman asked Kellogg if he would be interested in heading the department. He accepted and the council named him Sioux City's first paid chief engineer, then the title for the chief's position.
The legendary Kellogg reigned as chief for 50 years from 1889 to 1939 -- longer than anyone else in Sioux City or the United States, according to research done by current Fire Chief Tom Everett.
"He really was the guy who ushered us from the horse era to the motorized era," Everett said.
The department created the Chief George M. Kellogg Atrium in Fire Station No. 4, at 3109 Dearborn Blvd. The mini-museum contains a commemorative button from Kellogg's retirement party in 1939, his badge from near the end of his career and a number of photographs. But the department didn't have anything dating to early in Kellogg's fledgling career -- until last month.
On Christmas Eve, George Lindblade found an early chief engineer's badge belonging to Kellogg for sale on eBay. Lindblade and his wife, Lou Ann, own G.R. Lindblade & Co., a well-known documentary film and photography business.
"I usually look at eBay every morning to see if there is any Sioux City historical memorabilia for sale," he said.
After spotting the 1890s-era gold badge, he contacted Jim Jung, chairman of the city Historic Preservation Commission.
"I've always been a collector and in recent years, I've become interested in preservation. It doesn't have to be a house or building," Jung explained. "This badge was a big historical piece."
He contacted the seller, a collector of historic memorabilia in New Hampshire.
"He had no idea of the history of this badge. I felt let's bring this badge back home, and bought it."
Jung declined to say how much he paid for the badge, except to say it cost more than $100.
Lindblade discovered the badge was manufactured by the C. G. Braxmar Co. in New York state. The department paid $35 for Kellogg's gold-plated badge -- a large sum in the day when firefighters' badges cost 75 cents.
"Kellogg never wore the badge on his uniform," Lindblade said. "I think he carried it around in his pocket. He often is pictured in his uniform with all the buttons."
Jung presented the badge to Everett and the department during a ceremony on Jan. 28 -- the 153rd anniversary of Kellogg's birth at the atrium that carries his name.
Kellogg was born Jan. 28, 1861, in the small farming town of Farley, Iowa, near Dubuque. He was the oldest son of George W. and Sarah Ellen (McMillan) Kellogg. The following year, the family attempted to move west, but returned to Farley because of reports of Indian wars. In 1863, they traveled in an ox cart, settling near Sioux City in Union County, S.D., and living in a log cabin.
When he was 24, George married Mary Edna Jackson in 1895. They lived for years at 313 Center St., and in later years, Kellogg lived at 3409 Nebraska St. The records mention the couple had one son, George, Jr., an attorney for International Harvester in Chicago. Chief Kellogg's brother, Frank, joined the fire department at some point and rose to the rank of captain.
By 1912, he had been chief for 23 years. Apparently, some at City Hall thought it was time for him to go. The council suggested it would give him a raise to an annual salary of $1,800 if he agreed to retire in two years. Kellogg took the money, but 1914 came and went and he didn't step down.
He retired at the age of 78 and died six years later, in 1945, at age 84.
The department formed the Sioux City Fire Historical Foundation to help raise money to buy historical artifacts. Last summer, the foundation paid about $60 to purchase a Sioux City fire captain's helmet from the 1930s-1940s discovered at a local flea market. Anyone finding artifacts or wishing to donate to the foundation should contact Everett at 712-279-6314.