SIOUX CITY | David Bernstein knew about the history behind State Steel's building at 208 Court St.
He knew one of the buildings State Steel now occupies dates to 1883 and housed Sioux City Linseed Oil Works, once one of the largest linseed oil mills in the United States.
But what Bernstein, one of State Steel's owners, didn't know until informed by a reporter was that the man behind the linseed oil business received a Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Civil War.
"I wasn't really aware of the personal story of the folks who built the company," Bernstein said. "I think it's even more intriguing and awe-inspiring now that I know that."
Few Sioux Cityans probably know that three Medal of Honor recipients have called Sioux City home.
Many could name Col. Bud Day, who died in July and was awarded his Medal of Honor for his bravery after being a POW for more than five years in Vietnam. Sioux City's airport and a segment of Sixth Street bear his name.
But the names Thomas Parke Gere and Edward Burson Spalding are a couple of stumpers.
"If you said one of these names to anyone on the street, nobody's going to know who T.P. Gere and E.B. Spalding were," said Tom Munson, an archival clerk at the Sioux City Public Museum.
Both men were Civil War veterans born elsewhere. Gere hailed from Minnesota, Spalding from Illinois.
Gere was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing the battle flag of the 4th Mississippi Infantry on Dec. 16, 1864, at the Battle of Brentwood Hills near Nashville, Tenn. He moved to Sioux City 18 years after the war and opened his linseed oil company in 1883. Gere also became involved in the Sioux City & Northern Railroad, and that line that stretches north from Sioux City into South Dakota is now part of a Union Pacific route.
"He came here and was really a quite successful businessman," Munson said.
Spalding arrived in Sioux City in 1864 to work for the Army quartermaster department. He received his Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, also known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee, where he was wounded in the left shoulder and hand on April 6, 1862.
"Although twice wounded, and thereby crippled for life, Sergeant Spalding remained fighting in open ground to the close of the battle," his Medal of Honor citation said.
After his discharge from the Army, Spalding stayed here and became a successful lawyer, banker and businessman.
Though Gere's former linseed oil plant still stands, there is nothing in Sioux City that bears his name, Munson said.
Spalding's name should be quite familiar.
His family gave the city 80 acres of land that became known as Spalding Park. Over the years, some of that land along Gordon Drive was sold for commercial development. Eventually, the park became the site of Spalding Park Elementary School, which opened a year ago at 4101 Stone Ave.
Sioux City Community Schools communications director Alison Benson said the school was named in honor of the Spalding family, but the fact the namesake was a Medal of Honor recipient was news to her. Spalding Park Elementary principal Mimi Moore said she, too, had not known that her school bears the name of a Medal of Honor recipient.
Now knowing the history behind the name, Moore said she'd like to gather information about Spalding and create a display at the school so students and parents will know that history, too.
"It would be nice if we could honor him," Moore said.
Given both men died so long ago -- Gere in 1912, Spalding in 1920 -- it's not surprising memories of them have faded. The museum has no photos of Spalding, Munson said, and only one of Gere. History buffs can visit Spalding's grave in Sioux City's Floyd Cemetery. Gere is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Munson said people are always surprised to learn of Sioux City's two other Medal of Honor recipients during presentations he gives to service organizations and other groups.
Surprised, but also proud to know that three Medal of Honor recipients have called Sioux City home. It's a bit of history Sioux Cityans should take pride in, Munson said.
"I think that's pretty significant," Munson said.