SIOUX CITY | When he was a kid, George D. Perkins expected to become a farmer near his hometown of Baraboo, Wis.
If he had pursued that dream, the history of Sioux City and its mainstay newspaper, the Sioux City Journal, would have read much differently. Instead, he and his brother, Henry, purchased the weekly Journal in 1869 and a year later turned it into an award-winning daily.
Four generations of the Perkins family members owned and published the paper for more than a century, from 1869 to 1971, when it was sold. Thus, the history of the Sioux City Journal is by and large the story of the Perkins family.
George Perkins went on to a political career, including a stint in the Iowa Senate and 12 years in the U.S. Congress. Each generation of the family became involved in civic affairs and became community leaders.
His farming idea was linked to the death of his father, a lawyer, in 1852 in Baraboo, when the young George was 12. (George was born in 1840 in New York state.) He had an older brother and younger siblings.
Because his mother needed help to support the family, older brother Henry Perkins went to work as a printer. George got a job helping a farmer for $10 a month -- hence his goal to become a farmer. He lasted six months. That's when he went to work for Henry in his printing company, earning $1 a week.
His newspaper career began in 1860, at the age of 20, when he and Henry moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to publish the Gazette. During the Civil War, George enlisted as a private in the 31st Iowa Infantry but never saw battle because he became dangerously ill. He was discharged in 1863 and returned to Cedar Falls to help his brother.
In 1866, the brothers moved to Chicago, where they opened a gummed label house. George also became an agent of the Northwestern Associated Press. In 1869, a friend stopped in Chicago on his way home to Washington, D.C., from Sioux City and told the brothers of the opportunity to buy the Journal from Mahlon Gore.
They bought the weekly in April 1869. Two months later, George married Louise Julien, and they moved to Sioux City. Eventually Henry and his wife sold his printing business in Chicago and moved to Sioux City.
The first issue of the daily Journal was published on April 19, 1870. The daily editions met with success, with the Perkinses expanding circulation, advertising and news coverage and opening an office supply store. Eventually, the family would start radio station KSCJ, for K-Sioux City Journal.
Henry took over the business end, including Perkins Bros. office company, while their younger sister, Libby Perkins Boehmier, worked at the office supply store and as the Journal's society editor for many years.
A. B. Funk of Long Beach, Calif., former editor of the Spirit Lake (Iowa) Beacon, wrote in the paper's 1939 anniversary edition, in The Journal, "George D. soon proved himself a formidable factor in the discussion of political and public affairs. In common with most of the greater editors of the period, he had a background of meager opportunity, coming into editorial leadership through intimacy with the printer's stick and rule. ... From the beginning The Journal was in the news columns as enterprising as practical, but its chief appeal was its editorial page, sound in judgment."
Being editor and publisher wasn't enough for George. In 1873, he was elected on the Republican ticket to represent Northwest Iowa in the Iowa Senate. He served as commissioner of immigration for the state of Iowa for two years, and in 1882, President Chester A. Arthur named him U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Iowa. He served until 1885, when President Grover Cleveland ousted Republican office holders. He served in Congress for 12 years and lost a highly contested bid for Iowa governor in 1906.
After he died in 1914, his son-in-law, William Sammons, was named publisher. He had married the Perkinses' daughter, Clara. Sammons served as publisher from 1914 until 1944. Upon his death, W. R. Perkins took over until he died in 1962.
That is when Sammons' daughter Elizabeth Sammons -- George Perkins' granddaughter --was named publisher. She served in that role until Hagadone Corp. and Howard Publications bought the newspaper in 1971. Her sister, Louise Sammons Freese, was a secretary and director of Perkins Bros., wrote a weekly book column for 20 years called "The Timekeeper" and served on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission. Freese had two daughters and seven granddaughters.
Her daughter Julie Freese Goodson was a respected reporter for the newspaper, and Goodson's husband, Ray, also wrote for the paper. Their daughters are Gretchen Goodson, of Big Fork, Mont., and her two daughters; Gale Goodson, of Spirit Lake, Iowa; Gigi Goodson, of Sioux City; and Virginia "Ginger" Goodson, of Arcadia, Calif., and her son and daughter.
Freese's other daughter, Margaret "Marne" Fischer, had three daughters: Lucy Linder, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Susan Clavin, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Julie Herring, of Broomfield, Colo., and her son.
"It was always fun to be a part of the family that owned the Journal," said Gigi Goodson. "I'm always pleased when someone mentions my parents or the family's names."