Plat of Floyd's Bluff
Date: c. 1910
Description: This is a copy of the plat of a town called Floyd’s Bluff, collected by O. B. Talley. Floyd’s Bluff was the common name for the town, but to its founder, William Thompson, it would always be known as Thompsontown. Thompson was a frontiersman from Illinois, and was well known as a man of “great stature” with an attitude to match. He was the first white settler in Woodbury County, building a cabin at the foot of the bluff where Sergeant Charles Floyd was buried, between the bluff and the river. Predicting that area would be a virtual gold mine for settlement, he staked out a townsite in the area surrounding its cabin and called it Thompsontown. It was officially platted in 1853 according to a survey done by Alex Anderson, and the original plat looked very similar to this map. When John Cook and his contemporaries came to the area they tried to buy the townsite from him, but Thompson stubbornly refused to sell, anticipating his own fast-growing settlement. In reality Thompsontown was only home to a few Frenchmen and their families. It lost the county seat to the new boomtown of Sioux City in 1856. The bluffs on which Thompsontown was built were too steep for cultivation or building and this hindered the town’s growth.
Thompson had a reputation as a colorful character, fiercely independent and protective of his land. He held contempt for the Native Americans and for the law, as he claimed he had been here before there ever was a law. His attitude ultimately got him into trouble, as the area’s first settler was also its first murderer. A disagreement broke out between Thompson and Major Norwood, a French agent to the Native Americans in the area, over a girl named Sophia Menard. The disagreement erupted into violence and Thompson eventually struck the major over the head with his rifle, killing him. The case was tried in three different counties, where Thompson was either declared innocent or no one cared to prosecute him further (the records are unclear about the court proceedings). Thompson lived out the remainder of his life in his town, but when he died the town largely died with him. Little trace of it remains, and the land where it had once stood has now been absorbed by Sioux City.
Donor: O. B. Talley Historical Manuscripts (various donors)