ITS HISTORY AND TRADITION
F. L. EATON
A name known to everyone who has the slightest acquaintance with the
business history of Sioux City, Iowa, is that of the late Fred Laurine Eaton, whose death, on July 20, 1925, was considered an irreparable loss to the community. He filled a large place in the commercial and financial life of the city, and as an energetic, far-sighted man, whose judgment and discretion were seldom at fault and whose influence made for the substantial upbuilding of the locality honored by his citizenship, he earned a reputation second to none of his contemporaries. Fred L. Eaton, who at the time of his death was president and general manager of the Sioux City Stock Yards Company, was born at Calais, Washington county, Vermont, on the 10th of July, 1859, and was a son of
Arthur G. and Ellen M. (Chase) Eaton. He was the scion of a long line of sterling American ancestors, the progenitor of the family in this country having been John Eaton, who came from England in 1635. He settled first in Watertown
Massachusetts, but soon afterwards moved to Dedham, Massachusetts, and is known in the Eaton genealogy and in the records of old colonial families as John Eaton of Dedham. The subject of this memoir was of the ninth generation in direct descent from this ancestor. Arthur G. Eaton was a farmer in Washington county, Vermont, and became a soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, giving up his life in the service, when but twenty-six years of age. His widow later became the wife of John R. Seaver.
From his sixth year, Fred Laurine Eaton was reared at Montpelier, Vermont,
making his home with his maternal grandfather, Nelson A. Chase, who was a
farmer, but later turned his attention to manufacturing. He was made judge of
the probate court and afterwards became registrar of the probate court, which
office he held to the time of his death, at the age of eighty-two years. Fred
L. Eaton was given the advantage of a good public school education and during
these years served before and after school hours as a newspaper carrier.
Later he obtained work in a book store and in 1877 secured a clerkship in the
First National Bank of Montpelier. By faithful and intelligent service he
worked his way up to the position of teller and remained in that institution
until 1881, when he went to Barre, Vermont, to become cashier of the National
Bank of Barre. He filled that position four years and in 1885 returned to the
First National Bank of Montpelier as cashier, thus serving until 1894. He
then resigned and came to Sioux City, Iowa, as secretary and general manager of the Credit Commutation Company, which had been organized among the creditors of the Sioux City corporations which had failed in the disastrous panic of 1893, the aim of the organization being the rehabilitation of these concerns and the consequent protection of the investments of the incorporators,
representing some four million dollars. In the course of the readjustment an uncompleted bridge across the Missouri river was finished, at an approximate cost of a million dollars, which money was largely furnished by the creditors. A new company was formed known as the Combination Bridge Company, of which Mr. Eaton was made secretary and treasurer. He remained identified with that
company continuously after that, though the bridge was later owned by a new company, the Missouri River Bridge Company, of which also Mr.Eaton was secretary and treasurer.
In 1894 the Sioux City Stock Yards Company was formed by a reorganization of
the old Union Stock Yards Company, whose property the new company took over
in 1895. On the reorganization, Mr. Eaton was made secretary and treasurer,
serving as such until 1900, when he relinquished the treasurership. In 1901
he was made general manager and in 1903 the office of president was
conferred on him, so that he served as chief executive officer and general manager for twenty-two consecutive years, his service as such being terminated only by his death. Baring his administration of affairs for the stock yards company he attained national recognition as one of the most capable men in the stock yards industry. Many of the most important improvements in the yards here were adopted at his suggestion and in a large measure he realized his ambitions in the development of these yards, so that Sioux City became the second largest hog market in the world, it being generally conceded by live stock and
packing plant experts that great credit was due Mr. Eaton for making Sioux City the market center that it is today.
In 1895 Mr. Eaton was one of the organizers of the Live Stock National Bank,
of which institution he was made vice president and a member of the board of
directors. He was chosen president of the Sioux City Terminal Railway
Company on its organization in 1907, continuing in that capacity until his death.
He was president of the Iowa Rendering Company, president of the Hawkeye
Land Company, vice-president of the General Manufacturing Company and
vice-president of the Sioux City Telephone Company. In October, 1924, Mr. Eaton was elected president of the Sioux Falls (S. D.) Stock Yards Company on its reorganization, and just prior to his death was actively engaged in the development of the stock yards industry there. When the Sioux City Grain Exchange was organized he was elected its first president, serving in that capacity during the early period of the development of that organization. For twenty-one years prior to his voluntary retirement in 1924, Mr. Eaton had served as president of the Interstate Fair Association, being then elected chairman of its board of directors. His accomplishment in that position gave him a place of prominence among nationally-known officials of expositions. His development of the Boys' and Girls' club programs, and of the live stock exposition, both of which were leading features of the Interstate Fair, had earned for him commendation from both the state and federal departments of agriculture. At the time of his death he was one of the five remaining members of the National
Association of Fair Officials, organized in 1907. He was secretary of the first Chamber of Commerce organization in the city, and at the time of his death was vice-president and a director of that organization, which he had previously served as president. Considerable work was accomplished by Mr. Eaton in the development of inland waterways and in recognition of his eminent services in this direction he was made, just prior to his last illness, chairman of the Missouri river committee of the National Chamber of Commerce, and a director of the Mississippi Valley Association. In recognition of his magnificent work
for the development of Sioux City, he was awarded the Kiwanis Club medal for 1923, as the citizen who had done most for the city.
On October 15, 1884, at Barre, Vermont, Mr. Eaton was united in marriage to Miss Lillian Gale, who was born and reared at Barre, and they became the parents of two children: Lieut. Col. Stanley Gale Eaton, of Sioux City; and Dorothy, who is the wife of Edward C. Palmer, vice president of the Palmer Candy Company, of Sioux City. Stanley G. was married to Miss Sibyl Wright, of Montpelier, Vermont. The mother of these children died in 1917. Fraternally Mr. Eaton was a member of Aurora Lodge No. 2, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of Montpelier, Vermont, to which lodge his grandfather had also belonged;King Solomon Chapter, No. 7, Royal Arch Masons, of Montpelier; Montpelier Council, No. 4, Royal and Select Masters; Mt. Zion Commandery, No. 9, Knights Templar, of which he was a past commander; Sioux City Consistory, No. 5, Ancient
Accepted Scottish Rite; Abu-Bekr Temple, Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, with which order he had been identified for thirty-eight years; and Sioux City Lodge No. 112, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. He was
also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution,the Sons of Veterans, the Sioux City Country Club, the Morningside Country Club and the Sioux City Boat Club. His religious connection was with the First Unitarian church. In 1894, while still in Montpelier, Mr. Eaton was appointed a member of the staff of Governor Urban A. Woodbury, of Vermont, in which connection he gained the honorary title of Colonel. He was division commander of the Sons of
Veterans of Vermont. He had also served several years as city treasurer of Montpelier. Possessing a broad,inquiring mind, he was keenly alive to all the issues and problems of the day. Though modest and unassuming and easily approached, he possessed a strong and vigorous personality and in the best sense of the term was a leader of men and well fitted to manage important enterprises. Few were more sought for counsel than he and the correctness of his opinions in practical matters was almost proverbial. By a straight-forward and honorable course in every relation of life, he won the hearty admiration of the people of his adopted city and earned a reputation not only as an enterprising, progressive man of affairs, but also as a broad-minded, charitable and upright citizen.
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