george-haddock Courtesy photo
The Reverend George C. Haddock

Rev. George C. Haddock


Reverend George C. Haddock
56 YOA
Corner of 3rd and Water streets
Sioux City, IA
Woodbury County
August 3, 1886


Just after 10 p.m. on August 3, 1886, prohibitionist preacher George Haddock of Sioux City, Iowa, was shot as he left his buggy at the stables. He lay dead in the gutter on the southwest corner of 3rd and Water streets.

It’s not as if Sioux Cityans didn’t know who killed the 56-year-old minister; a number of individuals witnessed the shooting.

Officials identified the trigger man as John Arensdorf, the foreman of a local brewing company, though also interviewed others they believed were responsible for Haddock’s death.

Arensdorf was charged with first-degree murder, but the first trial ended with a hung jury. Despite testimony by several eyewitnesses, jury members found Arensdorf not guilty at his second trial.

Following the acquittal, Arensdorf and the jurors went out drinking.

More than a century later, nothing guarantees a killer’s conviction, even with right hands raised and left ones placed on a Bible like Rev. Haddock carried.

The following article appeared in the Sioux City Journal on Sunday, August 7, 2011. In it, reporter Marcy Peterson gives a detailed account of news stories concerning Rev. Haddock’s murder.

FROM THE (SIOUX CITY JOURNAL) ARCHIVES: Minister’s murder sparked change

By Marcy Peterson
Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2011 10:00 a.m.

In 1882 Iowa voters passed the “Clark Law,” making liquor illegal in the state. The frontier city of Sioux City ignored the law. In this booming town, there were over 75 saloons, several breweries and gambling houses. City officials fought to keep the establishments open and the money flowing.

After two murders in the drinking establishments in the summer of 1886, the prohibition coalition was determined to make the city and saloons abide the Iowa law.

The events acted as a turning point for Sioux City, changing it from a rough, lawless frontier town into a booming metropolitan city.

Below is the actual Journal accounts of the happenings of the week of Aug. 1-7, 1886:

Courtesy photo
John Arensdorf, bottom row in center with arms crossed, sits with members of the jury that set him free. The day of the acquittal, the defendant and jurors went out drinking together.

Tuesday morning, Aug. 3, 1886:
The Journal reports that early yesterday morning as Rev. Geo. C. Haddock was passing along Fourth street he stopped in front of the Hopkins’ saloon to note the unloading of beer from one of the brewery wagons. Fred Lerch was standing in front of his place of businesses further up the street and as the preacher approached, Lerch brandished an ax and shouted to him that he would “cut his d-d head off if he came near.”

Tuesday evening, Aug. 3, 1886:
Shortly after 10 o’clock last evening a pistol shot was heard in the vicinity of Fourth and Water streets. Rev. George C. Haddock had been shot and was lying dead in the gutter on the southwest corner of the streets. Rev. Haddock was shot by someone as he left his buggy at the stables. It is witnesses’ opinion that the party who fired the shot stood on the side walk just below Fourth street and waited until the unsuspecting victim was within twenty-five feet of the him, before he sent the leaden messenger on its errand of death…Since the saloon injunction cases have been brought, it is well known that a very dangerous feeling against the temperance men has been engendered and against no one has it been so bitter as Rev. Haddock.

Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1886:
There are hundreds of people in Sioux City whose first information of the terrible tragedy that was enacted Tuesday night was obtained from the columns of the Journal. While it was well known that the suits brought to enjoin the saloons had worked public feeling up to a high pitch, and while it was also known that very little provocation would be necessary to provoke violence on the part of that certain abandoned class, no one was prepared to receive the news of the devilish deed perpetrated under cover the black clouds of Tuesday night.

John Arensdorf was tried twice and acquitted in George Haddock's murder. (Courtesy Sioux City Journal)

John Arensdorf was tried twice and acquitted in George Haddock’s murder. (Courtesy Sioux City Journal)

The shock to the community over the killing of this man will be such as has never before been experienced, and while without doubt, it will at once by popular opinion, be laid at the door of the saloon party, the calm thinker will at once realize that no man who has any of the instincts of manhood left in his breast would be guilty of even thinking of such a deed. While at this writing no clue has been discovered that points to any particular party as the guilty one, it is a lamentable fact that such parties are here, and to the everlasting shame of the city, it must be admitted that the part of the dead man had taken in trying to enforce the laws of the state, was without doubt the cause of his untimely end at the hand of a cowardly assassin, who approached him from the rear sent him into eternity without a chance of defending himself.

Men who heretofore have been pronounced in their opposition to the enforcement of the prohibitory law, expressed their horror and the utmost condemnation of the dastardly deed, and announced that henceforth their influence would be on the side of the law.

Prohibition work was what Mr. Haddock went into because he thought it was his duty and he went into it fully aware of the perils that it would throw around him. He said he expected death, but even this did not deter him. From the pulpit he said that one life, or a hundred lives, would have the effect of turning the tide in favor of the preservation of the homes, and against the rum traffic, the cost would not be counted too much.

The funeral for Rev. George C. Haddock, age 56, will be held at First Methodist Episcopal church tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. The body is in charge of Undertaker Westcott.

Thursday, Aug. 5, 1886:
Reward Offered: The State of Iowa, Executive Department by the Governor – A Proclamation: Whereas, I am satisfied that the crime of murder was on or about the 3rd of August, 1886 committed in the county of Woodbury and state of Iowa on the person of G.C. Haddock, by some person or persons unknown to the authorities, now, therefore, I, William Larrabee, governor of the state of Iowa, by virtue of the authority vested in me by law, do hereby offer a reward of $500 for the arrest and delivery of the proper authorities of the person or persons guilty of such murder, said reward to be paid only upon conviction.

Friday, Aug. 6, 1886:
Miscellaneous notes: Rumors of arrest and so on were rife yesterday, but diligent and frequent inquires at the sheriff’s office failed to confirm them. Shortly before 10 o’clock Sheriff McDonald and party took a hack and drove toward the West Side, but if any arrest were made, the fact was kept from the reporters.

Saturday, Aug. 7, 1886:
Every newspaper in the area telegraphed a statement of shock, outrage and sorrow of the death of Rev. Haddock. Each recognized the right of all citizens to agitate and labor for the repeal of obnoxious laws, but they must not be done by opposing or seeking to nullify laws unrepealed. Most pledged to the unceasing and eternal warfare against the vile traffic that made the dastardly deed possible.

These items appeared in the Journal Aug. 1-7, 1886.

Copyright © 2011 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved.

Ironies Abound

In 1888, the man acquitted of murdering George Haddock returned to Sioux City as the Philip Best Brewing Company’s agent. John Arensdorf said the prohibition amendment in Iowa had made him a poor man.

Courtesy photo
The historic marker at Fourth and Water streets commemorating Rev. George Haddock’s 1886 murder was recently removed due to the downtown casino construction project. The marker will be displayed in the Sioux City Public Museum at 607 Fourth St.

Capt. Pabst, president of Philip Best Brewing, told the Journal in 1888 that the Iowa prohibitory law had reduced their shipments of beer to Iowa about 80,000 barrels per year, but corrected this by saying his company was shipping as much beer into Iowa at the present time as they ever did.

In another ironic twist, Sioux City’s new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino began construction at the very site where Arensdorf was shot.

The marker commemorating Haddock — embedded in the concrete in 1936 by the Woodbury County Pioneers — had to be excavated in order for casino construction to proceed.

In a Journal interview with Lynn Zerschling on May 1, 2013, Jerry Hill, vice president of development for Sioux City Entertainment Inc., said the rumor that the new casino would cover the marker simply wasn’t true.

“It doesn’t seem appropriate,” Hill told Zerschling. “We initially had some ideas of what to do with it (the marker) because it has to be relocated.”

Zerschling wrote in her story:

Hill said one proposal calls for keeping the marker at its current location while allowing casino patrons to see it by running a lighted glass tube over it. Another option would relocate the marker to a street outside to allow children and adults who don’t wish to go inside the casino to view the disc.

“Since then, we have received some input from community people who have some ideas as well,’” Hill said. “We’re weighing various options on how to preserve it in an appropriate and respectful manner. We understand it is an important part of history.”

Sioux City Public Museum Director Steve Hansen said he would like to see the marker kept outdoors, where it can be viewed by anyone.

Zerschling’s July 10, 2013 follow-up article concerning the marker’s fate said it would be displayed in the Sioux City Public Museum at 607 Fourth St.

“We don’t know exactly where he died there,” Hansen said. “After we clean it, we will place the marker in the ‘Whatever Happened To?’ temporary display in the museum.”

With that exhibit’s end in September 2013, the marker would then be placed in the museum’s Haddock display area, Zerschling said.

Today, the marker is on permanent display at the museum.

“It fits in well with everything else on exhibit,” Matt Anderson, the museum’s exhibits preparer, said in a Journal story published July 29, 2014. “It’s a great opportunity for the museum to display an iconic part of Sioux City history.”

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened its doors for business on Friday, August 1, 2014 — just two days shy of 128 years after George C. Haddock’s murder.

About Rev. George Haddock

George Channing Haddock was born Jan. 23, 1832 in Watertown, New York, to Samuel and Sabrina (Barnes) Haddock. He died Aug. 3, 1886 in Sioux City, Iowa.

george-haddock-headstone-findagraveCourtesy photo Sherry Havener,
Rev. George C. Haddock was buried at Mound Cemetery in Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin.

Survivors included his wife, Cornelia B. (Herrick) Haddock; a son, Frank Channing Haddock; a brother, John A. Haddock; and a sister, Sarah Maria (Haddock) Allport.

Those preceding him in death included a daughter, Florence Bishop Haddock; his parents, Samuel and Sabrina Haddock; and two brothers, Orison L. Haddock and William Haddock.

George Haddock was laid to rest at the Mound Cemetery in Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin.

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8 Responses to George Haddock

  1. Mark Becker says:

    I can’t imagine someone shooting him for his sober beliefs. ..was atensdoff a civil war vet.?

    • Are you kidding me? Lol

    • Maggie says:

      I can imagine him being murdered for his beliefs. Nobody deserves to be murdered, but his beliefs crossed a line from simply beliefs, to imposing his will. Imagine your profession being outlawed and subject to a brutal slander campaign. This would affect your very livelihood, your ability to provide for your family, wants and even basic needs being met… That’s what prohibitionists did to saloon owners, brewers, etc. Its a sad situation, and I reiterate, nobody deserves this fate. However, more than “bad people do bad things”, “desperate people do bad things” becomes more relevant here, as those whose livelihoods were threatened I’m sure felt desperate.

      • rjnrjn says:

        Sadly, all for the love of money, made at the expense and ruination of innocent lives. Alcohol has been the scourge of society since the beginning of time and has left a trail of destruction. Families have been destroyed because of this addiction.

  2. One of the most fascinating of Iowa’s unsolved cases in my humble opinion.

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