Ottumwa ... City of Bridges
Ottumwa is a city of rich history and unusual quality. In the early 1800's the area was populated by the Mesquaki, Sac and Ioway Indians. As westward expansion approached, these tribes were moved to western reservations and Wapello County was opened for a land rush on May 1, 1843. By the end of May over 5,000 settlers came to the county to claim land for crop, livestock and homesteading. About 470 acres of the Ottumwa area was settled by investors of the Appanoose Rapids Company. Over time the name of the community changed from Louisville to Ottumwa.
By 1844, Ottumwa was declared the county seat of Wapello County and began to develop as a city. The population of Ottumwa boomed from 1,632 to over 5,000 from 1860 to 1870 and continued to grow to a peak population of 33,871 in 1960 before declining to 25,000 in 2000. The closure of several manufacturing plants in the 1960's left a shortage of jobs in Ottumwa, forcing many to leave the city. The region also suffered agricultural crises and flooding, further contributing to out-migration. Ottumwa has traditionally served as the trade and economic center of Southeast Iowa. Community leaders realize that it will take vision, commitment and hard work to continue this role into the 21st century.
Ottumwa is growing. A number of sizable developments have spurred a great deal of additional commercial interest in Ottumwa. Locally owned businesses, as well as national corporations continue investing in our community through expansion and/or opening new facilities in Ottumwa. The expanding commercial districts and industrial base make Ottumwa a strong, viable and expanding community. Through progressive partnerships between City government and private business and industry, we are looking forward to an era of growth.
Links To History
Old Iowa Press - Online transcriptions from 19th and early 20th century Iowa newspapers.
Wapello County IAGenWeb - Online historical resources geared to geneology.