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Ottumwa, Iowa
—  City  —
Location of Ottumwa in the state of Iowa.
Coordinates: 41°0′47″N 92°24′53″W / 41.01306, -92.41472Coordinates: 41°0′47″N 92°24′53″W / 41.01306, -92.41472
Country  United States
State  Iowa
County Wapello
 • Type Mayor/Council
 • Mayor Tom Lazio[1]
 • Total 16.53 sq mi (42.81 km2)
 • Land 15.86 sq mi (41.08 km2)
 • Water 0.67 sq mi (1.74 km2)
Elevation 673 ft (205 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 25,023
 • Estimate (2013)[4] 24,840
 • Rank 20th in Iowa
 • Density 1,577.7/sq mi (609.2/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 52501
Area code(s) 641
FIPS code 19-60465
GNIS feature ID 0459952

Ottumwa ( /əˈtʌmwə/ ə-TUM-wə) is a city in and the county seat of Wapello County, Iowa, United States.[5] The population was 25,023 at the 2010 census. Located in southeastern Iowa, the city is split into northern and southern halves by the Des Moines River.


Map of Ottumwa from 1908, showing the railroads and coal mines (shown in red) of the region.

The young town was severely damaged during the Flood of 1851.[6]

In 1857, coal was being mined from the McCready bank, a site along Bear Creek four miles west of Ottumwa. In 1868, Brown and Godfrey opened a drift mine four miles northwest of town. By 1872, Brown and Godfrey employed 300 men and had an annual production of 77,000 tons. In 1880, the Phillips Coal and Mining Company opened a mine two miles northwest of town. In subsequent years, they opened 5 more shafts in the Phillips and Rutledge neighborhoods, just north of Ottumwa.[7] The Phillips number 5 shaft was 140 feet deep, with a 375 horse power steam hoist.[8] By 1889, the state mine inspector’s report listed 15 mine shafts in Ottumwa.[9] In 1914, the Phillips Fuel Company produced over 100,000 tons of coal, ranking among the top 24 coal producers in the state.[10]

Coal mining was so important to the local economy that, from 1890 to 1892, the Coal Palace was erected in Ottumwa as an exhibition center.

John Morrell & Company played a significant role in the development of the City of Ottumwa from 1877 to 1973. The complex typified meat packing as it developed in the midwest during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.[11]

Presidential visits[]

Because of the Iowa caucuses, Ottumwa is no stranger to visits by presidential hopefuls. On five occasions a sitting U.S. President has visited the Bridge City:[12]

  • Benjamin Harrison was the first, in 1890, touring the Coal Palace and then speaking to a crowd of over 40,000 people.[12]
  • In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt made a brief stop while on a train trip around America.[12]
  • President Harry Truman spent part of his 66th birthday, May 8, 1950, in Ottumwa while on a 16-state train trip in support of his Fair Deal program.[12]
  • In July 1971, President Richard Nixon arrived in Air Force One at the Ottumwa Industrial Airport on his way to dedicate the nearby Rathbun Lake dam and reservoir.[13] It was a homecoming for Nixon of sorts, as he had been stationed at the Ottumwa airport while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.[14]
  • On April 27, 2010 President Barack Obama spoke to a large crowd at the Hellyer Student Center on the campus of Indian Hills Community College. After the speech the president held a question and answer session.[15]
  • In September, 2012 Vice President Joe Biden made a campaign stop in Ottumwa, where he spoke at the Bridgeview Center.[16]


Ottumwa's longitude and latitude coordinates in decimal form are 41.012917, -92.414817.[17]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.53 square miles (42.81 km2), of which, 15.86 square miles (41.08 km2) is land and 0.67 square miles (1.74 km2) is water.[2]

Northeastern Wapello County contains large deposits of coal, and there are also large deposits of clay in the region, which played an important role in the industrial development of Ottumwa.[18]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 1,632
1870 5,214 219.5%
1880 9,004 72.7%
1890 14,001 55.5%
1900 18,197 30.0%
1910 22,012 21.0%
1920 23,003 4.5%
1930 28,075 22.0%
1940 31,570 12.4%
1950 33,631 6.5%
1960 33,871 0.7%
1970 29,610 −12.6%
1980 27,381 −7.5%
1990 24,488 −10.6%
2000 24,998 2.1%
2010 25,036 0.2%
Est. 2013 24,840 −0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
2013 Estimate[4]

Wapello County Courthouse

2010 census[]

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 25,023 people, 10,251 households, and 6,208 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,577.7 inhabitants per square mile (609.2 /km2). There were 11,257 housing units at an average density of 709.8 per square mile (274.1 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.2% White, 1.9% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 4.5% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.3% of the population.

There were 10,251 households of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.1% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.4% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.97.

The median age in the city was 37.4 years. 23.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.8% were from 25 to 44; 25% were from 45 to 64; and 16% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

2000 census[]

As of the census of 2000, there were 24,998 people, 10,383 households, and 6,530 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,582.2 people per square mile (610.9/km²). There were 11,038 housing units at an average density of 698.6 per square mile (269.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.33% White, 1.27% African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.78% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.38% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.76% of the population.

There were 10,383 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.8% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.88.

Age spread: 22.9% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,174, and the median income for a family was $37,302. Males had a median income of $31,222 versus $20,934 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,040. About 10.9% of families and 15.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[]

"Video Game Capital of the World"[]

As the home of Twin Galaxies, Ottumwa was proclaimed the "Video Game Capital of the World" by a mayoral decree issued on November 30, 1982 by Ottumwa Mayor Jerry Parker.[20] The city's proclamation was recognized by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley.[21] In connection with this proclamation, the city hosted the first North American Video Olympics in the fall of 1982.[22]

In popular culture[]

  • Cpl. Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly - Company clerk from M*A*S*H television series and books was from Ottumwa, Iowa. The town is mentioned as Radar's hometown in the novel and regularly on the show.Template:Episode
  • The movie The Tuskegee Airmen featured the character Hannibal "Iowa" Lee Jr. (played by Laurence Fishburne), who claimed Ottumwa as his hometown.Template:Episode
  • The television movie The Woman Who Loved Elvis starring Rosanne Barr (then the wife of Ottumwa native Tom Arnold) was partially filmed in Ottumwa.[23]

View of Canteen Lunch in the Alley

  • In the sitcom Roseanne, Roseanne Connor’s restaurant, the Lanford Lunch Box, was based on the Canteen Lunch in the Alley,[24] in central downtown Ottumwa, which has been a stopping point for Ottumwans since the 1920s. Many famous patrons have been seen eating a "Canteen", a loose meat sandwich similar to a Maid-Rite.
  • Pansy Bump - Character in the Nero Wolfe novel Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout was from Ottumwa, Iowa.


Ottumwa High School is part of the Ottumwa public school system.

Higher education

Ottumwa is the home of Indian Hills Community College, a two-year community college. Between 1928 and 1980, it was also home to Ottumwa Heights College, a women's college that merged with Indian Hills in 1979 to create one institution. Indian Hills is located at the former Ottumwa Heights campus.


Top employers[]

According to Ottumwa's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[25] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Cargill Meat Solutions 2,400
2 John Deere Ottumwa Works 940
3 Ottumwa Regional Health Center 750
4 Ottumwa Community School District 616
5 Hy-Vee 426
6 Walmart 364
7 Indian Hills Community College 322
8 City of Ottumwa 263
9 Winger Contracting Company 242
10 Dr Pepper Snapple Group 199


Paired with Kirksville, Missouri, Ottumwa is a media market region, ranked #199 by Nielson.


Frequency Power in watts Call sign Nickname Format Owner Web site Notes
1240 AM 1000 KBIZ Your news and information leader News/Talk O-Town Communications [1]
740 AM 229 day, 10 night KMZN Hot Country 740 Country music *simulcast with KBOE FM Jomast Corporation [2]
1480 AM 250 day, 17 night KLEE Good time oldies Oldies O-Town Communications [3] Klee was sold by FMC Broadcasting to O-town Communications on 12/24/2013
104.9 FM 50,000 KBOE Hot Country 104.9 Country music Jomast Corporation [4]
105.3 FM 34,000 KEDB Iowa's true oldies channel Oldies Honey Creek Broadcasting
96.7 FM 10,000 KIIC Thunder Country Classic country Waveguide Communications, Inc. [5]
101.5 FM 49,000 KKSI 101.5 Kiss FM Classic rock O-Town Communications [6]
98.7 FM 100,000 KMGO Iowa's Country. 98.7 KMGO Country music KMGO Inc. [7]
97.7 FM 19,000 KOTM 97.7 Tom FM Top 40 (CHR) O-Town Communications [8] Kotm was sold by FMC Broadcasting to O-town Communications on 12/24/2013
104.3 FM 23,500 KRKN New Country 104.3 Country music O-Town Communications [9]
92.7 FM 50,000 KTWA Today's hits & yesterdays favorites Adult contemporary O-Town Communications [10]
91.1 FM 1,450 KICW Classical music / Iowa Public Radio University of Northern Iowa

*Some radio stations licensed to other nearby cities.

Television stations[]

  • KTVO 3.1 Local ABC affiliate
  • KYOU-TV 15 Local FOX affiliate (also on translator channel 25, K25DE)
  • KTVO-DT2 3.2 Local CBS affiliate
  • K18GU-D 18 Translator of KIIN Iowa City, a PBS and IPTV affiliate


The Ottumwa Courier is the primary daily newspaper,


The Ottumwa Post



View of Amtrak passenger rail station and platform.

Detail view of Amtrak passenger rail station.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to the Ottumwa Amtrak station, operating its California Zephyr daily in both directions between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, across the San Francisco Bay from San Francisco.

Ottumwa Transit Authority operates bus services throughout the Ottumwa area.[26] The fixed-route system includes five routes and a shopping shuttle.[27] It also operates a para-transit service known as Ottumwa Transit Authority Lift[28] and Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC), a dial-a-ride service geared towards employees.[29] The five routes that operate Monday through Friday are: #1 North, #2 East West, #3 South Residential, #4 South Commercial, and #7 Airport. There are also two routes that operate on Saturday only; no routes operate on Sunday.[30]

10-15 Regional Transit Agency provides a regional dial-a-ride service throughout Appanoose, Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Lucas, Mahaska, Monroe, Van Buren, Wapello and Wayne counties.[31][32]

Currently, U.S. Route 34 and Iowa Highway 149 serve the town, replacing a former segment of U.S. Highway 63. Route 63 now bypasses the town as part of the Burlington to Des Moines expressway. The Jefferson Street Viaduct over the Des Moines River is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The BNSF Railway has tracks through Ottumwa. This is a major corridor in the Chicago-Omaha line that is double track, and western coal makes up a large percentage of the freight carried on this line. The BNSF tracks travel under U.S. Highway 34, pass through the business district, under the U.S. Highway 63 bridge, cross the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad tracks at grade, exit Ottumwa, and later cross over the Des Moines River on their way to Albia, Iowa, and later Omaha, Nebraska.

The Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railway was acquired by the Canadian Pacific in 2008. Ottumwa is located on the Davenport, Iowa, to Kansas City, Mo. line and is a crew change point.

The Norfolk Southern Railway has trackage rights over the BNSF through Ottumwa.

Historic Preservation[]

Ottumwa has many historic structures as well as several historic districts that are listed on the National Register. The City, has an active Historic Preservation Commission that has worked to preserve some of the most important structures in the community since 1989.[33] The following structures and districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Districts[]

  • Historic Railroad District
  • Fifth Street Bluff Historic District
  • Ottumwa Cemetery
  • Court Hill Historic District
  • Vogel Place Historic District
  • North Fellows Historic District

Historic Structures[]

  • First National Bank Building 1915
  • Hotel Ottumwa
  • Hoffman Building
  • Benson Building 1930
  • B'nai Jacob Synagogue
  • Foster/Bell House
  • Trinity Episcopal Church
  • Benson Block
  • Burlington Depot
  • J.W. Garner Building
  • Jay Funeral Home
  • Jefferson Street Viaduct
  • Ottumwa Public Library
  • St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church
  • Ottumwa City Hall
  • Wapello County Courthouse
  • Ottumwa Young Women's Christian Association

Notable people[]

Tom Arnold

  • Tom Arnold - actor[34]
  • Steve Bales - Apollo 11 flight controller
  • Stephen Blumberg - notorious rare book thief
  • Walter Day - video game statistician
  • Edna Ferber - novelist who lived in Ottumwa as a child[35]
  • Anne Marie Howard - actress
  • Donald Keyhoe - Marine Corps major and aviator, UFO researcher and author
  • Dan Knight - jazz pianist, Steinway, artist, composer, Pulitzer Prize nominee
  • Herschel Loveless (1911–1989) 34th Governor of Iowa 1957-61, Mayor of Ottumwa 1949-53[36]
  • E. J. Mather - college football and basketball player and coach
  • Russell Means - American Indian activist; attended junior college in Ottumwa
  • Karen Morley - actress
  • Carol Morris - Miss Iowa USA 1956, Miss USA 1956, Miss Universe 1956, actress[37]
  • Harry Ostdiek - Major League Baseball player
  • Beverley Owen - actress
  • Hal Walker (1896-1972) - film director
  • Jake Weimer (1873–1928) - Major League Baseball player 1903-05[38]
  • Walter "Radar" O'Reilly - fictional corporal and company clerk from the book, movie, and series M*A*S*H
  • Hannibal Lee - fictional African-American World War II pilot featured in the TV movie The Tuskegee Airmen


  • The U.S. Navy harbor tug USS Ottumwa (YTB-761) was named for the city.


  1. ^ Allt, Kate. "Tom Lazio takes office as Mayor of Ottumwa". Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  4. ^ a b "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  6. ^ Aldrich, Charles (1903). The Annals Of Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Historical Department of Iowa. p. 411. 
  7. ^ Lees, James H. (1909). History of Coal Mining in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Geological Survey. p. 541. 
  8. ^ Hinds, Henry (1909). The Coal Deposits of Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Geological Survey. p. 298. 
  9. ^ Fourth Biennial Report Of The State Mine Inspectors To The Governor Of The State Of Iowa For The Years 1888 And 1889. Des Moines, Iowa. 1889. p. 33. 
  10. ^ Saward, Frederick E. (1915). The Coal Trade. p. 65. 
  11. ^ "John Morrell & Company Meat Packing Plant, 316 South Iowa Street, Ottumwa, Wapello County, IA". 
  12. ^ a b c d Toopes, Cindy (2010-04-23). "Four sitting presidents have visited Ottumwa". Ottumwa Courier. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  13. ^ "Rathbun Lake". US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  14. ^ "Biography of Richard Milhous Nixon". Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  15. ^ Shaver, Pat (2010-04-28). "Participants, crowd relish Obama visit". Ottumwa Courier. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  16. ^ Deffenbaugh, Greg (18 September 2012). "Vice President Biden campaigns in southeast Iowa". KTVO-TV via website. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  18. ^ A Brief History of Wapello County, Iowa by Tom Quinn, n.d.
  19. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  20. ^ Kalning, Kristin. "Ottumwa, video game capital of the world? - On the Level-". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  21. ^ "Congratulations on becoming "Video Game Capital"". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  22. ^ "1982 North American Video Game Olympics program cover (GIF Image, 370x574 pixels)". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "TV Acres". Restaurants, Bars & Nightclubs. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  25. ^ City of Ottumwa CAFR
  26. ^ "Iowa Office of Public Transit". Archived from the original on 2004-07-05. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  27. ^ "SCHEDULES". Archived from the original on 2005-05-05. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  28. ^ "OTA LIFT". Archived from the original on 2005-05-05. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  29. ^ "JARC". Archived from the original on 2005-05-05. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  30. ^ "OTA Timetable - December 2011". Archived from the original on 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  31. ^ "Iowa Office of Public Transit". Archived from the original on 2004-09-14. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  32. ^ "10-15 Transit". Archived from the original on 2005-02-18. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  33. ^ "Municode". Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  34. ^ Tom Arnold Biography (1959–)
  35. ^ Shuman, Baird (2002). Great American Writers: Twentieth Century. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 9780761472407. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  36. ^ "Political Graveyard". LOVELESS. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  37. ^ "Famous Iowans - Morris, Carol". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  38. ^ "BASEBALL-Reference". Jake Weimer. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 

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