The Ottumwa Courier

About us

June 27, 2006

About Ottumwa

Ot•tum•wa (u-tum'wu)

To some historians, the American Indian name for Ottumwa is “land of rippling waters.”

One early history book suggests the name Ottumwa was once Au-tum-way-e-nauk, meaning “place of perseverance of self will,” a name credited to Chief Appanoose who had a village in what is now the south side of Ottumwa.

Another meaning is “at the rapids” or “swift water,” referring to the rapids in the Des Moines River which once characterized Ottumwa’s site.

Iowa’s longest river, The Des Moines, runs right through the largest city in Southern Iowa, providing ambiance, recreation, drinking water and water power.

Early history tells of ferries needed to cross the Des Moines River, to take early settlers from American Indian encampments on one side to the growing settlement on the hills of the other side.

Today, Ottumwa is known as “The City of Bridges.”

Several bridges cross The Des Moines, leading Ottumwans and visitors back and forth to shopping centers, schools, ball parks, businesses and industries and residential homes.

Ottumwa is rich in heritage dating back to the early 1800s. It is a thriving regional center that boasts numerous cultural and recreational attractions, excellent educational facilities, the new Bridge View convention center scheduled to open in January 2007, and several industrial areas for economic development.

Ottumwa is an All-American City and a Main Street Community. It is the heart of Southern Iowa.

Coming into town from the south, visitors crest the last hill, to see the city nestled in the Des Moines River valley, abundant with lush green trees. The majestic Ottumwa High School stands guard over the downtown area, highlighted by the river which was straightened at great cost to Ottumwans who in the 1950s pulled on their bootstraps and waded into a campaign to raise the money themselves to restrain the rapid water and end the disastrous floods of the previous 50 years.

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About us
  • History of the Ottumwa Courier Can you guess the business that has been serving Ottumwa the longest? Here’s a hint: You’re reading it.

    The first Courier was printed Aug. 8, 1848. It started out as a weekly newspaper - one of the first west of the Mississippi river.

    Ottumwa was only five years old when that first edition came off the press. The city’s population: 300 residents. In fact, Dahlonega and Eddyville were nearly as large. The population of Wapello County was 2,000.

    The Courier became a daily newspaper in 1865 — the year the Civil War ended.

    The newspaper was operated by a series of owners until 1890, when A.W. Lee purchased it. At that time, the newspaper had a circulation of 575 copies daily, 1,500 copies weekly.

    Lee bought the newspaper with his own savings and with money invested by several prominent residents who believed in his values for community journalism. He believed a newspaper must pursue “a hearty, honest and kindly cooperation with unflagging zeal and a wise appreciation for the rights and interests of all.”

    It was a winning formula for newspapering in Ottumwa and beyond. Before Lee’s death in 1907, he had purchased four more newspapers and launched what is Lee Enterprises Inc. The company is now based in Davenport.

    The Ottumwa Courier has had 15 homes in Ottumwa. We have been at our present location since February 1921.

    Outside, the building remains a classic example of Egyptian architecture. Inside, a lot has changed. The Courier went to offset printing in 1972, with a new addition built to house the new press. In later years, new computer systems were added to streamline the production of the newspaper.

    On Sept. 1, 1999, the Courier announced that its owner, Lee Enterprise, had agreed to trade the newspaper and three other publications to Liberty Publishing Group, headquartered in Northbrook, Ill. The announcement was made to Courier employees by Richard D. Gottlieb, president and chief executive officer of Lee.

    At the time, Liberty owned over 300 publications. Two years later, Liberty sold The Courier to Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI), based in Birmingham, Ala.

    CNHI, formed in 1997, is the parent company for daily, weekly and semiweekly newspapers published in more than 200 communities throughout the United States.

    In January, the Courier announced a new redesign of the product.

    On Aug. 8, the Courier will observe 158 years of business, and remains the longest, still operating business in Ottumwa.

    June 27, 2006

  • About Ottumwa Ot•tum•wa (u-tum'wu)

    To some historians, the American Indian name for Ottumwa is “land of rippling waters.”

    One early history book suggests the name Ottumwa was once Au-tum-way-e-nauk, meaning “place of perseverance of self will,” a name credited to Chief Appanoose who had a village in what is now the south side of Ottumwa.

    Another meaning is “at the rapids” or “swift water,” referring to the rapids in the Des Moines River which once characterized Ottumwa’s site.

    Iowa’s longest river, The Des Moines, runs right through the largest city in Southern Iowa, providing ambiance, recreation, drinking water and water power.

    Early history tells of ferries needed to cross the Des Moines River, to take early settlers from American Indian encampments on one side to the growing settlement on the hills of the other side.

    Today, Ottumwa is known as “The City of Bridges.”

    Several bridges cross The Des Moines, leading Ottumwans and visitors back and forth to shopping centers, schools, ball parks, businesses and industries and residential homes.

    Ottumwa is rich in heritage dating back to the early 1800s. It is a thriving regional center that boasts numerous cultural and recreational attractions, excellent educational facilities, the new Bridge View convention center scheduled to open in January 2007, and several industrial areas for economic development.

    Ottumwa is an All-American City and a Main Street Community. It is the heart of Southern Iowa.

    Coming into town from the south, visitors crest the last hill, to see the city nestled in the Des Moines River valley, abundant with lush green trees. The majestic Ottumwa High School stands guard over the downtown area, highlighted by the river which was straightened at great cost to Ottumwans who in the 1950s pulled on their bootstraps and waded into a campaign to raise the money themselves to restrain the rapid water and end the disastrous floods of the previous 50 years.

    When flooding returned in 1993, Ottumwans were again ready to bag sand and dig in to repair dike damage, successfully restraining the rising waters and overcoming a major disaster to the city.

    Located at the intersection of U.S. Highways 34 and 63, Ottumwa is the Wapello County seat and a major retail, industrial, entertainment and transportation center.

    Visitors can find bargains at Quincy Place mall, the growing Wal-Mart SuperCenter and Menards complex west of town, the downtown business district and along Church Street. Ottumwa is home to the John Deere Ottumwa Works, Cargill Meat Solutions, Al-Jon Inc. and American Bottling Co. Ottumwa is the home of Indian Hills Community College. People can splash at The Beach Ottumwa aqautic center or catch a movie at the Ottumwa Eight cineplex.

    Visitors can drive into town from each direction, made easier now with the new four-lane highway complete from Ottumwa to Des Moines, and soon, to Burlington.

    A new $1 million airport terminal greets flying guests at Ottumwa Industrial Airport. Ottumwa is one of the few cities in Iowa served by national Amtrak, with trains passing through daily.

    During the summer, Ottumwa hosts the Pro Balloon Races and the 4-H Expo at Ottumwa Park. People also gather in Central Park for “Live After 5” to enjoy live music. To kick off fall, Ottumwa celebrates Oktoberfest. Throughout the year, the Ottumwa and Southeast Iowa symphonies hold concerts in Ottumwa.

    Ottumwa’s allure is helped by nearby Eddyville, a bio-technology hub with an industrial park that is the home of companies such as Cargill, Wacker Biochem and Anjinomoto as well as the Indian Hills bioprocess technician training center.

    Ottumwans also love their 700 acres of city parks, county parks including Pioneer Ridge Nature Center just south of town and close proximity to the state’s largest lake, Rathbun, and also Red Rock Reservoir, both within only an hour’s drive. State parks surround the area, and Shimek Forest is nearby.

    Steeped in agriculture, Ottumwa is home to John Deere Ottumwa Works with its $37 million annual payroll.

    Church spires dot the landscape, and Indian Hills Community College is built on the grounds of Ottumwa Heights College which was served by the Sisters of the Humility of Mary who founded Tally Hospital in 1880, St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in 1914 and remain involved with today’s Ottumwa Regional Health Center which just opened a new cancer treatment center.

    The Ottumwa shopping area draws customers from all over southeast Iowa and northern Missouri. Ottumwa is in an ideal location for extended growth which the four-lane Des Moines to Burlington corridor will help promote.

    Ottumwa is a city that didn’t die when the largest employer — John Morrell & Company — closed its doors in 1973. It was hard times for years, but Ottumwa did not give up. Other meat packing plants came and went. Today, Cargill Meat Solutions keeps expanding on the former Morrell plant site and has also helped the city diversify. Today, the city’s nearly 25,000 population includes more than 12 percent of Hispanic nationality. The newcomers have added to the town’s culture with new restaurants offering delectable Mexican fare, new grocery stores and bakeries.

    An active Ottumwa Area Arts Council, the city’s two symphony orchestras and a vibrant community players group and children’s chorus continue to enrich Ottumwans’ lives, providing music and drama for the soul and entertainment for young and old. Dance studios thrive as do such worthwhile organizations as a busy, vibrant YMCA, Your Family Center, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and a summer 4-H Expo event that draws crowds to the main Ottumwa Park. Civic groups from Rotary to Lions to Kiwanis raise funds to help others.

    Ottumwa is often known around the country as the home of TV’s “M-A-S-H” fictional character Radar O’Reilly.

    He may be fictional, but the town is very real. The VIPs who have lived here include Miss Universe Carol Morris; Lee Enterprises founder A.W. Lee; New York City opera coach Margaret Ann Hoswell; UFO expert Donald Keyhoe; Philip B. Hofmann, later the head of Johnson & Johnson; and President Nixon who returned in the 1970s to dedicate Rathbun Lake. Book authors such as Edna Ferber and Richard Bach have lived here. As have famous book thievs such as Stephen Blumberg.

    Our greatest characters have left their legacies. What philanthropist Peter Ballingall did for the city 120 years ago, leading the drive for the Coal Palace, a group of civic minded residents are doing now, putting their faith and hard work into efforts to make Ottumwa the hub of southeast Iowa, from a satellite navigation system added to an outstanding municipal Cedar Creek golf course to a convention center which, with the nearby water park, will help make the downtown area and adjoining river walk a magnet for visitors.

    Ottumwa is an All-American City and a Main Street Community.

    June 27, 2006

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