Our history is an important part of who we are as a community, going back to 1843 when Wapello County was formed. From the area's Native American population and residents' participation in the Civil War to Medal of Honor recipients and historic buildings that stand the test of time, we invite you to experience our history in person.
The American Gothic History Trail: There are many historic places in and around Eldon that you'll want to add to your itinerary. Explore the Indian Burial Mounds at the Sioc Cemetery, the Eldon Carnegie Library, the McHaffey Opera House, the historic Rock Island Train Depot, Des Moines River Scenic Overlook, The Lockkeeper’s House, Iowaville Cemetery the world-famous American Gothic House & Center and the Chippewa Creek disc golf course.
The American Gothic House & Center: Iowa artist Grant Wood sketched this house on a 1930 visit to Eldon and that summer depicted it as the backdrop for his world-famous painting, American Gothic. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the adjacent Center includes exhibits, a gift shop, and a media room with educational films about Grant Wood. Also, there are props on hand so visitors can pose in front of the historic home and create their own American Gothic portrait.
Antique Airplane Association's Air Power Museum: Visit this 20,000-square-foot museum on 30 acres of an antique airfield. It features various periods of aviation via models, engines, propellers, photos, and original art. Approximately 20 aircraft are on display, including World War II models. The adjacent Antique Airfield is the location of the annual Antique Airplane Association/Air Power Museum Invitational Fly-in held six days preceding Labor Day.
Chief Wapello's Gravesite & Memorial Park: Chief Wapello’s Gravesite & Memorial Park is the original site of a Native American Agency and the place where the chiefs of the Sac and Fox Nation signed a treaty. In addition, located in the park are the gravesites of Chief Wapello and General Joseph M. Street, the first administrator of the Native American Agency.
Wapello County's Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients: Ottumwa and Wapello County are the final resting place of three Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients - Leonidas Godley, James Gardner, and John Donaldson. Follow the link above to find their burial locations.
Curtis King Civil War Historical Site: U.S. muster rolls record Curtis King at age 80 as the oldest man serving in the Union Army. His gravesite marker can be reached from U.S. 63, on the left when traveling north, identified with a historical marker sign.
Historic Churches Walking Tour: There has been a faith-based focus in Ottumwa since its establishment in the 1840s. As the decades and centuries have passed, that tradition can still be seen in the design and architecture of our historic districts. The link above shows a walking tour of the first five churches established in Ottumwa. Most are within walking distance of the city’s historic downtown.
Historic Districts Driving Tour: Ottumwa is divided into seven historic districts, each spotlighting the homes, businesses, and special sites that showcase the community's past.
Iowa Heartland History Connection Museum: The Iowa Heartland History Connection museum is filled with exhibits that illustrate life in Wapello County during the 19th and 20th centuries. Their new building on Farm Credit Drive also has dedicated areas for local research and meeting spaces for public use and expansive collection storage areas that are secure and climate controlled to make the collections last for generations to come.
Ottumwa Cemetery Walking Tour: A final resting place for many citizens from Ottumwa’s past – including many Civil War soldiers' graves - Ottumwa Cemetery is also home to an arboretum, housing trees and shrubs planted through the city’s history, a receiving vault built in the 1800s, and an interesting dog statue.
Wapello County Civil War Trail: Iowa sent more soldiers to the Civil War per capita than any other state in the Union, and this history trail tells the story of our area's impact on the war. It includes Civil War soldier burial sites, monuments in each of our communities, and the Civil War soldier carving in Ottumwa Cemetery.
Wapello County Freedom Trail: This driving tour includes stops at the county's Freedom Rock, two memorial monuments, the Iowa Heartland History Connection, and the Civil War soldier carving. Click the link above for the driving map.
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