Ottawa, Kansas

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Ottawa, Kansas
Ottawa Historic District (2018)
Ottawa Historic District (2018)
Location within Franklin County and Kansas
Location within Franklin County and Kansas
KDOT map of Franklin County (legend)
Coordinates: 38°36′43″N 95°15′59″W / 38.61194°N 95.26639°W / 38.61194; -95.26639Coordinates: 38°36′43″N 95°15′59″W / 38.61194°N 95.26639°W / 38.61194; -95.26639
CountryUnited States
Named forOttawa Tribe
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • City ManagerRichard Nienstedt[1]
 • MayorSara Caylor[2]
 • Total10.40 sq mi (26.94 km2)
 • Land10.31 sq mi (26.72 km2)
 • Water0.09 sq mi (0.23 km2)  1.06%
902 ft (275 m)
 • Total12,625
 • Density1,200/sq mi (470/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code785
FIPS code20-53550[5]
GNIS ID479367[6]

Ottawa (pronounced /ˈɒtəwɑː/) is a city in, and the county seat of, Franklin County, Kansas, United States.[7][8] It is located on both banks of the Marais des Cygnes River near the center of Franklin County. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 12,625.[4] Ottawa University is located here.


Main Street, circa 1865-1900

19th century[edit]

The name derives from the Ottawa tribe of Indians, on whose reservation the city was laid out. In the spring of 1864, title to the land was obtained from the tribe through treaty connected to the founding of Ottawa University, the Ottawa having donated 20,000 acres of land to establish and fund a school for the education of Indians and non-Indians alike. The word Ottawa itself means “to trade”. In 1867, the Ottawa tribe sold their remaining land in Kansas and moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.[9][10]

Panoramic map of Ottawa from 1872 including inset images of Union School, the Ludington House, C.W Hamblins Block, and Ottawa University building

On the last day of March, 1864, J.C. Richmond built the first non-Indian settlement in the new town, at the corner of Walnut and First streets.[11][12]

Old Depot Museum built in 1888 (photo from 2008)


Ottawa has a history of flooding because of its location straddling the Marais Des Cygnes river. The area's first recorded flood was the Great Flood of 1844. In 1928, a flood crested at 38.65 feet and killed six people. Other flood years include 1904, when water crested at 36 feet and ran to a man's shoulders in the Santa Fe depot;[13] 1909, cresting at 36.3 feet (11.1 m); 1915, cresting at 31 feet (9.4 m), and 1944, cresting at 36.5 feet (11.1 m).[citation needed]

However, it is the Great Flood of 1951 which is the most famous. It was about five inches higher than the 1928 flood. The flood of 1951 affected much of Missouri and Kansas and 41 people died. One-third of Ottawa was covered because of this flood.[14]

It is unlikely Ottawa will suffer major damage due to a flood again thanks to a series of levees and pumping stations built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s, which is part of a larger system of flood systems to regulate the Marais Des Cygnes River to the Missouri River. The levees built along the river are inspected on an annual basis to insure their quality.[citation needed]

20th century[edit]

In 1943, German and Italian prisoners of World War II were brought to Kansas and other Midwest states to help solve the labor shortage caused by American men serving in the war. Large internment camps were established in Kansas: Camp Concordia, Camp Funston (at Fort Riley), Camp Phillips (at Salina under Fort Riley). Fort Riley established 12 smaller branch camps, including Ottawa.[15][16]


Ottawa straddles the Marais des Cygnes River and is located 58 miles (93 km) southwest of Kansas City at the junction of U.S. Route 59 and K-68. U.S. Route 50 and Interstate 35 bypass Ottawa to the south and east, while business US-50 passes through the city.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.42 square miles (24.40 km2), of which 9.32 square miles (24.14 km2) is land and 0.10 square miles (0.26 km2) is water.[17]


Over the course of a year, temperatures range from an average low of about 20 °F (−7 °C) in January to an average high over 90 °F (32 °C) in July. The maximum temperature reaches 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 52 days per year and reaches 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 6 days per year. The minimum temperature falls below the freezing point (32 °F) an average of 105 days per year. Typically the first fall freeze occurs between the beginning of October and early November, and the last spring freeze occurs between the end of March and late April.[citation needed]

The area receives nearly 40 inches (1,000 mm) of precipitation during an average year with the largest share being received in May and June—the April–June period averages 29 days of measurable precipitation. During a typical year the total amount of precipitation may be anywhere from 28 to 51 inches (1,300 mm). There are on average 87 days of measurable precipitation per year. Winter snowfall averages almost 16 inches, but the median is less than 9 inches (230 mm). Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 8 days per year with at least over an inch of snow being received on five of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 6 days per year.[citation needed]

Source: Monthly Station Climate Summaries, 1971–2000, U.S. National Climatic Data Center
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Temperatures (°F)
Mean high 40.1 46.6 58.0 68.5 77.1 85.7 91.1 89.9 82.0 70.9 55.1 43.3 67.4
Mean low 20.6 25.8 35.4 45.6 55.4 64.8 69.6 67.4 58.8 47.5 35.6 25.2 46.0
Highest recorded 76
Lowest recorded −20
Precipitation (inches)
Median 1.06 1.09 2.50 3.22 5.10 4.80 3.25 3.94 3.75 3.55 2.95 1.57 39.34
Mean number of days 5.3 4.8 7.3 9.0 10.4 9.1 7.4 7.6 7.2 7.2 6.2 5.6 87.1
Highest monthly 3.60
Snowfall (inches)
Median 3.3 4.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 8.5
Mean number of days 3.0 2.1 0.9 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 1.8 8.4
Highest monthly 22.3
0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 trace
Notes: Temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit. Precipitation includes rain and melted snow or sleet in inches; median values are provided for precipitation and snowfall because mean averages may be misleading. Mean and median values are for the 30-year period 1971–2000; temperature extremes are for the station's period of record (1900–2001). The station is located in Ottawa at 38°37′N 95°17′W, elevation 900 feet (270 m).


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[18] of 2010, there were 12,649 people, 4,998 households, and 3,127 families living in the city.[19] The population density was 1,357.2 inhabitants per square mile (524.0/km2). There were 5,518 housing units at an average density of 592.1 per square mile (228.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.0% White, 2.2% African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 1.6% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.0% of the population.

There were 4,998 households, of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.4% were non-families. 31.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.08.

The median age in the city was 33.2 years. 27% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.5% were from 25 to 44; 22.9% were from 45 to 64; and 13.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.5% male and 51.5% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the U.S. Census in 2000,[5] there were 11,921 people, 4,697 households, and 3,034 families living in the city. The population density was 1,781.0 people per square mile (688.0/km2). There were 5,080 housing units at an average density of 759.0 per square mile (293.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.77% White, 2.31% Black or African American, 1.22% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.53% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.31% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.16% of the population.

There were 4,697 households, out of which 33.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.6% under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 18.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,071, and the median income for a family was $41,710. Males had a median income of $30,050 versus $22,891 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,840. About 6.8% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.0% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.


Ottawa's two major employers are Walmart and American Eagle Outfitters who both maintain distribution centers in the city. Ottawa has freight rail service from BNSF railway. There is also a grain elevator operated by the Ottawa Co-Op. The city operates the Ottawa Municipal Airport, a small General Aviation airport four miles south of the city.


Franklin County Courthouse (2009)

Ottawa was governed by a Mayor-Council system until 1913 when the City became a Commission form of government. In 1970 voters established the City Manager form of government with a five-member Commission that annually selects a Mayor from its ranks. The citizens of Ottawa elect commissioners at-large. Three seats on the Commission are open every odd numbered year. Two Commissioners are elected to four-year terms and one is elected to a two-year term.[20]


Former Ottawa Carnegie Library, now Carnegie Cultural Center (2013)

Colleges and Universities[edit]

The private four year university, Ottawa University, is within Ottawa, and Ottawa is also home to a branch campus of Neosho County Community College.

Primary and secondary[edit]

The community is served by Ottawa USD 290 public school district, which has five schools:

  • Ottawa High School
  • Ottawa Middle School
  • Garfield Elementary School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Sunflower Elementary school

Ottawa has several private schools.

  • Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School
  • Pilgrim Bible Academy
  • Ottawa Christian Academy


Aerial view of Ottawa (2013)


There is one publication which serves the city of Ottawa, the Ottawa Herald, which was founded in 1869. It is owned by GateHouse Media.[21] A monthly publication for seniors also serves Ottawa:


Ottawa has four radio stations, one AM and three FM. KOFO broadcasts on 1220 with the tagline Your News source for East-Central Kansas. KOFO airs country music from across the decades, and specializes in local news. KCHZ 95.7 FM is licensed to Ottawa (and was, at one time, owned by KOFO); its studios are in Mission, Kansas. 88.9 is home to the Ottawa University student station, KTJO-FM. 90.5FM features the Ottawa-based KRBW's Christian programming.


Downtown Ottawa is home to the Plaza Grill and Cinema (formerly the Crystal Plaza and Bijou Theater) which, in 2013, was discovered to be the oldest operating cinema in America. Plans for an exhibit are in the works.[22]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ottawa City Manager[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Ottawa Government". Archived from the original on 2013-05-28. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
  3. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "QuickFacts; Ottawa, Kansas; Population, Census, 2020 & 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 25, 2021. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  5. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  7. ^ "Geographic Names Information System". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  8. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  9. ^ Dixon, Rhonda. "The Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma." Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma. (16 Feb 2009).
  10. ^ Carpenter, Tim (November 28, 1997). "What's in a name? Key elements of area history". Lawrence Journal-World. pp. 3B. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  11. ^ Cutler, William G. (1883). William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas. A. T. Andreas, Chicago, Illinois. pp. Franklin County, part 5, Ottawa, part 1. Archived from the original on 2003-01-16.
  12. ^ Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume 2. Standard Publishing Company. pp. 423.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-06-16. Retrieved 2017-03-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Perry, Charlie Perry, C.A. "USGS - Kansas Big Water".
  15. ^ List of Prisoner Of War (POW) Camps in Kansas
  16. ^ "POW Camp Concordia - Concordia, Kansas".
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  19. ^ "2010 City Population and Housing Occupancy Status". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved March 6, 2011.[dead link]
  20. ^ "Government | United States".
  21. ^ Staff, The Herald. "New owner a 'great fit' for Herald". The Ottawa Herald. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  22. ^ The Plaza Grill and Cinema Archived 2014-02-19 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]