Owosso, Michigan

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Owosso, Michigan
The West Town Historic District
The West Town Historic District
Location of Owosso, Michigan
Location of Owosso, Michigan
Coordinates: 42°59′46″N 84°10′28″W / 42.99611°N 84.17444°W / 42.99611; -84.17444
Country United States
State Michigan
County Shiawassee
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Mayor Benjamin R. Frederick
 • City Manager Donald Crawford
 • Total 5.37 sq mi (13.91 km2)
 • Land 5.23 sq mi (13.55 km2)
 • Water 0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
Elevation 728 ft (222 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 15,194
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 14,852
 • Density 2,905.2/sq mi (1,121.7/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 48867
Area code(s) 989
FIPS code 26-61940[4]
GNIS feature ID 0634254[5]
Website http://ci.owosso.mi.us/

Owosso is a city in Shiawassee County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 15,194 at the 2010 census. The city is located on the eastern side of Owosso Township, but is politically independent. The city was named after Chief Wasso, an Ojibwa leader of the Shiawassee area.[6]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.37 square miles (13.91 km2), of which 5.23 square miles (13.55 km2) is land and 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2) is water.[1]

Climate and weather[edit]

Owosso experiences frigid winters with the last snow usually falling in April, typically Northern Midwestern spring thaws, balmy to hot summers, and colorful falls with the first snows usually appearing in October. Each year Owosso averages eleven days with temperatures below 0 °F (−18 °C), and nine days with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C). Owosso averages twenty-nine inches of rain per year, and forty-one inches of snow. The average growing season in Owosso is 144 days.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,160
1870 2,065 78.0%
1880 2,501 21.1%
1890 6,564 162.5%
1900 8,696 32.5%
1910 9,639 10.8%
1920 12,575 30.5%
1930 14,496 15.3%
1940 14,424 −0.5%
1950 15,948 10.6%
1960 17,006 6.6%
1970 17,179 1.0%
1980 16,455 −4.2%
1990 16,322 −0.8%
2000 15,713 −3.7%
2010 15,194 −3.3%
Est. 2014 14,779 [7] −2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
2011 estimate

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 15,194 people, 6,161 households, and 3,779 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,905.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,121.7/km2). There were 6,823 housing units at an average density of 1,304.6 per square mile (503.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.7% White, 0.8% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.9% of the population.

There were 6,161 households of which 33.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 16.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.7% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.00.

The median age in the city was 34.8 years. 25.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.9% were from 25 to 44; 24.7% were from 45 to 64; and 12.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.[6]

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 15,713 people, 6,340 households, and 4,076 families. The population density was 3,174.5 per square mile (1,225.6/km²). There were 6,724 housing units at an average density of 1,358.4 per square mile (524.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97% White, 0.20% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.80% from other races, and 1.10% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3% of the population.

There were 6,340 households out of which 33.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% 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 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,576, and the median income for a family was $40,355. Males had a median income of $32,285 versus $22,534 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,764. About 10.0% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.8% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.


Indian Trails, an inter-city bus company, has its headquarters in Owosso.[8]

Covenant Eyes, an accountability software company, is headquartered in Owosso.[9]



Baker College of Owosso[10] offers Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's programs in Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Education and Human Service, Engineering & Technology and Health Sciences. They are also home to the Auto Diesel Institute of Michigan,[11] which offers Certificate and Associate programs in both Auto and Diesel Services Technology. Baker College of Owosso is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to regional accreditation, the Baker Center for Graduate Studies and multiple undergraduate business programs also carry program accreditation by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Owosso Public Schools[edit]

  • Owosso High School 9-12: Offers International Baccalaureate program for 9th and 10th graders and has a nationally recognized arts programs
  • Lincoln High School (alternative edu.)at Washington School campus
  • Owosso Middle School 6-8: Offers International Baccalaureate for 7th and 8th graders
  • Bryant Elementary K-5
  • Central Elementary K-5
  • Emerson Elementary K-5[12]

Owosso Parochial Schools[edit]



Two newspapers are published in Owosso: the Argus-Press publishes an evening edition Monday through Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday morning editions. Recent awards from the Michigan Press Association and the Associated Press in news, editorial content and sports make the Argus-Press one of the top Michigan newspapers under 10,000 daily circulation. The Independent[17] publishes an Owosso-Corunna edition on Sundays and Wednesdays. Both newspapers have online editions as well.


Three radio stations are located in Owosso.

  • WOAP 1080 AM (The Big 1080, Michigan's BIG Oldies) This oldies station is on the air from 6 a.m. to local sunset.
  • WJSZ 92.5 FM (Z92.5, The Castle) broadcasts a very hot adult contemporary format.
  • WRSR 103.9 FM (The Fox) is licensed to Owosso, but broadcasts classic rock from studios in Flint.



  • M-21 runs east and west through the city
  • M-52 runs north and south through the city
  • M-71 runs diagonally, southeast and northwest, terminating at M-21

City Bus Service[edit]

The Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency (SATA)[18] provides city bus service. The majority of buses are lift-equipped, and the service operates from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The service also provides a single daily bus run to and from Perry, Michigan, and another to and from Durand, Michigan.

Intercity Bus Service[edit]

Owosso is the headquarters of Indian Trails Bus Lines, which provides regularly scheduled intercity bus service from Owosso to connect with points throughout Michigan and the U. S. Indian Trails also provides chartered bus service to and from points throughout the U. S.


Owosso Community Airport provides a 4,300-foot (1,300 m) long lighted runway for private planes and air taxi services.


Owosso is the headquarters of the Great Lakes Central Railroad, which provides freight service to Northern and Southern Michigan. It also provides chartered passenger rail service and tours through its association with Lake Central Rail Tours.


Curwood Castle[edit]

Curwood Castle was the writing studio of the famous author James Oliver Curwood. In honor of the famous writer Owosso holds the annual Curwood Festival. The castle is now a museum that contains period antiques, and Curwood books, photos, and movie posters as well as memorabilia from the life of another one of Owosso’s native sons: Thomas E. Dewey.[19][20]

The Shiawassee Arts Center[edit]

The Shiawasse Arts Center exhibits and sells prints of Frederick Carl Frieseke, original work of other artists, holds art classes, competitions, and has exhibitions scheduled throughout the year.[21]

The Steam Railroading Institute[edit]

Located on South Washington Street, The Steam Railroading Institute includes a visitor center, passenger train cars and other rolling stock from railroads in the U. S. and Canada, and a 3.5-acre (14,000 m2) area that holds a round house. Most impressive, however, are the steam engines, including the 82,000 pound Flagg Coal Company 75 switch engine, the 136,000 pound Mississippian (under restoration), and the 800,000 pound Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive and tender ― the largest operating steam locomotive in Michigan. The sounds of the steam engine train heard in the hit movie The Polar Express were recorded in Owosso. Steven Spielberg’s production company filmed the sights and sounds of the Owosso-based Steam Railroading Institute’s 1225 steam engine train locomotive for the computer rendering of the movie.

The Steam Railroading Institute offers weekend excursions throughout the summer on the trains and several all-day excursions throughout the year. The Institute also offers excursions on the famous North Pole Express during December.[22][23][24][25]

Owosso Speedway[edit]

Owosso Speedway is located about six miles (10 km) west of Owosso on M-21. The speedway contains grandstands, pits, and a 3/8 mile, high-banked, paved oval race track. Every Saturday night, from April through September, it features stock car and open wheel racing events.[217] In July 2008 Owosso Speedway was purchased by Fast Track Promotion INC. and made a strong resurgence in the Michigan racing community to reclaim its fame as one of the raciest asphalt tracks in the Midwest. Beginning in 2008 the speedway added a special event night that features school bus, push, pull and trailer races as an additional form of entertainment for fans periodically during the season. The "NATIONALS" at Owosso are a famous season end event (in late September) that feature a camping weekend and cars from across the Midwest that come to challenge rivals at the historic 3/8 mile.

The Movie Museum[edit]

Located in an early twentieth century church on East Oliver Street, The Movie Museum is an interactive education center that collects and preserves movie memorabilia including films, talks, records, equipment, biographies costumes, and ads. "Picture Show Snaps" are shown every Saturday evening beginning at 8:00 p.m.[26]

Historical Markers[edit]

The George Perrigo House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Historical Markers lead to the birthplaces and homes on some of its most famous natives, such as James Oliver Curwood, Thomas E. Dewey, and Frederick Carl Frieseke.

Curwood Festival[edit]

Curwood Festival[27] is a four-day celebration of the life of the world-renowned Owosso author, James Oliver Curwood. The festival begins on the first Thursday of every June.

Curwood Festival has become a huge festival that draws people from around the United States and Canada. It includes a street fair, parades, contests including raft races, carnival rides, concerts, a medieval reenactment encampment and more.[28]

The Mitchell Amphitheater[edit]

The Mitchell Amphitheater is located in the valley behind Owosso Middle School and along the river, across from Curwood Castle. It is home to concerts and other events throughout every summer.[29]

The Shiawassee Center for the Performing Arts[edit]

The Shiawassee Center for the Performing Arts is a state-of-the-art, LEED Silver certified, theater and stage venue, incorporating the Lebowsky Center and the adjacent Studio Theater. Built in 1927 by the former "mayor of westown", Joseph Lebowsky (also spelt "Lebowski" at times), this vaudeville theater was home to Owosso cinema since shortly after opening until the mid-80s. After a short spell as a church it was taken over by The Owosso Community Players and used as a live performance theater with the presentation of year round theatrical events. The theater caught fire in February 2007 and the eastern wall buckled and fell. After the fire, the Owosso Community Players began an extensive fundraising campaign to rebuild the Lebowsky Center, and performed in space next door, the Studio Theater, donated by Chemical Bank.[30] The rebuild process began on March 27, 2013 and continued through the grand reopening of the rebuilt theater on May 9, 2014.

The Shiawassee Center for the Performing Arts hosts nearly a dozen live performances produced by the Owosso Community Players each year in the two venues, along with numerous other acts and shows. The Lebowsky Center seats 500 patrons, and the Studio Theater seats 130.

Shiawassee District Library[edit]

The Shiawassee District Library branch in Owosso was built on a Carnegie library grant. The library was granted $20,000 on April 2, 1913.[31] The library offers a variety of formats, materials, and services to provide for the informational and educational needs of its community members and to encourage the appreciation of reading.[32]


Alfred L. and Benjamin O. Williams were early settlers to the town. They drew Elias Comstock, who built the first permanent home in the settlement. Owosso was incorporated as a city in 1859 at which time it had 1000 people. It had never had a period as a village.[33] The town's first mayor was Amos Gould, a judge originally from New York. In 1876, it organized its fire department.[34]

Notable people[edit]

  • Herman H. Dignan was Michigan's Secretary of State from 1943-1946, after serving as a State Representative from 1937 and a State Senator from 1938 to 1942.[35]
  • Thomas E. Dewey, lawyer, author, mob-busting District Attorney of New York City, three term Governor of New York (1942, 1946, 1950), and the Republican presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948.[36][37][38]
  • Alvin M. Bentley, philanthropist, foreign service officer and U.S. Congresssman, was one of the five congressmen injured on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 1, 1954, when Puerto Rican nationalist terrorists opened fire from the gallery.[39][40][41]
  • Charles A. Towne, U.S. Congressman and Senator, was one of the few persons to have been elected to Congress from two different states: Minnesota and, later, New York. (Sam Houston and J. Hamilton Lewis were others.)[42][43] James Shields was a Senator from three different states.
  • William Ament, controversial Congregational missionary to China (1877–1909), criticised by Mark Twain.
  • Frederick Carl Frieseke, early impressionist artist whose work in France won many awards in Europe and North America; had great influence on other artists and, for several years, he and Claude Monet were next door neighbors. Frieseke’s paintings adorn the walls of many of the world’s great art museums.[44][45][46][47]
  • Albert Spear Hitchcock, artist, author, botanical explorer, systematic agrostologist, and co-developer of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hitchcock-Chase Collection.[48][49]
  • Alfred D. Hershey, bacteriologist, director of genetics research at Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, and co-winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology. Hershey, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958, was also the 1958 winner of the Albert Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association, and the 1965 winner of the Kimber Genetics Award of the National Academy of Sciences.[50][51][52][53]
  • Lloyd R. Welch, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California; developer of the Welch Bound standard and the co-developer of the Baum-Welch algorithm. Dr. Welch was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1979, and he is the recipient of the 2003 Claude E. Shannon Award – the highest honor granted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Information Theory Society.[54][55][56]
  • Merle Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Otolaryngology, Physiology and Psychology at the University of Michigan, first Director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, and the author and co-author of several books; recipient of the Award of Merit from the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, the Gold Medal Award from the American Otological Society, the Distinguished Service Award from the Princeton Class of 1938, the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Audiology, etc.; also a highly decorated W.W.II naval aviator.[57]
  • Harry Burns Hutchins, President of the University of Michigan from 1910 to 1920, Professor of Law and Dean of the University of Michigan Law School, organizer of the Cornell University Law School, Director of Owosso Public Schools during 1871 and 1872.[57]
  • James Oliver Curwood, conservationist and best-selling author of 33 novels; more than 20 movies were made of Curwood’s books and stories, including The Bear. The tourist attraction and museum now known as Curwood Castle in Owosso was built by Curwood to serve as his writing studio, and Mount Curwood (1978 ft) in Michigan’s upper peninsula was named in his honor.[58][59]
  • Diane Carey, author of 46 novels including several Star Trek books, and seven New York Times best-sellers.[60][61]
  • Betty Mahmoody, lecturer, advocate for the rights of women and children, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated, best-selling book, Not Without My Daughter: Escape from Iran. The book was the basis for the movie, Not Without My Daughter, which starred Sally Field and Alfred Molina. In 1990, Betty was voted Most Courageous Woman of the Year and Woman of the Year in Germany.[62][63]
  • Robert L. Gibson, actor who appeared in TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s, including Amazing Stories, Welcome to My Nightmare, Otherworld, Highway to Heaven, etc.[64][65]
  • Mel Schacher, bass guitarist and vocalist for the rock band Question Mark and the Mysterians and, later, a co-founding member, bassist and vocalist for Grand Funk Railroad – a rock band that sold twenty-five million records and had four gold albums.[66][67]
  • Scott Kinsey, jazz keyboardist with several groups and best known for his work with Tribal Tech. Kinsey’s work is also part of many major motion picture soundtracks.[68]
  • Bobbi McCaughey, Iowa mother, wife of Kenny McCaughey, who made international news when she gave birth to septuplets in Des Moines on November 19, 1997.[69][70]
  • Cora Taylor, co-founder of Owosso’s Indian Trails Bus Line. On April 19, 1914, Cora Taylor became the first women in the United States to obtain a commercial chauffeur's license.[71][72]
  • Vicki Witt, described as "the ultimate girl next door" and the “Holy Grail” of Playboy Playmates; was Miss August 1978
  • C. Warren Thornthwaite, Professor of Climatology at Johns Hopkins University, adjunct professor at Drexel University, President of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization, co-author of the book Water Balance, recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Association of American Geographers, and the Cullum Medal – the highest award of the American Geographical Society. His published research on climatology is considered to be some of the most influential of the twentieth century. His life is the subject of the book, The Genius of C. Warren Thornthwaite, Climatologist-Geographer. Dr. Thornthwaite also served as a teacher at Owosso High School from 1922 to 1924.
  • John Tomac, bicycle racer and builder, icon in mountain bike racing field; won more international mountain bike races than anyone else in the sport. He was voted the top all-around bike racer in the world in 1988, and was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991.[73]
  • Chester Brewer, athlete, coach and athletic director; four-sport star at University of Wisconsin, and football coach at Michigan Agricultural College/Michigan State University for 1903 to 1910, 1917 and 1919, where his teams posted shutouts in 49 of 88 games and went undefeated in 43 straight home games. He also coached baseball, track-and-field, and cross country, and coached the school’s basketball teams to a .736 record from 1904 to 1910; athletic director and coach at University of Missouri from 1910 to 1917, Director of Army Athletics for the U. S. War Department during 1918, served as director of athletics and professor of physical education from 1919 to1922 at MAC/Michigan State University, and held the same positions at the University of California-Davis until returning to Missouri where he served as athletics director until 1935. Brewer also coached his home town, Owosso, Michigan’s, West Side Indoor Baseball Team to win the world championship in 1905-1906.[74][75]
  • Bradlee Van Pelt, football star, quarterback for the Colorado State University Rams, set several records there; later backup quarterback for the Houston Texans of the NFL. Son of football star Brad Van Pelt, he was born in Owosso, but spent less than one year at Owosso High School.[76][77]
  • Brad Van Pelt, football star, three-sport athlete at Michigan State University; in football was a two-time All American, became the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award as nation’s top collegiate player; second round NFL draft pick, played 1973-1986 with New York Giants, L.A. Raiders and Cleveland Browns. Van Pelt was named the Giants’ Player of the Decade for the 1970s, selected for Pro Bowl five years in a row; inducted into College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, nominated for Pro Football Hall of Fame. He died of a heart attack in Harrison, Michigan on February 17, 2009.
  • Emile Benoit (writer) (Jerry Urick), writer of critically acclaimed Essays and Aphorisms on the Higher Man[78][79] as well as works of literary existentialism entitled The Artistic Perspective and Beasts in Eden.[80] He also wrote the play A Midsummer Night's Hangover.
  • Felix Schlag(September 4, 1891 – March 9, 1974) was the designer of the United States five cent coin in use from 1938 to 2004.
  • Sanford M. Green, Michigan jurist and legislator[81]
  • Rebecca Green (artist), American artist, illustrator, and stop-motion animator

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
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  7. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Locations." Indian Trails. Retrieved on January 12, 2012. "Owosso (Main Office) 109 East Comstock Street Owosso, MI 48867"
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  10. ^ "Baker College of Owosso". Owosso.baker.edu. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  11. ^ "The Auto/Diesel Institute of Michigan". Autodieselinstitute.com. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  12. ^ "Owosso Public Schools". Owosso K12. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "St. Paul School". Spsowosso.org. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  14. ^ Aaron Lighthill (2013-10-31). "Home". Salemowosso.org. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
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  17. ^ http://www.owossoindependent.com
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  19. ^ "The Official Richard Burmer Site". Richardburmer.com. 2006-09-09. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
  20. ^ Miss Michigan
  21. ^ "Book Excerpts | The Kevorkian Verdict | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
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  23. ^ "Reflections of the Dome - July 2003". Irishlegends.com. Retrieved 2013-11-27. 
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  75. ^ http://msuspartans.cstv.com/genrel/021700aaa.html
  76. ^ http://www.askart.com/AskART/artists/biography.aspx?artist=11008297
  77. ^ http://siris-artinventories.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?session=118366C14DI75.9040&profile=ariall&uri=link=3100006~!364958~!3100001~!3100002&aspect=Browse&menu=search&ri=7&source=~!siartinventories&term=Fisher%2C+Alice+Rogers%2C+b.+1882%2C+painter.&index=AUTHOR#focus
  78. ^ [6]
  79. ^ [7]
  80. ^ [8]
  81. ^ Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society-Sanford Green

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°59′52″N 84°10′36″W / 42.99778°N 84.17667°W / 42.99778; -84.17667