Wapello County was named for Chief Wapello, the second-in-command over the Sac and Fox Indians in the Black Hawk War.
Wapello County’s first courthouse was a log cabin, built in Ottumwa. The town was originally known as Appanoose Rapids, then Louisville, then Ottumwanoc, then later shortened to Ottumwa.
A two-story frame building was constructed in 1846, which was used for a courthouse as well as for church, dances, meetings, and school. It served until 1855 when it was sold to the Christian Church.
In 1855 a larger two-story brick courthouse was constructed. It was also used for public meetings. This served the county until 1891 when it was torn down to make room for the current courthouse.
Today’s courthouse is a five-story Romanesque structure designed by Foster & Liebbe, and built with rough-cut sandstone. It was completed in 1894. Originally its roofline had several chimneys and a large clocktower, but they were removed in 1950. A statue of Chief Wapello stands on a peak above the roof. The Wapello County courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Visit the Wapello County web site for more information.
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