During World War II, Iowa was home to several prisoner of war camps, where German soldiers were held captive. The largest of these camps was located in Algona, Iowa, and housed more than 10,000 prisoners at its peak.
Wapello County, Iowa has a rich history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Meskwaki and the Ioway, who relied on the land for hunting and gathering. European settlement began in the early 19th century, with the first permanent settlers arriving in the 1830s.

The county was officially established in 1844 and was named after Wapello, a prominent Meskwaki chief. It quickly grew as more settlers moved into the area, attracted by fertile soil and abundant natural resources. The establishment of coal mines and the construction of railroads in the late 19th century further fueled the area's development, leading to rapid population growth and industrialization.

By the early 20th century, Wapello County had become a thriving center of coal mining, agriculture, and manufacturing. However, like many other communities in the region, it was hit hard by the Great Depression in the 1930s. The decline of coal mining and the challenges faced by the agricultural sector had a significant impact on the county's economy.

In recent years, Wapello County has experienced efforts to diversify its economy and promote economic growth. The county has seen investments in industries such as healthcare, education, and manufacturing. Today, Wapello County continues to be an important hub for the region, with a strong agricultural sector, a growing healthcare industry, and a proud heritage that is celebrated through various historical sites and events.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Wapello County, Iowa.

  • 1843: Wapello County is established as a county in Iowa.
  • 1844: Ottumwa, the county seat, is founded.
  • 1855: The first courthouse in Ottumwa is built.
  • 1861-1865: Wapello County residents serve in the American Civil War.
  • 1877: The first railroad, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Minnesota Railway, is built in the county.
  • 1901: Ottumwa experiences a severe flood.
  • 1916: The Greater Ottumwa Park is officially opened.
  • 1976: The Wapello County Historical Museum is established.
  • 2008: The Great Iowa Flood causes significant damage in Ottumwa and Wapello County.
  • 2017: The renovation of the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa is completed.