city, seat (1844) of Wapello county, southeastern Iowa, U.S., on the Des Moines River, about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Oskaloosa. It was laid out in 1843 during a land rush when the region was opened to settlers. Originally called Appanoose Rapids, the name was changed to Louisville and Ottumwanoc before being shortened to Ottumwa. Ottumwa is said to be derived from an Algonquian (Fox) word meaning "rippling waters," although it may simply mean "town." Following a damaging flood (1947), the city recovered its position as a commercial and manufacturing centre with a successful locally financed program of self-help.
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