Ottumwa Iron Works


| June/July 1993



Allen Johnston

Allen Johnston

1408 N. Van Buren Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

The Ottumwa Iron Works located at 402 W. Main Street, Ottumwa, Iowa, was one of five large companies in the United States that manufactured large mine hoisting equipment. The firm had its beginning in the early six-ties of the past century, when the firm of Drake and Spively began the first iron works in Ottumwa. The firm of Duckworth and Harper succeeded these pioneers, and in 1871 or 1872, the Ottumwa Iron Works purchased the Duckworth and Harper interests.

This iron works was established by Allen Johnston, owner of the Johnston Ruffler Company, for the purpose of manufacturing machinery for the building of sewing machine attachments that Mr. Johnston had invented about 1870. The early plant also produced mining equipment, thus forming a nucleus for the later industry.

In later years, the iron works did custom machine work, including the machining of herringbone gears for such companies as Gardner-Denver of Quincy, Illinois. The iron works was shut down in 1943 or 1944 and the equipment sold at public auction.

In 1898 the ruffler business was sold, and in 1903 the Ottumwa Iron Works was incorporated for the purpose of manufacturing mining equipment. At the time of incorporation, the officers were Allen Johnston, J. T. Hackworth and A. G. Harrow.

Over the years, many improvements were made in the mining industry. The company held a number of patents, including electrical controls for hoists. Another was a cylindro-conical drum for hoists, which revolutionized hoisting in mines. The company sold its products throughout the world.