Foundries of Wapello County


| December/January 1994



1408 N. Van Buren Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

The early manufacturers depended on cast iron for their source of material. These small foundries were at various locations in Ottumwa. My source of information came from Ottumwa city directories dating back to 1886, and from old Ottumwa Courier records. In researching the history it was found that some of the foundries changed ownership and some of them changed locations.

The first record of a foundry was the Ottumwa Iron Foundry, operated by Drake and Spivey in 1864, the location of which could not be found. It was a foundry that made an iron to iron clothes that was an invention patented by May Webber of Ottumwa. The Ottumwa company produced the iron that was the most widely used of its kind for 30 years.

My nephew found some sled runners that were cast by the Western Machine Works located at 105-09 South Wapello Street in 1886. In their advertisement, Kretzer, Findley and Company, Proprietors, were listed as 'General Founders and Machinists. Manufacturers of all kinds of machinery. Engines and boilers for commercial creameries and printing offices and coal hoisting a specialty. Vertical and horizontal engines as required. Job work promptly attended to.' The Pollard and Belmont Wagon and Carriage was located on South Wapello Street. They probably used these sled runners to make sleds. The 1888-89 directory lists the Western Machine Works at 403 W. Main Street, which is the same location as the Wapello Street location. The 1898-90 directory does not list the Western Machine Works, but the Union Iron Works is listed at 403 W. Main. Whether this was a new company or a change of name is not known. The Union Iron Works officers were C.G. Keyhoe, president; E.L. Keyhoe, vice president; H.P. Keyhoe, secretary; and H.J. Keyhoe, treasurer. In 1902 the Ottumwa Iron Works had a foundry and machine shop, at 402 W. Main Street, that made mining hoists and steam engines. The officers were J.T. Hackworth, A.H. Harrow, Allen Johnson and Guy Major.

The Janney Manufacturing Company was incorporated August 1, 1898. The Janney Company moved to Ottumwa from Muncie, Indiana, to make corn planters, corn shredders and grinding mills. This plant was located at Main and Ash Streets with eight or nine buildings including a foundry. Janney operated this farm implement factory until 1906, when Joseph Dain was listed as receiver of the Janney interests. Was the Janney foundry used for Dain castings?

In 1907 the American Mining Tool Company was located at the Janney buildings, and Mr. Janney was operating a blanket and pad business from his home at 309 E. 5th Street. The officers of the American Mining Tool Company were F.W. Simmons, president; G.B. Simmons, secretary-treasurer and general manager. The American Mining Tool Company was last listed in 1931.