Owensboro, Kentucky

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City of Owensboro, Kentucky
—  City  —
Historic District in downtown Owensboro
Nickname(s): BBQ Capital of the World
Motto: "Progress 1817"
Location of Owensboro within Kentucky.
Coordinates: 37°45′28″N 87°7′6″W / 37.75778°N 87.11833°W / 37.75778; -87.11833
CountryUnited States
SettledYellow Banks, Kentucky 1797
 • MayorRon Payne
 • Mayor Pro TemPamela Smith-Wright
 • City ManagerWilliam Parrish
 • City18.7 sq mi (48.3 km2)
 • Land17.4 sq mi (45.1 km2)
 • Water1.2 sq mi (3.2 km2)  6.59%
Elevation394 ft (120 m)
Population (2010)
 • City57,265
 • Density3,107.3/sq mi (1,198.8/km2)
 • Metro114,752
Time zoneCST (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST)CDT (UTC−5)
ZIP codes42301-42304
Area code(s)270
FIPS code21-58620
GNIS feature ID0500082
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City of Owensboro, Kentucky
—  City  —
Historic District in downtown Owensboro
Nickname(s): BBQ Capital of the World
Motto: "Progress 1817"
Location of Owensboro within Kentucky.
Coordinates: 37°45′28″N 87°7′6″W / 37.75778°N 87.11833°W / 37.75778; -87.11833
CountryUnited States
SettledYellow Banks, Kentucky 1797
 • MayorRon Payne
 • Mayor Pro TemPamela Smith-Wright
 • City ManagerWilliam Parrish
 • City18.7 sq mi (48.3 km2)
 • Land17.4 sq mi (45.1 km2)
 • Water1.2 sq mi (3.2 km2)  6.59%
Elevation394 ft (120 m)
Population (2010)
 • City57,265
 • Density3,107.3/sq mi (1,198.8/km2)
 • Metro114,752
Time zoneCST (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST)CDT (UTC−5)
ZIP codes42301-42304
Area code(s)270
FIPS code21-58620
GNIS feature ID0500082

Owensboro is the fourth largest city by population in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It is the county seat of Daviess County.[1] It is located on U.S. Route 60 about 32 miles (51 km) southeast of Evansville, Indiana, and is the principal city of the Owensboro, Kentucky, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 57,265 at the 2010 U.S. Census, with a metropolitan population of 114,752. The city was named after Colonel Abraham Owen. Owensboro is the second-largest city in the Tri-State region of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky after Evansville.



According to anthropological studies, Native American culture in the locality dates back 12,000 years, though the last Shawnee Indians were forced to vacate the area before the end of the eighteenth century.


The first European descendant to settle in Owensboro was frontiersman William Smeathers (Smothers) in 1797, for whom the riverfront park in downtown Owensboro is named. A Kentucky Historical Marker is erected in his honor at the park. The settlement was originally known as Yellow Banks, a reference to the color of the banks of the Ohio River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered at what is today's Owensboro prior to departing on their famous travels. In 1817, Yellow Banks was incorporated as a city under the name Owensborough, named after Colonel Abraham Owen. In 1893, the spelling of the name was shortened to its current Owensboro.

Civil War

In August 1865, Owensboro was subject to a raid by a band of Confederate guerrillas from Tennessee led by Captain Jack Bennett, an officer in Stovepipe Johnson's Partisan Rangers. Bennett's men rode into Owensboro, tried and failed to rob a local bank, took 13 Union soldiers of the 108th Coloured Infantry prisoner, executed them, burned the bodies on a supply boat and escaped back to Tennessee having covered a total of 300 miles (480 km) on horseback inside six days. Another major battle occurred 8 miles (13 km) south of Owensboro and is today signified by a monument marking the battle located beside US Hwy 431.

There have been several distillers, mainly of bourbon whiskey, in and around the city of Owensboro. The major distillery still in operation is the Glenmore Distillery Company.

On August 14, 1936, downtown Owensboro was the site of the last public hanging in the United States. Rainey Bethea was executed for the rape and murder of 70-year-old Lischa Edwards. The execution was presided over by the first female Sheriff in Kentucky, Florence Thompson.

The end of the Second World War brought civil engineering projects, which helped turn Owensboro from a sleepy industrial town into a modern, expanding community by the turn of the 1960s. Many of the projects were set in motion by Johnson, Depp & Quisenberry, a firm of consulting engineers then engaged in a runway redesign at the County Airport; the 'Depp' in question was a member of an old and prodigious Kentucky family which includes the town's most famous son, actor Johnny Depp.

Manufacturing history

The Owensboro Wagon Company, established in 1884, was one of the largest and most influential wagon companies in the nation. With nearly eight styles or sizes of wagons, the company set the standard of quality at the turn of the 20th century

Frederick A. Ames came to Owensboro from Washington, Pennsylvania in 1887. He started the Carriage Woodstock Company to repair horse-drawn carriages. In 1910 he began to manufacture a line of automobiles under the Ames brand name. Ames hired industrialist Vincent Bendix in 1912, and the company became the Ames Motor Car Company. Despite its product being called the "best $1500" car by a Texas car dealer, the company ceased production of its own model in 1915. The company then began manufacturing replacement bodies for the more widely sold Ford Model T. In 1922, the company again remade itself and started to manufacture furniture under the name Ames Corporation. The company finally sold out to Whitehall Furniture in 1970.[2]

1899 saw the start of the Kentucky Electrical Lamp Company, a light bulb manufacturing company which eventually was acquired by Kentucky Radio Company (Ken-Rad) in 1918 and later acquired by General Electric in 1945 and in 1987 acquired by MPD, Inc.,[3] created the light bulbs that illuminated the first night game in the history of Major League Baseball on May 24, 1935,between the Reds and Phillies at Cincinnati's Crosley Field.[4]

In June 1932, John G. Barnard founded the Modern Welding Company, Inc. in a small building located near the Ohio River at First and Frederica Streets where the Commonwealth of Kentucky office building sits today. Today, Modern Welding Company has 9 steel tank and vessel fabrication subsidiaries located throughout the United States and 5 welding supply stores located in Kentucky and Indiana. The company is an industry leader by being the country's largest supplier of Underwriters Laboratories listed, underground and aboveground steel storage tanks for flammable and combustible liquids. Chemical storage tanks, ASME pressure vessels and structural steel fabrication are additional products manufactured by the company. The company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.[5]

Texas Gas Transmission Corporation was created in 1948 with the merger of Memphis Natural Gas Company and Kentucky Natural Gas Corporation and made its headquarters in Owensboro. Since that time, Texas Gas changed ownership four times. The company was bought by CSX Corp. in 1983; by Transco Energy Corp. in 1989; by Williams in 1995; and by Loews Corporation in 2003.[6]

In 1961, engineers at the General Electric plant in Owensboro introduced a family of vacuum tubes called the Compactron.


Top employers

According to Owensboro's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[7] the top employers in the city were:

#Employer# of Employees
1Owensboro Medical Health System Hospital3,300
2U.S. Bank Home Mortgage1,261
3Owensboro Public Schools778
4Specialty Foods Group470
7City of Owensboro481
8Commonwealth of Kentucky471


In 1937, Pope Pius XI established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, which spans approximately the western third of the state. It includes thirty-two counties and covers approximately 12,500 square miles (32,000 km2).[8]


Owensboro is located at 37°45′28″N 87°7′6″W / 37.75778°N 87.11833°W / 37.75778; -87.11833 (37.757748, −87.118390)[9], at the crook of a bend in the Ohio River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.7 square miles (48 km2), of which 17.4 square miles (45 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) (6.59%) is water.

Owensboro is about 32 miles (51 km) east of Evansville, Indiana.


Climate data for Owensboro, KY, USA
Average high °F (°C)41.2
Average low °F (°C)23.2
Precipitation inches (mm)3.3
Source: climate-charts.com[10]


Historical populations
U.S. Census Bureau[11]

At the U.S. 2009 census[12] estimate, there were 55,745 people, 22,659 households and 14,093 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,102.9 per square mile (1,198.4/km²). There were 24,302 housing units at an average density of 1,394.7 per square mile (538.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.63% White, 6.90% African American, 0.51% Asian, 0.12% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.03% of the population.

There were 22,659 households, of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 33.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.91.

24.1% of the population were under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.6 males.

The median household income was $31,867 and the median family income was $41,333. Males had a median income of $33,429 versus $21,457 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,968. About 12.2% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 12.4% of those age 65 or over.

Metropolitan area

According to the 2007 census, the Owensboro Metropolitan Area includes Daviess, Hancock, and McLean counties.

Law and government

Daviess County Courthouse constructed in 1964

Owensboro has operated under a City Manager form of government since 1954. Citizens elect a mayor and four city commissioners who form the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners is the legislative body of the city government and represents the interests of the citizens. The Board of Commissioners hires a city manager who administers the day-to-day operations of the city.

The mayor is elected for a term of four years. Each city commissioner is elected for a term of two years. The term of the city manager is indefinite and based on performance.


The Owensboro Public Schools, Daviess County Public Schools, and the Diocese of Owensboro's Catholic School System oversee K-12 education in and around Owensboro.

Owensboro is home to two private, four-year colleges, Brescia University and Kentucky Wesleyan College, and one public community college, Owensboro Community and Technical College. Campus of Daymar College are also located in Owensboro, and Western Kentucky University Owensboro maintains an extended campus there.

In 2006, plans were announced for a research center operated by the University of Louisville to be located at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, a part of the Owensboro Medical Health System, to study how to make the first ever human papilloma virus vaccine, called Gardasil, from tobacco plants. U of L researcher Dr Albert Bennet Jenson and Dr Shin-je Ghim discovered the vaccine in 2006. If successful, the vaccine would be made in Owensboro.[13]


Glover Cary Bridge as seen from Smothers Park

US 60 and US 431 serve Owensboro, with US 431 terminating at the former US 60 Bypass (now signed US 60). US 231 and US 60 form a partial beltway around Owensboro. KY 81, KY 56, KY 331, KY 298, KY 54, and KY 144 also serve the city.

Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport serves along with Evansville Regional Airport as one of the region's commercial airports.

Cultural features


The daily newspaper is the Messenger-Inquirer, owned by the Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Kentucky.[14]

Radio stations include WBIO, WOMI, WVJS and WBKR broadcasting from Evansville. One, WSTO-FM, is actually licensed to Owensboro, although its studios are now located in Evansville.

Although no television stations are based in the city, it is part of the Evansville television market, which is the 100th-largest in the United States according to Nielsen Media Research.[15] However, in early 2007, WFIE-TV opened a bureau in Owensboro which covers news on the Kentucky side of the market. Many of the local television stations often promote themselves as serving Evansville, Henderson and Owensboro.

Fireworks over the river in Owensboro, KY
Owensboro Concert alt text
Concert during July 4th celebration 2010.
Owensboro Medical Health System alt text
Owensboro Medical Health System
Owensboro Bar-B-Q Festival alt text
Owensboro BBQ Festival 2008
Military Memorial on the riverfront

Events of interest

Points of interest

Notable natives


Sports figures


Dudley Morton Memorial at the American Legion Hall

Authors and journalists


Sister cities

Owensboro has two sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:[22]

See also


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Counties/Pages/FindACounty.aspx. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ CoachBuilt.com – Ames Buggy Company
  3. ^ "The seizure of the Ken-Rad Plant-1944" by Leonard Rex, Daviess County Historical Quarterly, April 1984, pp 27–31
  4. ^ Thackers mark anniversary of landmark baseball game,By Suzi Bartholomy, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. Wednesday, May 26, 2010
  5. ^ "Modern Welding Company | About Us". Modweldco.com. 2008-12-07. http://www.modweldco.com/about/. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  6. ^ "Texas Gas - History". Txgt.com. 2005-11-15. http://www.txgt.com/AboutUs.aspx?id=54. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  7. ^ City of Owensboro CAFR
  8. ^ Owensboro Diocese Home Page
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  10. ^ "Owensboro, KY, Kentucky, USA: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data - Climate (Average Weather) Data". Climate-Charts.com. http://www.climate-charts.com/Locations/u/US72000001560911.php. Retrieved 2011−06−09. 
  11. ^ Historical Census Data United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on 2009-1-8
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^ Two at UofL help invent vaccine – Courier Journal
  14. ^ "Messenger-Inquirer Website". Messenger-Inquirer. http://www.messenger-inquirer.com. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  15. ^ "Nielsen Media Research Local Universe Estimates". Audience Research & Development. http://www.ar-d.com/pdf/DMAListing_2005-2006.pdf. Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  16. ^ "Friday After 5". Downtown Owensboro, Inc. http://www.fridayafter5.com. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  17. ^ "Owensboro PumpkinFest". http://www.owensboropumpkinfest.org. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  18. ^ "Glenmary Sisters". Glenmary Home Mission Sisters of America. http://www.glenmarysisters.org. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ [2][dead link]
  21. ^ Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark W. Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 11–27 [3]
  22. ^ "Online directory: Kentucky, USA". Sister Cities International. http://www.sister-cities.org/icrc/directory/usa/KY. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 

External links


Coordinates: 37°45′28″N 87°07′06″W / 37.757748°N 87.11839°W / 37.757748; -87.11839