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Owensboro, Kentucky facts for kids

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Owensboro, Kentucky
Corner of West 3rd and St. Ann Streets in Owensboro
Corner of West 3rd and St. Ann Streets in Owensboro
BBQ Capital of the World
"Progress 1817"
Location of Owensboro in Daviess County, Kentucky.
Location of Owensboro in Daviess County, Kentucky.
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Daviess
Settled (as Yellow Banks) 1797
Established (as Owensborough) 1817
Incorporated 1850
 • City 22.10 sq mi (57.24 km2)
 • Land 20.65 sq mi (53.49 km2)
 • Water 1.45 sq mi (3.76 km2)  6.47%
394 ft (120 m)
 • City 60,183
 • Density 2,914.15/sq mi (1,125.16/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 270 & 364
FIPS code 21-58620
GNIS feature ID 0500082
Highways US 60.svg US 231.svg US 431.svg I-165.svg

Owensboro is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Daviess County, Kentucky, United States. It is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. Owensboro is located on U.S. Route 60 and Interstate 165 about 107 miles (172 km) southwest of Louisville, and is the principal city of the Owensboro metropolitan area. The 2010 census had its population at 57,265. The metropolitan population was estimated at 116,506. The metropolitan area is the sixth largest in the state as of 2018, and the seventh largest population center in the state when including micropolitan areas.


Evidence of American Indian settlement in the area dates back 12,000 years. Following a series of failed uprisings with British support, however, the last Shawnee were forced to vacate the area before the end of the 18th century.

The first European descendant to settle in Owensboro was frontiersman William Smeathers or Smothers in 1797, for whom the riverfront park is named. The settlement was originally known as "Yellow Banks" from the color of the land beside 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 formally established under the name Owensborough, named after Col. Abraham Owen. In 1893, the spelling of the name was shortened to its current Owensboro.

In August 1864, 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. Another major battle occurred 8 miles (13 km) south of Owensboro and is today signified by a monument marking the battle located beside US Highway 431.

Several distillers, mainly of bourbon whiskey, have been in and around the city of Owensboro. The major distillery still in operation is the Glenmore Distillery Company, now owned by the Sazerac Company.

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 prominent 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 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 remade itself and started to manufacture furniture under the name Ames Corporation. The company finally sold out to Whitehall Furniture in 1970.

The start of the Kentucky Electrical Lamp Company, a light bulb manufacturing company was in 1899; it 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., 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. The Owensboro plant was a major part of General Electric's vacuum tube manufacturing operations, producing both receiving types and military/industrial ceramic types. In 1961, engineers at the General Electric plant in Owensboro introduced a family of vacuum tubes called the Compactron.

In June 1932, John G. Barnard founded the Modern Welding Company 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 nine steel tank and vessel fabrication subsidiaries located throughout the United States, and five welding supply stores located in Kentucky and Indiana. The company is the country's largest supplier of underground and aboveground steel storage tanks for flammable and combustible liquids. The company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.

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.

Pinkerton Tobacco produced Red Man chewing tobacco in Owensboro. Swedish Match continues to make Red Man in a plant outside city limits.


In 1937, Pope Pius XI established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, which spans approximately the western third of the state. It includes 32 counties and covers approximately 12,500 square miles (32,000 km2). Though the area has been considered by many to be predominately Catholic, evangelical denominations such as Southern Baptists have increased dramatically over the past several decades. The Kentucky Baptist Convention has many churches in the area. Owensboro is also home to Temple Adath Israel, which is among the oldest synagogues in the United States.


Owensboro KY Military Memorial
Military memorial on the riverfront

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), at the crook of a bend in the Ohio River. Owensboro is 37 miles (60 km) southeast of Evansville, Indiana.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Owensboro has a total area of 20.4 square miles (52.9 km2), of which 19.1 square miles (49.5 km2) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), or 6.47%, is water.


Owensboro has a humid subtropical climate which is characterized by hot, humid summers and moderately cold winters. Day-to-day temperature differences can be high during the winter. Summers, in comparison, are much more stable. Severe weather, including the threat of tornadoes, is not uncommon throughout much of the year, with several notable events occurring throughout the city's history.

Climate data for Owensboro, Kentucky
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 41.2
Average low °F (°C) 23.2
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.3


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 229
1850 1,215
1860 2,308 90.0%
1870 3,437 48.9%
1880 6,231 81.3%
1890 9,837 57.9%
1900 13,189 34.1%
1910 16,011 21.4%
1920 17,424 8.8%
1930 22,765 30.7%
1940 30,245 32.9%
1950 33,651 11.3%
1960 42,471 26.2%
1970 50,329 18.5%
1980 54,450 8.2%
1990 53,549 −1.7%
2000 54,067 1.0%
2010 57,265 5.9%
2020 60,183 5.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 58,083 people and 23,380 households within the city. The population density was 2,999.1 people per square mile (1,198.4 per km2). There were 26,072 housing units at an average density of 1,394.7 per square mile (538.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.5% White, 7.3% African American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.2% of the population.

There were 23,380 households, out of which 23.7% 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.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 23.7% 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 income for a household in the city was $37,289, and the median income for a family was $41,333. Males had a median income of $33,429 versus $21,457 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,183. About 12.2% of families and 18.4% 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.


Owensboro Kentucky Bridge over Ohio
Owensboro Bridge and the Indiana riverbank as seen from Smothers Park in downtown Owensboro


I-165, 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 primary commercial airports.

The Owensboro Transit System (OTS) offers bus transit to residents, and the Green River Intra-County Transit System (GRITS) offers specialized bus services to residents with disabilities who are not able to ride fixed-route public transportation buses.

Cultural features

Owensboro was named an All-American City in 2013. Owensboro placed fourth on Area Development's Top 20 Southern Cities, with a 9th-place ranking for its "recession busting factors" among the Top 25 Small Cities.


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

Radio stations include WBIO, WXCM, WLME, WOMI, WVJS and WBKR broadcasting from Owensboro. 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. 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, Indiana, Owensboro, Kentucky, and Henderson, Kentucky.

Fireworks over the river in Owensboro
Concert during July 4th celebration, 2010
Owensboro BBQ Festival, 2008

Events of interest

  • Owensboro is the "BBQ Capital of the world"; it holds its International Bar-B-Q Festival and competition every second weekend in May.
  • Each summer, Owensboro hosts the Big O Music Fest, a large country music festival. Some of the artists who have played at the festival include Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, and Gary Allan. The one-day event, dubbed "The Party of the Year", draws an estimated 12,000 people from across the country. The Big O Music Fest is held at Reid's Orchard.
  • Owensboro also hosts ROMP, "River of Music Party", a bluegrass festival. ROMP has grown to 20,000 visitors a year. Some artists include Sam Bush, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, and Old Crow Medicine Show. ROMP won the Governor's Award for Community Arts in 2013.
  • Lanham Brothers Jamboree is an event held every second Saturday from April through September at the Diamond Lake Resort Theater in Owensboro. The jamboree was started by Randy Lanham and Barry Lanham. All show are videotaped and broadcast on KET KY, Kentucky Educational Television.
  • During the summer, the city offers Friday After 5, a free 16-week series of outdoor concerts on the downtown riverfront. The festival includes live bands, events for families, and entertainment every Friday from 5:00 pm till 10:00 pm. An estimated 55,000 people attend the events.
  • The Owensboro PumpkinFest is held each September at the Sportscenter/Moreland Park complex. The festival includes food vendors, crafts people, carnival rides, children and adult activities and games, and contests using pumpkins. Each year, the festival hosts a weekend-long concert series featuring some of the area's top bands, such as the Velvet Bombers, Sundown, Bad Kitty, and Mr. Nice Guy, to name a few. The event was started by the Glenmary Sisters as a way to raise awareness and funds for their mission work in the southeastern United States.
  • Owensboro is home of a unique annual fundraiser: Men Who Cook – Celebrity Chefs Gala & Auction. The first Men Who Cook was held in 2007 through the collaboration of Richard Remp-Morris, Deputy Chief David Thompson with the Owensboro Police Department, and many dedicated volunteers. Men Who Cook features amateur chefs who display their culinary talents in a friendly competition for coveted Silver Spoon Awards. All proceeds from the event support the mission work of the Glenmary Sisters, who since 1941 have supported the poorest of Americans living in the rural South and Appalachia.
  • During the summer, Owensboro is home of the Owensboro Oilers, a baseball team in the collegiate wood-bat Ohio Valley League. The Oilers were the KIT League's 2008 playoff champions and the 2006 KIT League season champions. The team is named for the baseball minor league farm team "Owensboro Oilers" which existed in the 1940s.
  • In February 2013, Owensboro hosted indoor football games of the Owensboro Rage. The Rage, who relocated from Evansville, Indiana, played in the Continental Indoor Football League.

Points of interest

  • Ben Hawes Golf Course and Park
  • Owensboro Bridge
  • International Bluegrass Music Museum
  • Largest sassafras tree (located on Frederica Street next door to the Owensboro Public Library)
  • Owensboro Museum of Science and History
  • RiverPark Center
  • Smothers Park
  • Temple Adath Israel, one of the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States
  • Western Kentucky Botanical Garden
  • William H. Natcher Bridge

Sister cities

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


Top employers

According to Owensboro's 2021 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Owensboro Health 4,274
2 U.S. Bank Home Mortgage 1,499
3 Owensboro Public Schools 833
4 Toyotetsu Mid-America 682
5 Sazerac Distilleries 543
6 Specialty Foods Group 513
7 Mizkan America Inc. 451
8 City of Owensboro 434
9 UniFirst 405
10 Metalsa Structural Products, Inc. 396


The Owensboro Oilers baseball team compete in the collegiate wood-bat Ohio Valley League. The Oilers were the KIT League's 2008 playoff champions and the 2006 KIT League season champions. The team is named for the baseball minor league farm team "Owensboro Oilers" which existed in the 1940s.


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 (Catholic) and Kentucky Wesleyan College, and one public community college, Owensboro Community and Technical College. A campus of Daymar College is also located in Owensboro, and Western Kentucky University has a regional 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.

Owensboro has a lending library, the Daviess County Public Library.

Notable people


  • W. Ralph Basham, former director of the United States Secret Service
  • Wendell H. Ford, former Kentucky governor and U.S. senator
  • Steve Henry, former lieutenant governor of Kentucky
  • Albert S. Marks, former governor of Tennessee
  • Suzanne Miles, member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from the 7th District
  • Wilbur Kingsbury Miller, federal judge
  • William Rosenbaum, member of the Arizona House of Representatives
  • John M. Spalding, World War II hero, politician


  • Chris Brown (defensive back), former NFL player
  • Bruce Brubaker, former Major League Baseball player
  • Vince Buck, NFL player
  • Rex Chapman, former NBA player
  • Wayne Chapman, former NBA and ABA player
  • David Green, Jeff Green and Mark Green, NASCAR drivers
  • Cliff Hagan, former NBA player
  • Nicky Hayden, motorcycle racer, 2006 MotoGP champion
  • Roger Lee Hayden, motorcycle racer
  • Tommy Hayden, motorcycle racer
  • Kenny Higgs, former NBA player
  • Mark Higgs, former NFL player
  • Jeff Jones, collegiate basketball coach
  • Tommy Kron, professional basketball player
  • Jeremy Mayfield, former NASCAR driver
  • Justin Miller, NFL player
  • Eugene Oberst, Olympic bronze medalist in the javelin throw
  • Bo Smith, Canadian Football League cornerback
  • Larry Vanover, MLB umpire
  • Nick Varner, pool champion
  • Darrell Waltrip, three-time NASCAR champion and Hall of Fame inductee; FOX sports commentator
  • Michael Waltrip, retired NASCAR driver/team owner and FOX sports commentator
  • Dave Watkins, Major League Baseball player
  • Bobby Watson, former NBA player
  • B.J. Whitmer, professional wrestler
  • Brad Wilkerson, MLB player
  • Ken Willis, former NFL player


  • Johnny Depp, actor, director, musician
  • Tom Ewell, actor
  • Florence Henderson, actress, singer, most notable of The Brady Bunch fame
  • Kevin Olusola, musician, beatboxer for Pentatonix
  • Tom Powers, actor
  • Christine Johnson Smith, opera singer and Tony Award-nominated Broadway actress
  • Mark Stuart, vocalist for Audio Adrenaline
  • William Booth Wecker, showman of the 1930s and 1940s

Authors and journalists

  • Terry Bisson, author
  • Kody Keplinger, author
  • Stephen F. Cohen, Russian studies scholar
  • Craig Crawford, political commentator
  • Jesse Edward Grinstead author of Western fiction
  • Marcus Rediker, historian and activist
  • Moneta Sleet, Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer


  • Thomas Cruse, U.S. Army brigadier general who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Hazen A. Dean, noted Boy Scouts of America member and Scoutmaster
  • Dudley W. Morton, U.S. naval commander
  • David Paul Nash, Vietnam War Medal Of Honor recipient
  • David Sharpe, American painter

Images for kids

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