Owosso, Michigan

Owosso is a city in Shiawassee County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 15,713 at the 2000 census. The city is located on the eastern side of Owosso Township, but is politically independent. The city was named after Chief Wasso, an Ojibwa leader of the Shiawassee area.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.0 square miles (12.8 km²), of which, 4.9 square miles (12.8 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.40%) is water.



Climate and weather

Owosso experiences frigid winters with the last snow usually falling in April, typically Northern Midwestern spring thaws, balmy to hot summers, and colorful falls with the first snows usually appearing in October. Each year Owosso averages eleven days with temperatures below , and nine days with temperatures above . Owosso averages twenty-nine inches of rain per year, and forty-one inches of snow. The average growing season in Owosso is 144 days.

Owosso-area tornado activity is above the state average in Michigan, and it is 83% greater than the overall U.S. average. On 6/8/1953, a Category 5 (maximum wind speeds 261-318 mph) tornado away from Owosso killed 116 people, injured 844 people, and caused between $5,000,000 and $50,000,000 in damages. On 4/11/1965, a Category 4 (maximum wind speeds 207-260 mph) tornado away from Owosso killed one person, injured 8 people, and caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damages.[216]


As of the census of 2000, there were 15,713 people living in Owosso making it the 57th largest city in Michigan and the 574th largest city in the Midwest. The city had 6,340 households, and 4,076 families. The population density was 3,174.5 per square mile (1,225.6/km²). There were 6,724 housing units at an average density of 1,358.4/sq mi (524.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.02% White, 0.17% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.76% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.96% of the population.

33.5% of the households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,576, and the median income for a family was $40,355. Males had a median income of $32,285 versus $22,534 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,764. About 10.0% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.8% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.


Owosso is divided into quadrants by state highway M-52, which runs north and south, and state highway M-21, which runs east and west. It is further divided by the Shiawassee River, which weaves its way through the city. Traditionally, the more affluent neighborhoods of Owosso are located north of the Shiawassee River and north of M-21. Oliver Street, which runs east and west through about seventy percent of the city, and its side streets, are the sites of some of the most stately and historic homes in the county. These neighborhoods, and others in Owosso, are further defined by the many schools in Owosso – each of which has its own personality – and each of which is or was the core of its surrounding neighborhood.

West Town, a retail area a few blocks west of downtown Owosso, and St. Paul Catholic Church and School, together form the centerpiece of another of Owosso’s neighborhoods. To the south-southwest of West Town is the neighborhood surrounding Dutchtown – so named because of its heavy German population during the 1800s and early- to mid-1900s. Sharing the centerpiece of the Dutchtown neighborhood is Bryant School, which lay four blocks to its south. Another distinct neighborhood is that which surrounds Washington School in the southeastern section of the city. And the personalities of the Bryant School and Washington School neighborhoods are affected by the nearby vibrant and growing Baker College of Owosso, which enriches both neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

Near the western end of the city lay Roosevelt School, and on the western section of the previously mentioned Oliver Street lay Central School. Near the far eastern end of Oliver Street are the neighborhoods surrounding Emerson School and St. Joseph Catholic Church and School. Other Owosso schools, including Salem Lutheran School, Seventh-Day Adventist School, Owosso Middle School, the newer Bentley School and Owosso High School, and the old Lincoln School, have also added flavor to their surrounding neighborhoods.

New subdivisions north and east of Owosso have blossomed into nice neighborhoods as well.

With renewal, sprawl, improved communications and travel, along with the easing of formalities across America during the last several years, so has come a blending of neighborhoods. This is especially evident in small older cities like Owosso, where the neighborhoods tend to begin dissolving into one macro neighborhood – the city itself. Nonetheless, customs, geography, schools, friendships, socioeconomic factors, and natural and man-made boundaries maintain the structure by which the remains of original neighborhoods continue to exist to a certain extent. Today’s neighborhoods in Owosso are defined by all of the aforementioned.



Baker College Owosso offers certificate, associate's, bachelor's, and master's programs in business, engineering/technology, health, education, human service, office administration, and computers. Baker College Owosso is regionally accredited and the Baker Center for Graduate Studies is also accredited by the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Education.

Owosso Public Schools

  • Owosso High School 9-12
  • Lincoln High school (alternative edu.)
  • Owosso Middle School 7-8
  • Bentley Elementary K-6
  • Bryant Elementary K-6
  • Central Elementary K-6
  • Emerson Elementary K-6
  • Roosevelt Early Childhood Center PK
  • Washington Elementary K-6
  • Shiawassee Development Center Special Education

Owosso Parochial Schools

  • Owosso Christian School (Church of God) K-8
  • Saint Paul School (Catholic) K-8
  • Salem Lutheran School PK-8
  • Owosso Seventh Day Adventist School K-6



Two newspapers are published in Owosso: the Argus-Press publishes an evening edition on Mondays through Fridays, as well as Saturday and Sunday morning editions. Recent awards from the Michigan Press Association and the Associated Press in news, editorial content and sports make the Argus-Press one of the top Michigan newspapers under 10,000 daily circulation. The Independent publishes an Owosso-Corunna edition on Sundays and Wednesdays. Both newspapers have online editions as well.


Two radio stations are located in Owosso.

WOAP 1080 AM broadcasts religious and Catholic-based talk and sermons. (no longer broadcasting)

WJSZ 92.5 FM (The Castle) broadcasts music requests – usually classic rock.

WRSR 103.9 FM (The Fox) is licensed to Owosso, but broadcasts classic rock from studios in Flint.

Owosso is also in the daytime reception area of certain radio stations located in Flint, Lansing, and Saginaw, Michigan.



State highways M-21 and M-52 transect Owosso, and M-71 begins its southeastward route in Owosso.

City Bus Service

The Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency (SATA) provides city bus service. The majority of buses are lift-equipped, and the service operates from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The service also provides a single daily bus run to and from Perry, Michigan, and another to and from Durand, Michigan.

Intercity Bus Service

Owosso is the headquarters of Indian Trails Bus Lines, which provides regularly scheduled intercity bus service from Owosso to connect with points throughout Michigan and the U. S. Indian Trails also provides chartered bus service to and from points throughout the U. S.


Owosso provides trails specifically designed for hikers and bicyclists.

The River Walk bicycle trail runs about three miles (5 km) from the west entry of the Shiawasee River Walking and Bicycle Bridge to Corunna’s McCurdy Park.


Owosso Community Airport provides a long lighted runway for private planes and air taxi services.


Owosso is the headquarters of the Great Lakes Central Railroad, which provides freight service to Northern and Southern Michigan. It also provides chartered passenger rail service and tours through its association with Lake Central Rail Tours.

Owosso is also the headquarters of the Steam Railroading Institute, which has restored the Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive and other steam-era locomotives. The Steam Railroading Institute offers weekend excursions throughout the summer and several all-day excursions throughout the year.


Owosso is the location of Memorial Healthcare; a 148-bed hospital with twenty-four hour, fully staffed emergency services.

Memorial Healthcare has over 1,000 employees, a medical-dental staff of over 130, four specialty campuses in Owosso and Corunna, and it provides satellite heathcare facilities in seven surrounding cities and towns.



The Shiawasse District Library was originally known as the Owosso Public Library. The funds for building this beautiful facility were the result of a grant from Andrew Carnegie, and the land for the library was donated by L. E. Woodard and the Owosso Casket Company. Groundbreaking took place on September 4, 1913, and the new building was dedicated on July 4, 1914.

The library contains over 70,000 books, tapes and other items. The top level of the library is the Adult Library, and the lower level is the Children’s Library.

Hanging on the walls of the library are two magnificent original oil paintings. Each of the paintings were donated in 1926 by two of the world's great artists, both of whom were born and raised in Owosso: Frederick Carl Frieseke and Alice Rogers Fisher.

Curwood Castle

Curwood Castle was the writing studio of the famous author, James Oliver Curwood. The castle is now a museum that contains period antiques, and Curwood books, photos, and movie posters as well as memorabilia from the life of another one of Owosso’s native sons: Thomas E. Dewey.[147][148]

The Shiawassee Arts Center

The Shiawasse Arts Center exhibits and sells prints of Frederick Carl Frieseke, original work of other artists, holds art classes, competitions, and has exhibitions scheduled throughout the year.[149]

The Steam Railroading Institute

Located on South Washington Street, The Steam Railroading Institute includes a visitor center, passenger train cars and other rolling stock from railroads in the U. S. and Canada, and a 3.5 acre area that holds a round house. Most impressive, however, are the stream engines, including the 82,000 pound Flagg Coal Company switch engine, the 136.000 pound Mississippian (under restoration), and the 800,000 pound Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive and tender ― the largest operating steam locomotive in Michigan. The sounds of the steam engine train heard in the hit movie The Polar Express were recorded in Owosso. Steven Spielberg’s production company filmed the sights and sounds of the Owosso-based Steam Railroading Institute’s 1225 steam engine train locomotive for the computer rendering of the movie.

The Steam Railroading Institute offers weekend excursions throughout the summer on the trains and several all-day excursions throughout the year. The Institute also offers excursions on the famous North Pole Express during December.145][146][214][215]

Owosso Speedway

Owosso Speedway is located about six miles (10 km) west of Owosso on M-21. The speedway contains grandstands, pits, and a 3/8 mile, high-banked, paved oval race track. Every Saturday night, from April through September, it features stock car and open wheel racing events.[217] In July 2008 Owosso Speedway was purchased by Fast Track Promotion INC. and made a strong resurgence in the Michigan racing community to reclaim its fame as one of the raciest asphalt tracks in the Midwest. Beginning in 2008 the speedway added a special event night that features school bus, push, pull and trailer races as an additional form of entertainment for fans periodically during the season. The "NATIONALS" at Owosso are a famous season end event (in late September) that feature a camping weekend and cars from across the Midwest that come to challenge rivals at the historic 3/8 mile.

The Movie Museum

Located in an early twentieth century church on East Oliver Street, The Movie Museum is an interactive education center that collects and preserves movie memorabilia including films, talks, records, equipment, biographies costumes, and ads. "Picture Show Snaps" are shown every Saturday evening beginning at 8:00 p.m.[141]

Historical Markers

In Owosso you can follow the Historical Markers to the birthplaces and homes on some of its most famous natives: James Oliver Curwood, Thomas E. Dewey, Frederick Carl Frieseke....

Curwood Days

Curwood Days is a four-day celebration of the life of the world-renowned Owosso author, James Oliver Curwood. The festival begins on the first Thursday of every June.

Curwood Days has become a huge festival that draws people from around the United States and Canada. It includes a street fair, parades, contests including raft races, carnival rides, concerts and more.[140]

The Mitchell Amphitheater

The Mitchell Amphitheater is located in the valley behind Owosso Middle School and along the river, across from Curwood Castle. It is home to concerts and other events throughout every summer.[139]

The Lebowsky Theater

Caught fire in summer of 2007 and the eastern wall buckled and fell. Still have yet to rebuild the wall, but said to be done about summer of 2009.

Famous residents

  • Thomas E. Dewey, lawyer, author, mob-busting District Attorney of New York City, three term Governor of New York (1942, 1946, 1950), and the Republican presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948..[2][3]
  • John Judson Bagley, Governor of Michigan from 1873 to 1877, and organizer of the Michigan National Guard. Bagley also played a role in the founding of the Republican Party.[4][5][6]
  • Alvin M. Bentley, philanthropist, foreign service officer and U. S. Congresssman. Bentley was one of the five congressmen injured, on March 1, 1954, when Puerto Rican nationalist terrorists opened fire on the floor of the House of Representatives in the U. S. Capital.[6][7][8]
  • Charles A. Towne, U. S. Congressman and Senator. Towne is the only person to have been elected to Congress from two different states: Minnesota and, later, New York.[9][10]
  • John Perkins, scholar, artist, author, Under Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Controller of the State of Michigan, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Berkley and system-wide, President of the University of Delaware, and former Chairman of the Board of Dunn and Bradstreet.[14][15][118]
  • Frederick Carl Frieseke, early American impressionist artist whose work in France won many awards in Europe and North America. Frieseke was very influential to other artists and, for several years, he and Claude Monet were next door neighbors. Frieseke’s paintings adorn the walls of many of the world’s great art museums.[16][17][18][19]
  • Albert Spear Hitchcock, artist, author, botanical explorer, systematic agrostologist, and co-developer of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hitchcock-Chase Collection.[22][23]
  • Alfred D. Hershey, bacteriologist, director of genetics research at Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, and co-winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology. Hershey, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958, was also the 1958 winner of the Albert Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association, and the 1965 winner of the Kimber Genetics Award of the National Academy of Sciences.[24][25][26][27]
  • Lloyd R. Welch, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California. Dr. Welch is the developer of the Welch Bound standard and the co-developer of the Baum-Welch algorithm. Dr. Welch was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1979, and he is the recipient of the 2003 Claude E. Shannon Award – the highest honor granted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Information Theory Society.[30][31][32]
  • Merle Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Otolaryngology, Physiology and Psychology at the University of Michigan, first Director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, and the author and co-author of several books. Dr. Lawrence was the recipient of the Award of Merit from the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, the Gold Medal Award from the American Otological Society, the Distinguished Service Award form the Princeton Class of 1938, the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Audiology, etc. Dr. Lawrence was also a highly decorated W.W.II naval aviator.[202]
  • Harry Burns Hutchins, President of the University of Michigan from 1910 to 1920, Professor of Law and Dean of the University of Michigan Law School, organizer of the Cornell University Law School, Director of Owosso Public Schools during 1871 and 1872.[202]
  • James Oliver Curwood, Conservationist and best-selling author of thirty-three novels. More than twenty movies were made of Curwood’s books and stories, including The Bear. The tourist attraction and museum now known as Curwood Castle in Owosso was built by Curwood to serve as his writing studio, and Mount Curwood (1978 ft) in Michigan’s upper peninsula was named in his honor.[47]48]
  • Diane Carey, author of forty-six novels including several Star Trek books, and seven New York Times Bestsellers.[49]50]
  • Dave Galanter, author and co-author of several Star Trek books including the Voyager book, Battle Lines, and the Next Generation duology Maximum Warp. His short story, Eleven Hours Out was included in the Tales of the Dominion War anthology.[120][121]
  • Gordon Graham, decorator, designer, artist, and author of children’s books.[61]
  • Betty Mahmoody, lecturer, advocate for the rights of women and children, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated, best-selling book, Not Without My Daughter: Escape from Iran. The book was the basis for the movie, Not Without My Daughter, which starred Sally Fields and Alfred Molina. In 1990, Betty was voted Most Courageous Woman of the Year and Woman of the Year in Germany.[64][65]
  • Robert L. Gibson, actor who appeared in TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s, including Amazing Stories, Welcome to My Nightmare, Otherworld, Highway to Heaven, etc.[70][71]
  • Mel Schacher, bass guitarist and a vocalist for the rock band Question Mark and the Mysterians and, later, a co-founding member, bassist and vocalist for Grand Funk Railroad – a rock band that sold twenty-five million records and had four gold albums.[78][79]
  • Scott Kinsey, jazz keyboardist with several groups and best known for his work with Tribal Tech. Kinsey’s work is also part of many major motion picture soundtracks.[80]
  • Bobbi McCaughey, the Iowa mother, and wife of Kenny McCaughey, who made international news when she gave birth to septuplets in Des Moines on November 19, 1997.[87][88]
  • Cora Taylor, co-founder of Owosso’s Indian Trails Bus Line. On April 19, 1914, Cora Taylor became the first women in the United States to obtain a commercial chauffeur's license.[91][92]
  • Vicki Witt, known as "the ultimate girl next door" and the “Holy Grail” of Playboy Playmates. Miss August 1978.[126][127]
  • William Graham, left-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Browns from 1908 to 1910.[95][96][97]
  • C. Warren Thornthwaite, Professor of Climatology at Johns Hopkins University, adjunct professor at Drexel University, President of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization, co-author of the book Water Balance, recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Association of American Geographers, and the Cullum Medal – the highest award of the American Geographical Society. His published research on climatology is considered to be some of the most influential of the twentieth century. His life is the subject of the book, The Genius of C. Warren Thornthwaite, Climatologist-Geographer. Dr. Thornthwaite also served as a teacher at Owosso High School from 1922 to 1924.
  • John Tomac, bicycle racer, bicycle builder, and an icon in the mountain bike racing field. Tomac won more international mountain bike races than anyone else in the sport. He was voted the top all-around bike racer in the world in 1988, and was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991.[103]
  • Chester Brewer, star athlete, coach and athletic director. Chester Brewer was a four sport star at the University of Wisconsin, and football coach at Michigan Agricultural College/Michigan State University for 1903 to 1910, 1917 and 1919 where he posted shutouts in 49 of 88 games and went undefeated in 43 straight home games. He also coached track, field, and cross country, and as baseball coach led his teams to a .564 record from 1904 to 1910, and coached the school’s basketball teams to a .736 record from 1904 to 1910. He served as athletics director and coach at the University of Missouri from 1910 to 1917, Director of Army Athletics for the U. S. War Department during 1918, served as director of athletics and professor of physical education from 1919 to1922 at MAC/Michigan State University, and held the same positions at the University of California-Davis until returning to Missouri where he served as athletics director until 1935. Brewer also coached his home town, Owosso, Michigan’s, West Side Indoor Baseball Team to win the world championship in 1905-1906.[104[105]
  • Bradlee Van Pelt, American football star. Bradlee Van Pelt, one of the all-time favorite quarterbacks for the Colorado State University Rams, set several records there during his years as a starter. He is currently a free agent and was last a backup quarterback for the Houston Texans of the NFL. Bradlee Van Pelt is the son of American football star, Brad Van Pelt. Bradlee Van Pelt was born in Owosso, but spent less than one year at Owosso High School. [106][107]
  • Brad Van Pelt, American football star. Van Pelt was a three sport star at Michigan State University. In football, he was a two-time All American, and in 1972 he became the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top collegiate football player. Van Pelt was a first round draft pick for the NFL where he played, from 1973 through 1986, with the New York Giants, the L.A. Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. Van Pelt was named the Giants’ Player of the Decade for the 1970s , and he was selected for the Pro Bowl five years in a row from 1976 through 1980. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, and has recently been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


  • At 11:11 p.m. on 11/11/11 (November 11, 1911), a tornado touched down in Owosso and ripped through the city causing massive destruction.[158]
  • The first GMC Truck was built in Owosso, Michigan.[160]
  • The first production truck to use pneumatic tires (tires inflated with air) was built in Owosso, Michigan.[160]
  • During 1922, Field Manufacturing of Owosso, Michigan, was the largest manufacturer of truck bodies in the world.[161]
  • During World War II, Owosso Speedway served as a P.O.W. camp. Opened on May 30th of 1944 with 200 veterans of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, it quickly grew to hold 375 P.O.W.’s.[164]
  • During the 1940s and early 1950s, Owosso’s Redmond Company was the largest manufacturer of fractional horsepower motors in the world. Its successor to that title was its competitor, another Owosso firm: the Universal Electric Corporation.
  • During the 1950s, Byerly’s – founded and headquartered in Owosso – was the largest grocery store/supermarket chain in Michigan with fifty-seven stores.
  • About 80% of Motown’s records were stamped into vinyl at American Record Pressing Company in Owosso, Michigan, until the company burned down in 1972 ― and, eventually, about 80% of American Record Pressing Company’s business came from Motown records.[166][167][168]
  • The jet-looking cars used in the movie, Back to the Future II, were the LiteStar Pulse (a.k.a. the Owosso Car), which were designed and built in Owosso, Michigan.[176]
  • The U.S. premiers for the hit movies, Not Without My Daughter and The Bear, were held at the Owosso Cinemas in Owosso, Michigan.
  • Owosso is the setting for the book, Dewey Defeats Truman, by Thomas Mallon.[175]
  • The award-winning poet, playwright and essayist Steve De France penned the poem, The Garage on Owosso Street, which was published in Vol. XXXII, of The Amherst Review.[171][172]
  • Woodard wrought iron outdoor furniture, designed and built in Owosso, has been in use at The White House for decades.[173]


  1. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 2006. P. 245.
  2. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 2006. P. 212.
  3. Owosso Argus Press. 2004.
  4. Owosso Argus Press. 1987.
  5. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 1999. P. 265.
  6. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 2006. P.74.
  7. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 2006. P.76
  8. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 1999. Page 244.
  9. Yahoo maps.
  10. Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio, Wednesday, November 17, 2004, page B6, col. 2
  11. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 1999. Page 144
  12. Owosso High School Alumni Directory. 2006. Page 157.
  13. Edwin Emery Slosson. Great American Universities. 1910. P. 189,190.

201. 202. 203. 204. 205. 206. 207. 208. 209. 210. 211. 212. 213. 214. 215. 216. 217.

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