Parks and Recreation

About Pawnee

Incorporated: 1817
Population: 79,218 (as of 2000 Census)

Pawnee: A Brief History

In 1812, Reverend Luther Howell of Terre Haute traveled over 100 miles by pushcart and planted a flag in the ground. That soil, formerly inhabited by the Wamapoke Indian tribe, was to become Pawnee. Rev. Howell was soon dispatched by the tribe, but not before consecrating the town’s first church, Pawnee Lutheran, which still stands today, though it was decommissioned in 1974 and is currently a wholesale linen outlet. Click here to learn the History of Pawnee: A Chronological Retelling of The Events That Shaped Our Town.

“Toast” of the Town

“Toast” of the Town Ask anyone about Pawnee, and they will tell you about our famous Boone Bread factory, which stood as Pawnee’s biggest employer for 70 years. They will also tell you about the Boone Bread Factory Fire of 1906, which killed 11 people. Then they will tell you about the legendary Pawnee Bread Factory, which in 1915 was the birthplace of the world-famous Pawnee Pumpernickel bread, which has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people! And they will tell you about the Pawnee Bread Factory fire of 1922, which killed 33 people. But then they will tell you how the factory was rebuilt, and still stands today!

“Pawnee” or “Wamapoke?”

Visitors often ask about our name. There is a North American Native American tribe from the plains of Nebraska called Pawnee, a peaceful and noble tribe with roughly 2500 surviving members. However, we are not named after them! Legend has it, Reverend Howell chose “Pawnee” as the name for our city accidentally – a functional illiterate, he tried to write “Paradise” on the city charter and his scrawls were misinterpreted.

The Native Americans who did live here were called the Wamapoke, as in the Olde Wamapoke Tribal Shop, located in the downtown shopping district. The Wamapoke tribe was a small group of 50 – 100, known for their distinctive circular patterned basket weavings and scalpings.


Reverend Luther Howell


Boone Bread Factory, then…


…and now.