Step back to an earlier, slower pace of life as you tour the Amish countryside. The Amish are a devout and private people who farm with Belgian horses and travel about by horse and buggy. This is one of the largest Old Order Amish communities in the country. Visit some of the nearly 40 shops in the community if you are interested in quilts, handmade furniture or need harness supplies. Baked goods are available at the many bakeries on Fridays and Saturdays. These stores are open year round except on Sundays or holidays. The Amish do not pose for photos.
The Wapsipinicon Mill
Celebrating its 150th anniversary, the Wapsipinicon Feed Mill and dam became operational in 1854. The five story structure is 122 feet long by 62 feet wide and was used at first as a flouring mill. As wheat production slowed down, it became more economical to produce “Wapsi” brand poultry and stock feed.
Today the Mill is the foremost cornerstone of our community. It still resides in its original location but has since received several cosmetic reconstructions. Surrounded by several eateries and just over the bridge from our historic downtown, the Wapsipinicon Mill serves as a substantial tourist attraction and is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. Owned by the Buchanan Country Historical Society, the Mill is open mid-May thru mid-Sept. noon-4pm and closed Mondays. Special tour groups need one week advance notice; please contact Leanne Harrison at 319 334-4616. Handicapped accessibility is available.
The Wapsipinicon River flows through the heart of Independence. Beginning in the northern most part of Iowa and eventually flowing into the Mississippi River, the legend of the rivers name is a love story similar to that of Romeo & Juliet.
Wapsi was a young Indian brave; Pinicon was a beautiful Indian maiden. Wapsi was one of the warlike Sioux, and Pinicon belonged to the equally hostile tribe of Sac. As fate wiled it, they met, fell in love but strong objections from both tribes deterred them from expressing their love to each other. Their love remained strong and the lovers found means of communicating their passion and they decided one evening to elope. On the very evening they were preparing to leave, Pinicon’s father returned from a hunt and found the two together. Wapsi fled and Pinicon waited until her father fell fast asleep and she slipped away into the night to find her lover.
Guided by the October moon, the two reunited and Wapsi exclaimed, “Not even death shall ever part us more. Let us fly to my northern home, where parental tyranny can never separate us and we can dwell in peace and harmony until the Great Spirit, ‘Gitchie Manitou’, calls us.” Just then, they heard footsteps in the distance and realized that Pinicon’s father and three braves were approaching. They ran in desperate flight away from their chasers. Once they reached the river bank, there was no time for reconsideration; the murmuring river was singing their funeral chant. Without a word, the devoted lovers clasped in each other’s arms and plunged into the river. The enraged father reached the bank only to behold them struggling in the water, sinking and rising and with one last gasp sinking.
Today, the Wapsipinicon flows through Independence and is highlighted by the new River Walk Parks area. Complete with a trail, amphitheater and sand volleyball courts, the River Walk Parks has become a beautiful addition and source of recreation for the community and houses the towns largest event – the Independence Day Celebration held over the 4th of July Weekend.
Illinois Central Railroad Depot
On December 12, 1859, the first steam engine came “chugging” into Independence. It was a great day for early settlers and farmers in Buchanan County when the first shipment of wheat and pork left Independence for the eastern markets.
In 1892, the Illinois Central station began to serve a dual role as both a freight and passenger service. With this in mind, the railroad line built a new passenger depot in 1891 that was a necessity to help take care of the crowds convening for the races at the kite shaped race track.
Today, the Illinois Central Depot has been restored and relocated along highway 150 in Independence and serves as the home for Buchanan County Tourism. To accompany the relocation, Illinois Central railways donated a locomotive, cargo car and caboose that are on display next to the train depot.