Wapsipinicon Feed Mill and dam has been operational in the center of Independence, Iowa since 1854. The massive historical structure is five stories high, 122 feet long and 62 feet wide and was originally used to produce flour from wheat. As wheat procuction declined in the area, the mill was converted to producing “Wapsi” brand poultry and stock feed.
For more than 150 years the Wapsipinicon Mill has been the foremost cornerstone of the town of Independence. It still stands in its original location but has undergone several cosmetic reconstructions over the years.
The first time I was in Independence was on a hot afternoon in late July, 2003. The mill was open and was grinding corn meal. I took a tour to see how the historic technology works. The Mill serves today as a substantial tourist attraction and is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. It is operated by the Buchanan County Historical Society and is open for tours and special events during the summer months.
Most recently I was in Independence again in early May, 2007. Unfortunately, on this visit the mill was not yet open for the season, but was still happy to photograph the outside since I had lost my earlier photos of the mill in a computer crash.
Behind the mill is a city park with picnic areas and very scenic views of the mill and the Wapsipinicon River.
When the old train depot was restored and relocated in Independence, Iowa, the Illinois Central Railways donated a locomotive, cargo car and caboose that are now obsolete and on display next to the station. For the railroad and/or history buff these are well worth stopping to see.
Just five years after the opening of Wapsipinicon Mill the first steam engine came chugging into Independence, Iowa. It was a great day for early settlers and farmers in Buchanan County, December 12, 1859, when the first shipment of wheat and pork left Independence for larger markets in the East.
A new railraod station was built in 1891, and a year later passenger service was innagurated at the Illinois Central Depot, serving travelers coming to and departing from Independence.
Today, the old depot has been relocated along Highway 150 and restored to serve as offices for Buchanan County Tourism.