Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence, IA - the Church, the Mill, the Amish

One of the stops I made on my journey to Dyersville was in Independence, Iowa. I saw a steeple from the highway, so I figured I should stop. St. John Church is a neo-gothic church built in 1911. Again, another fairly plain paint job with a nice oak altar. As one can see, the church has also been tastefully renovated at some point in the past. The choir loft holds a Lyons & Healy tracker action pipe organ. A couple of unusual features in this church - 1. the transepts have a particularly sharply angled ceiling; 2. the windows along the nave are in narrow groups of twos. A church worth the jaunt off the highway!


From the church I could seep the top of an unusually tall, old building that appeared to be a mill or power plant of some sort. As it turned out, the building served both purposes at various points in its 133 year history. The Wapsipinicon Mill now serves as a historical museum and a fair amount of its original milling equipment is still intact. Built right on the Wapsipinicon river, both milling equipment and electric generators were powered by water, which both flowed in and exited underneath the building. A very fascinating and worth-while stop!

The top of the mill offers a nice view of the town. On the right side of the photo, on the bank of the river, you can see walls from an original building when the town was located lower and closer to the river.
A farmer's market happened to be going while I was there. As you can see on the far left, some Amish folk had items to sell as well... which opened up another unplanned stop.

About 10 miles north of Independence, there is a considerable Amish settlement. Driving around in the country, looking at the farmsteads, I was surprised to see that many of then were fairly run down. I saw
a sign for "Feather Pillows and Antiques" which pointed down a long, winding driveway, and I thought "Why not?" I had expected there to be shop of some sort on this gentleman's farm, but I saw none. An Amish man with a long, unkempt beard and holey straw hat came out and greeted the seemingly out of place vehicle. A very friendly and hospitable man, he asked if I'd like to see the antiques he had to offer. Again, "Why not?" He opened up the doors to a shed, which was packed full of everything from bottles to pieces of farm implements. No order to anything, no price tags - but this atmosphere lent itself to being much more of a treasure hunt than an antique mall off the interstate. After some digging, I managed to find a couple of glass chicken waterers (put a mason jar on top full of water, and you're set!) for $3 each. Even though I don't have chickens (yet) I distinctly remember using waterers like these as a kid, and I wanted to have a set. However, the find of the day was an old, silver, neo-gothic aspersorium. At $10 this was a deal I just couldn't pass up! It's badly tarnished, but in excellent condition. I'll try to polish it one of these days. I've thought about trying to sell it later, but I think I'll have to keep it just because of the story value - "yea, I found this thing in an Amish guy's shed."



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