Heritage Canyon has such a cool name. That alone was enough to make me want to see what it was. It turned out to be a former quarry turned into an 1800’s village!
This cool windmill was built in Holland. Then it was moved to Fulton, Illinois where it was reconstructed by skilled craftsmen from the Netherlands. Located along the Mississippi River, I had hoped to go in the Visitor’s Center. Sadly it was closed, because of COVID and for the season. This beautiful all wooden structure is held together with wooden dowels. They grind six different grains using the original stone wheels powered by the wind. It was worth the drive just to see it! There is also a great walk along with River!
I saw a sign for Heritage Canyon and told Keith, “Let’s see what it is!”
I am so glad we did. Heritage Canyon is located on 12-acres that was a former limestone quarry. This wooded structure and nature walk is dotted with buildings. The site has been converted into a Mid-1800’s village.
The quarry was abandoned in 1954 because dynamiting was damaging the Mississippi River. The quarry became an eyesore. Harold and Thelma Wiernga bought the quarry in 1967. They converted the machine shop into a workshop. Then built their home on top of the former rock crusher.
The Wierenga’s had two goals,. They wanted to create a village preserving Midwestern history. And, they wanted to disturb nature as little as possible as each building was added. They created their canyon masterpiece between 1967-1999.
Harold Wierenga passed in January of 1999. His daughter and son-in-law maintained the Canyon for years. In October of 2006, the Canyon was given to the City of Fulton. Later, in October of 2007, Thelma Wierenga passed away. A memorial was held. Today the Canyon is maintained by an onsite caretaker, and the Early American Crafters.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour, and that’s what I did. I was so delighted with what I found! My first sighting was a cool sundial, then a well, then a plaque explaining the Wiergena’s story. I love at the end of the plaque is a note saying, “The Good Lord gave me this place and the ideas and I want to share it with others.”
I saw a sign showing me that I would find a church, blacksmith shop, ironworks, general store, print, log cabin and school. What is not on the sign, that antique tractor enthusiasts will love is old iron scattered here, there and everywhere! I didn’t stop and get the down low on all of the buildings. However, there is a story for each one. For the cute little house with the summer kitchen, it was built in Garden Plain township. It belonged to Don and Karen Temple in the mid-1860’s.
“It was built by the Henry Bruebaker family, a distant relative of Karen’s. The Bruebakers were originally from Pennsylvania and were members of a religious sect called the ‘Brethren in Christ’. Since this sect forbid participation in war and as the Civil War was being fought on Pennsylvania land Henry Brubaker took his wife and five month old daughter to live, here in the prairie region of Illinois. Two daughters were born after they moved here and the family of five lived in this house for many years before building a larger one and using this once as a summer kitchen.”
There was more, but it was interesting to read that the house was donated by the Temples. It was taken apart and moved to the Canyon on hayracks!
The Church and more
The Church is so lovely! Many weddings I read are held in this beautiful setting! On down the stone path I ran across plows, machinery. I saw the log cabins up on the hill. There is a covered bridge. Then you come to the Blacksmith and Wagon Works. In front of the wagon works are an array of potato plows, and other neat implements.
I love the beautiful windmill. Best of all though, was the lovely day, the walk and the find of this cool place!