History of Buchanan County Historical Society

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The First Buchanan Co. Historical Society began in 1941, with R.J. Hekel, President.  Because of WW 11 many of the early efforts were abandoned, but the donated artifacts at that time are still in our archives.

The Second Buchanan Co. Historical Society began in 1961 with a Certificate of Incorporation being filed April, 24, 1961 with the State of Iowa..

The Restated Certificate of Incorporation was filed Jan. 28, 1971.

Most of the early meetings were held in the Assembly Room of the Buchanan Co. Courthouse.  The first museum as such was located in one room on the third floor of the Buchanan Co. Courthouse with a volunteer coordinator-tour guide.  An Annual Open House in the spring of each year was held in the Assembly Room bringing down artifacts from the third floor as well as ‘on loan’ items for the event.

Our Buchanan County Historical Society ‘family’ includes the Wapsipinicon Mill, Capt. D.S. Lee Mansion, “Gateway to the Past”(Now located at Heartland Acres) and the Buchanan Co. Genealogical Society.


The historic Wapsipinicon Mill was donated to the local society in 1976 by the owners Oliver & Leona Greenley.  The Mill has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.  Years of effort, volunteers and grants have improved this site into a one-of-a-kind milling museum.  Summer hours are: Tues. thru Sun.  noon-4pm.  Handicapped accessible first floor, DVD to explore all 6 stories, and many ‘hands on’ children friendly exhibits.  Volunteer on duty.


One  of three museum sites owned by the Buchanan County Historical Society.  This museum was first established in 1971, and expanded in 1972 – in conjunction with Independence 125th Anniversary celebration.  Located at the Buchanan Co. Fairgrounds.  Many of the agricultural exhibits that were housed in the courthouse were moved here.   The idea behind this museum is to preserve and show antique tools, machinery, collectible and an earlier way of life.  It has its own unique community inside the building.  A small community that includes a doctor’s office, one-room school, print shop, general store, community church, blacksmith shop, barber-beauty shop, butcher shop, Chinese laundry and small rural farm home including kitchen and parlor.  The farmstead includes a horse barn, chicken coop, granary, machine shed..all fascinating to the people of today.  In the spring of 2007 these artifacts were relocated to the new “Heartland Acres Agribition Center”.


The D.S. Lee Mansion is an 1860’s brick home built by the first mayor of Independence.  The Buchanan County Historical Society now owns this mansion.  The hospital additions were removed and the areas are now green-space owned by the City.  The mansion listed was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  It is our intent to utilize this as a place to meet for small groups, weddings, bridge club or just a cup of coffee.  The historical society owns enough antique furniture to completely furnish this 9-room home.


A branch of the Buchanan County Historical Society, however, they have their own officers.  It evolved during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.  Local historians discovered the need to research the pioneer tombstones while they were still legible.  A program listing and documenting all cemeteries and burials with stones in the county started on a small scale.  It developed into a lengthy project and eventually the book, “Buchanan County, Iowa, Cemeteries, 1980”.  In 1990 the society published a Buchanan County History book, which contains family and town histories of Buchanan County.  The office is located in the basement of City Hall, Independence, Iowa. For more information, please see the Genealogical Society page.


“The purpose for which this historical society is organized is to discover, collect, conserve, and secure for future generations properties, artifacts and information significant to the heritage of Buchanan Co., Iowa and to serve the educational needs of its citizens by preserving these historical resources and making them available to the public..”