William Bennett, the first settler in Buchanan
County, in 1842, was attracted to the area by the rapids and swift running water
of the Wapsipinicon River. He realized it was a great mill site and immediately
began building a log house at the foot of what is Walnut Street in Quasqueton,
for his wife and children.
In 1843, Edwin Fulton, a merchant from
Davenport who had loaned Bennett the money to construct the dam and mill, came
to town and secured possession of the land claimed by Bennett. In the meantime,
a feud had developed between Bennett and William Johnson who had started a
settlement halfway between Quasqueton and Independence. After an altercation
between them, Bennett was forced to depart, going first to Delaware County and
then on to Wisconsin.
By then, William Hadden had gained possession
of the land and the mill. In 1844 he enlarged the mill and installed corn and
wheat buhr stones and other machinery. It was then called a "Custom Mill" or one
that ground grain for individual customers. Two years later, another
entrepreneur, D.S. Davis, became a partner of Mr. Hadden and they constructed a
saw mill just below the grist mill. People came from Independence and
settlements as far as 60 to 80 miles away to have their corn and wheat ground
into flour and to have their logs sawed into lumber. For a short time during
this period, corn, wheat and pork were taken to Dubuque by horse and wagon to be
By 1852, the mills became the property of J.G.
Hovey who made further improvements and was in the milling business for several
years. In 1856, J.M. Benthall came from Dubuque and he and the Lewis Brothers
became the new owners. They proceeded to tear down the older mill and build a
new one below the saw mill.
By 1870, both mills were being operated by
George Boone, but in 1871, the saw mill and the grist mill were purchased by the
Independence Milling Company. In 1878, the saw mill was carried away by high
water and three years later, in 1881, the flour mill was consumed by fire on New
Year's Day. Soon after, the Plank brothers rebuilt it and stayed in business
until February 16, 1910, when the wooden dam was crushed and taken out by
two-foot-thick ice and carried away by the high water, leaving them without
Reo Adams, who owned the dam, decided not to
rebuild. The buildings were used for various things until J. H. Buchanan
purchased them in the 1930's. He dismantled the mill, selling parts of it. He
moved the building, used previously for a creamery, to his home on North Water
Street, using it for his feed business until it was razed in the 1980s.
References for this history were secured from
the 1881 and the 1914 Buchanan County History books, along with the 1967
Quasquicentennial History Book, several copies of the Winthrop News and the
Independence Newspapers. Information submitted by Edna R. VanEtten. Photograph
contributed by Everett Nelson.
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