By Cindy Ladage
FULTON, Ill. – Heritage Canyon is a former quarry converted into an 1800s village. This is a great place to go for a hike to see some old iron. Collectors will enjoy the walk and the view of old plows and a few antique equipment collectibles.
Heritage Canyon is located in the same town as the De Immigrant windmill. The windmill was built in Holland. It was then moved to Fulton, where it was reconstructed by skilled craftsmen from the Netherlands. This town also has bragging rights to Heritage Canyon, located on 12 acres. This wooded structure and nature walk is dotted with buildings.
The story behind the site is the quarry was abandoned in 1954 because dynamiting was damaging the Mississippi River. Harold and Thelma Wierenga bought the quarry in 1967. After converting a machine shop into a workshop, they then built their home on top of the former rock crusher. The couple then continued building their 1800s village. While building Heritage Canyon, they had two goals: first, they wanted to create a village preserving Midwestern history, and second, they wanted to disturb nature as little as possible as each building was added. They created their canyon masterpiece from 1967-1999.
Harold Wierenga passed in January 1999, then his daughter and son-in-law ran the site until October of 2006, when the Canyon was given to the City of Fulton. Later, in October 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. There is a sign showing all the buildings a visitor will see – 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.
One of the first buildings is a house that originally belonged to Don and Karen Temple in the mid-1860s. “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. There is a second summer kitchen near the first one that was built in the mid 1800s. The house burned to the ground, but the summer kitchen survived and was moved to Dwight Wiesema farm until it was moved to Heritage Canyon by truck. Inside are a beautiful old cook stove and dishes. It looks like a farm wife could go right to work.
In the valley is a lovely old church that is often used for weddings and up on the hill are two old log cabins. Several pieces of old equipment, including a running gear, surround the log cabins. Walking under a beautiful, covered bridge brings visitors to the Village Blacksmith and Wagon Works.
Here in front of the shop is an array of plows. One especially cool plow is a Potato walking plow that was pulled behind a horse. Another favorite was the Aspinwall Potato Planter. This neat plow was made by Lewis Aspinwall and the patent was granted in 1862. Information shared, “Aspinwall’s planter was the first to open furrow, drop the seed pieces a set distance apart, then close the furrow, all in one operation.”
Besides plowing with horses, a sign shows plowing with mules and oxen as well were commonplace with this old walk behind plows.
Inside both the Blacksmith shop and the Iron Works building there is a lot of farm history. Besides machinery sitting around there is also a neat windmill as well. Then there are the more typical buildings found in a village that also add interest to the hike. The setting is quite idyllic and would be different per each season. Check out the website for events scheduled although they may be restricted due to COVID-19.
Heritage Canyon is located at 515 N 4th St., Fulton, Ill. 61252. Learn more on the city of Fulton’s website, https://www.cityoffulton.us.