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Waterloo's History

An old black-and-white photo of people celebrating Waterloo's cityhood

Waterloo was settled in 1806 by Abraham Erb, a Mennonite from Pennsylvania. He purchased 363 hectares (896 acres) of land from the German Tract Co. and quickly erected a saw mill in 1816 on Beaver Creek, which is now Laurel Creek.

Since Erb operated the only grist mill in the area, farmers from miles around would bring their wheat, an important 19th-century staple, to be ground into flour at his mill. This grist mill would launch Waterloo as an important commercial and social centre.

Erb named his settlement Waterloo Township after the famous Napoleonic battle won by the British allies in Belgium. However, Waterloo was slow to grow because of Erb's refusal to divide his land into lots. Over the years, his land passed through various owners and eventually was purchased by John Hoffman and Isaac Weaver in the early 1850s, when they divided it into lots and sold it at auction.

Waterloo was officially incorporated into a village in 1857, a town in 1876 and a city in 1948.

More information

Learn more about the role our past mayors, elected officials, crest and colours and Seagram plant had on our growth. Our virtual museums and the Region of Waterloo's online archives are other great sources of local history information.