Waterloo's history

Officially incorporated as a village in 1857, Waterloo became a town in 1876 and a city in 1948. Learn more at our city museum, a heritage portal where visitors connect with Waterloo's past.

History in brief

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. Waterloo was slow to grow, however, 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.

City of Waterloo's official crest in black and yellowCrest

Divided into four sections, the City of Waterloo's crest reflects stability. The crest also comprises Waterloo's official flag.

  1. The buildings in the top left represent the industries and insurance companies in Waterloo. We are home to the head offices of several insurance companies.

  2. The trees and water in the top right represent Waterloo Park and all the parks and recreational opportunities here. We are an environment-first community.

  3. The houses in the lower left represent the people who live in our neighbourhoods.

  4. The covered wagon in the lower right represents the way in which many settlers travelled here from Pennsylvania.