Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

Waterloo Pioneers Tower

“In the year 1800 a small number of Mennonite families arrived from Pennsylvania to settle Block 2, former Six Nation land along the Grand River. Others, mainly Mennonites, following during the next three years until problems regarding ownership of the land curtailed the migration. Representatives were sent back to Pennsylvania to raise the money necessary to secure clear title to the land, with the result that a joint stock company was formed and 60,000 acres purchased. Pennsylvania Dutch' settlers quickly took up this land, creating the first sizeable inland settlement in Upper Canada.”

First Inhabitants and Settlers

The first human inhabitants of the Grand River Valley were native peoples at least as early as 6000 B.C. These were probably nomadic hunters and gatherers. Native use of the area, including villages and some agriculture, continued through the 1800s. The British government purchased the land from the Mississaugas and in 1784 granted a parcel (six miles on either side of the Grand River) to the Six Nations for their assistance during the American War of Independence. In 1798 Joseph Brant offered for sale the land which is now Kitchener.

In 1800 the Mennonite families of Joseph Schoerg and Samuel Betzner purchased land here and emigrated from Franklin County, Pennsylvania, settling on the Grand River. By 1803 more than twenty families had joined them and the community kept growing steadily. Today there is still a strong Mennonite presence in Waterloo County.

A Memorial

In 1923 many descendants of the first Mennonite families in the area and some members of the Waterloo Historical Society formed a Memorial Association. They purchased an acre of land on the old Betzner homestead, where graves of several original family members were located, and constructed the tower, which was completed in 1926. Its random-coursed fieldstone, tapered "Swiss" copper roof, and the Conestoga wagon weathervane reflect the Swiss origin and farming lifestyle of the early Pennsylvania German settlers. The observation deck incorporates references to true north and to the Grand River Trail used by the first settlers.

The Grand River

The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower is located on the Grand River, which was declared a Canadian Heritage River in 1994. The Grand River is a great example of the role of rivers in the early cultural and industrial development of Canada. It also represents a Great Lakes Lowlands river.

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