map of Waterloo Township

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History of Waterloo Township

Waterloo Township was originally an area of land known as Block Two of the Grand River land grant donated by the British to the Six Nations First Peoples during the late eighteenth century for their loyalty to the Crown in the American Revolutionary wars. When Block Two was incorporated in the District of Gore in 1816, it became Waterloo Township, named in honour of the battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The township was the first of Waterloo County's five townships to be settled. In many regards, its settlement laid the foundation for the later settlement of other townships in Waterloo County, with a pool of pioneering experience and a source of supplies. The first immigrants to settle in Waterloo Township were almost exclusively German Mennonites from Pennsylvania. Most of these settlers were farmers but many were tradesmen and millers. The Mennonite presence left an indelible mark upon the history of Waterloo Township, inspiring many of its place names, shaping the political atmosphere, and the landscape. Later settlers were generally of Scottish, English, Irish, and continental German heritage, many of them farmers, but a majority of them tradesmen, businessmen, and professionals. They attracted and aided the majority of industrial development in Waterloo Township. When the railway was laid through Waterloo Township in the mid-nineteenth century, it became the leading industrial centre of Waterloo County.

Waterloo Township (Block Two), a 94,012 acre tract, was first acquired by Richard Beasley from Joseph Brant on behalf of the Six Nations in 1796.[1] Until the Six Nations received full mortgage payment for this sale, Beasley was prohibited by deed from subdividing the land or selling plots within it.[2] However, in order to fulfill his mortgage payments to which he had agreed, Beasley sold portions of Block Two land anyway. In 1800 alone, for example, Beasley sold over 14,000 acres to a number of Mennonite settlers from Pennsylvania. They were unaware that Beasley had not yet fulfilled his mortgage obligations, and that they would not receive legal title to their land until he did.[3] When Beasley's actions were revealed a short time later, panic rose among the Mennonite buyers who feared they would lose everything they had paid. To correct the situation, a formal agreement was arranged between Brant and Beasley. This arrangement allowed Beasley to sell the bulk of Block Two in order to cover his mortgage obligations completely, while giving the Mennonite buyers legal title to land they had previously purchased. Subsequently, Beasley sold a 60,000 acre tract of land to the German Company of Pennsylvania represented by Daniel Erb and Samuel Bricker in November 1803. Beasley's sale to the German Company not only cleared him of a mortgage debt, but left him with 10,000 acres of Block Two land which he continued to sell into the 1830s.[4]

The German Company was composed of a group of Mennonite shareholders mainly from Lancaster County Pennsylvania. They wished not only to settle in Block Two but to aid their fellow friends, both within the Company and without, who had previously purchased Block Two land from Beasley.[5] The last payment of their purchase from Beasley was made in 1804. This large payment of cash was transported from Pennsylvania by Company members Samuel and John Bricker; and Daniel, Jacob, and John Erb. As tradition has it, this journey was an eventful one.[6] The payment money was secured in an oak keg attached to a wagon that was led by one of the Company men. The remaining men, armed with muzzle-loaders, mounted on horseback to guard the wagon as it made its journey north. However, while the men were resting one evening, several bandits dashed in on them suddenly with the intention of stealing the money. Prepared for such an invasion, the Company men scattered the bandits off in all directions. Apparently, the bandits had been following the Company men suspiciously for several days, and subsequently, the Company men were ready for such a surprise attack. Consequently, the full payment price for German Company land was safely delivered intact to Beasley in Waterloo Township.

The 60,000 acres of Block Two land that the German Company acquired was surveyed into 128 lots of 448 acres each and 32 lots of 83 acres each. Each shareholder's lot was randomly selected so that all would be given an equal and fair chance to win the best lots. For this reason, shareholders with more than one share received lots that were not necessarily adjacent to one another. Moreover, because the German Company land had no formal survey with road concessions plotted out, roads that were later built in the township were often inconsistent with others in the area.[7] Depending on the location of natural boundaries like the Grand River, lots were also laid out rather awkwardly which often contributed to somewhat haphazard patterns of road development.

Prior to 1830, the majority of settlers in Waterloo Township, including those of the German Company, were Mennonites--mainly from Lancaster and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania.[8] Although a smaller number of other immigrant groups settled in the area at this time including Pennsylvanian River Brethren (also known as Dunkers or Tunkers), the Mennonite population was dominant in the early years. For example, of the 1,640 people residing in the township in 1825, 1,000 were Mennonite.[9] However, a significant area of Block Two, almost one third or roughly 30,000 acres, was not sold to the German Company. This area was called the Lower Block (of Block Two). Although much of the heartland of the Lower Block along the Grand River was sold to settlers from Pennsylvania, significant pockets of property throughout the Lower Block were also sold to settlers from the British Isles and from Germany, resulting in a diversity of cultures in areas such as Freeport, the English Settlement and Hespeler.

Raising of Hallman Barn, ca. 1905

Raising of the Hallman Barn, Waterloo Township, ca. 1905.
DHC 974.081.001

Several factors had encouraged Mennonite immigration to Waterloo Township. By the end of the eighteenth century, land had become increasingly scarce in Pennsylvania. The prospect of utilizing land for farming in an area where land was plentiful was especially appealing to those Mennonite groups who wished to continue their traditional way of life as farmers.[10] Secondly, a severe agricultural depression in Lancaster County during the 1820s forced many to look abroad to the virgin lands of Canada where an agricultural future looked more promising.[11] Finally, because Mennonites feared that their pacifist beliefs might be put into question if another American revolutionary war was to occur, the British-controlled lands of Waterloo Township seemed a safe haven.[12]

Although a small number of Mennonite and other settlers operated saw mills and other such enterprises, the majority were farmers in the formative years. Although the township was large in size, most settlement fell along the Grand River running through the middle of the Township. Although this area of the township was not the most agriculturally fertile, until about 1820, it was the most geographically accessible. After this time, the development of road and trail structures encouraged development in other areas of the township.[13] Between 1800 and 1820, nearly a hundred families settled in the area.[14] In 1818, the township had reached a population of 850, and by 1831, it had risen to 2,002.[15]

By the early 1830s, essentially all of Block Two land had been sold; over the next several decades, properties were subdivided and resold. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the majority of land in the township had by this time been re-sold; new settlers in the township were generally not land owners or farmers. They came to work primarily as artisans, labourers, shopkeepers, and millers in developing communities of the area. Groups or individuals interested in buying land moved into townships elsewhere in the County, including Wilmot and Woolwich, where the land was still ripe for development.

Although the origins of the first settler groups in the township were predominantly Pennsylvanian Mennonites, from the early 1830s the origins of settler groups diversified to a much greater degree. Many settler groups emigrated from England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany to areas such as New Germany in the north-east portion of the township, and the Lower Block of Block Two. Religious affiliations of these groups were predominantly Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist; a small number of new Mennonite settlers came into the township as well. Because of an increase in the cultural variation in Waterloo Township after 1830, proportionately the Mennonite population began to decline. For example, in 1835, approximately seventy percent of the population was Mennonite.[16] By 1851, only twenty-six percent of the population was Mennonite. However, while the Mennonite population declined, the township's population increased substantially. In 1835 the township's population was 2,791; in 1841, Waterloo Township had the greatest population of any of the townships in the County.[17] By 1851, its population had grown to 8,878.[18]

Panabaker farm near Hespeler, 1894

Farm of Cornelius and Abraham Panabaker near Hespeler,
Waterloo Township, 1894. DHC X.964.536.001

New settlers in Waterloo Township formed thriving urban communities which served the needs of the nearby farming communities. By damming creeks and brooks they put into operation a number and variety of water-powered mills including saw mills, flour mills, and grist mills. By 1848, for instance, there were eleven grist mills in operation in the township.[19] Many mill sites possessed more than one mill operation and sometimes possessed a distillery as well. In the village of Doon, for example, a large milling enterprise was in operation by 1839, including a saw mill, a distillery, and a grist mill. This enterprise was the largest in Waterloo Township at the time. Other industrial businesses of the township included tanneries, of which there were eight in the township by 1851,[20] and factories that manufactured such implements as agricultural equipment and furniture. Such small scale industries not only attracted settlers with trade skills and know-how, but attracted settlers also wishing to establish small scale businesses of a secondary nature including storekeepers, butchers, and coopers. The development of small industries consequently promoted both the settlement of small villages and hamlets, as well as lines of communication like roads and bridges.

In the mid-1850s, the defining development of Waterloo Township and Waterloo County was the construction of the railway. Worldwide, railways revolutionized the progression of modern society; Waterloo Township was no exception. The first railway line built in Waterloo Township was a main line of the Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto. It was laid through the township in 1856, making three main stops: Shantz Station, Breslau, and Berlin. Not only did the railway boom provide employment for settlers already in the area, but it also encouraged further settlement. Berlin, which had become the county seat of government in 1853, would soon become the leading industrial centre of the township as well as the county. A number of small communities would slowly be absorbed by Berlin as it expanded.

A number of other railway lines were soon laid across the township including: a Grand Trunk branch between Preston and Berlin in 1857; a Great Western line from Galt, Preston, and Guelph in 1857; a Grand Trunk branch between Waterloo, Berlin, and Galt in 1882; and a Grand Trunk Branch between Waterloo and Elmira in 1891. These railway lines also encouraged settlement and industrial development in Waterloo Township, especially in Preston and New Hope (Hespeler). Some communities, including the village of Doon, were formally laid out for development in anticipation of the railway boom; however, the hopes of some real estate dealers failed to materialize because of the strong head start enjoyed by Berlin from the 1850s. By the turn of the twentieth century, economic life in Waterloo Township turned around the central towns of Waterloo and Berlin. A similar pattern of development continued well into the twentieth century.

With the formation of Regional Government in 1973, the still-growing cities of Waterloo and Kitchener absorbed the former western section of Waterloo Township, while the part of the township lying east of the Grand River was absorbed into an enlarged Woolwich Township. The historic heart of the County, the formative township, ceased to exist as a political entity, although the character of its founding peoples continues to influence cultural life to the present day.[21]

[1] Hayes, 2-3.

[2] Ezra E. Eby, A Biographical History of Waterloo Township: and Other Townships of the County: Early Settlers and Their Descendants, 14-5.

[3] I.C. Bricker, "The History of Waterloo Township Up To 1825," Waterloo Historical Association, (1934), 83-5.

[4] Elizabeth Bloomfield, Waterloo Township through Two Centuries (St. Jacobs: 1995), 23.

[5] Eby, 14-5.

[6] Bricker, 92.

[7] Bloomfield, 25.

[8] Bloomfield, 32-3.

[9] Bloomfield, 46.

[10] Hayes, 4.

[11] Bloomfield, 32.

[12] Hayes, 4.

[13] Bloomfield, 59.

[14] Bloomfield, 34, 42, 45.

[15] Bloomfield, 46.

[16] John English & Kenneth McLaughlin, Kitchener: An Illustrated History (Waterloo: 1983), 26. See also Geoffrey Hayes, 14.

[17] Hayes, 16.

[18] Bloomfield, 56.

[19] See Bloomfield, 71, 428.

[20] Bloomfield, 72.

[21] Elizabeth Hardin Macnaughton, Peace and Prosperity; Waterloo County - Waterloo Region, 1853-1993 (Kitchener: Regional Municipality of Waterloo, 1993), 11.

William Ellis, emigrated from County Cavan in Ireland, to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. After the American Revolution, Ellis came to Canada as a United Empire Loyalist - he received a Crown deed to 200 acres of land in the Beaverdale area.  Ellis' descendant, O.B. Ellis operated lime kilns at Beaverdale in about 1900.  The name Beaverdale originated from members of the Beaver Family, one of the earliest being Peter Beaver (1775-1861), who lived in the vicinity.  Many people in this area attended nearby Wanner Mennonite Church.

The point of earliest European settlement in Waterloo County, the flatlands area of Blair was earlier-still a substantial First Nations encampment site. Waterloo County's first school and first cemetery were located here. With the establishment of a post office 1858, the settlement was named Blair after a prominent Canadian politician; earlier names for Blair were Covered Bridge, Durhamville, New Carlisle and Carlisle. Sawmills and flour mills along Bowman Spring Creek and Bechtel Spring Creek were built by Mennonite settlers, and later provided water power for Bowman's flour mill, and electric power for local use and in nearby Preston. In 1873, a branch line of the Grand Trunk Railway was built, connecting Blair to Galt and Berlin. Before municipal restructuring in 1973, Blair was in Waterloo Township; it subsequently became part of the City of Cambridge.

Cruickson Park Stables, ca. 1905

Cruickson Park Stables, Blair, Ontario, ca. 1905.
DHC 2003.078.010.1

work crew at Blair G.T.R. Station, 1918

Work Crew at the Blair G.T.R. Station, 1918.
DHC 977.005.003.5

Johannes General Store in Blair, 1899

Johannes General Store at Blair, Ontario, 1899.
DHC 977.005.032


Presently located in Woolwich Township, historically Bloomingdale was part of Waterloo Township. Located at the intersection of present-day Sawmill Road with Snyder's Flats Road, its establishment was due to water power from the nearby Spring Creek, feeding into the Grand River. Early sawmills, a woolen factory and furniture factory formed the nucleus of the community. A post office was established in 1861. In 1890, Bloomingdale's population was 300, but by 1913 had dwindled to 75, with the abandonment of most of these small industries.

picnic at Bloomingdale, ca. 1910

Picnic at Bloomingdale, ca. 1910.
DHC 981.008.009

Moyer Home, 1940

Moyer Home at Bloomingdale, 1940.
DHC 981.008.023.3

wash day, ca. 1925

Wash Day at Bloomingdale, ca. 1925.
981.008.020.1Wash Day


The village of Breslau is located where the Grand Trunk Railway crossed a north-south road leading to Elora in Wellington County (present-day Woolwich Street South). The community was near the Grand River, where a large Grand Trunk Railway trestle bridge was constructed. Breslau Creek was the location of a sawmill and flour mill. A brick yard was also located at Breslau, as well as businesses that served the needs of the local farming population. Its post office was established in 1852. Its population in 1891 was 350, growing to 400 by 1913. Originally in Waterloo Township, it became part of Woolwich Township after municipal boundary restructuring in 1973.

Grand Truck Railway Train Wreck at Breslau, 1900

Grand Trunk Railway Train Wreck at Breslau, 1900.
DHC X.964.322.001

Village of Breslau, 1941

Village of Breslau, Waterloo County Scenic Calendar, 1941.
DHC 981.007.027


Previous Names: Cambridge, Glasgow Mills, Lancaster, Shoemaker's Mills

Located on the Grand River, equidistant from the settlements of Waterloo and Berlin, the village of Bridgeport sprang up around a grist mill on Laurel Creek built by Joseph Shoemaker in 1829. Before the establishment of its post office in 1852, the locality was known variously as Shoemaker's Mills, Glasgow Mills and Lancaster. Bypassed by the Grand Trunk Railway, opened in 1856, Bridgeport's main enterprise was its flour mill and a number of smaller businesses that supported the local and surrounding community. In the early twentieth century it was the short-lived site of a sugar beet factory. The Bridgeport Casino built in 1904 was a recreational destination, linked to Berlin by electric railway. Its population in 1864 was 400; in 1913 it had 300 inhabitants.

Lancaster Hotel, ca. 1900

Lancaster Hotel, Bridgeport, Ontario ca. 1900.
DHC Research Files.

Bridgeport Mill, ca. 1950.

Bridgeport Mill, ca. 1950.
DHC Research Files.

Buck's Hill
Buck's Hill was a locale of Pennsylvania German and continental German settlement to the north of the town of Waterloo, in the area of present-day Columbia and King Streets. Buck's Hill and Lexington to the east of it were identified as such in the 1901 Census of Canada. Most families in the district were engaged in farming. The name "Buck's" might reflect the origins of some Mennonite settlers in Buck's County, Pennsylvania.

Located at the present-day intersection of King Street East and Fairway Road, Centreville was at the geographic centre of Waterloo Township, on the Great Road joining Preston to Berlin. Waterloo Township Council meetings were held alternatively in Centreville and in Bridgeport until 1868, when a township hall was built in Centreville. It was used for township council meetings until 1954. A replica of this township hall was built at Doon Heritage Village in 1967; it was demolished in 2008 to make way for the Waterloo Region Museum. O'Lone's School at Centreville was one of the oldest in the county. In its heyday, the Centreville township hall and school, along with the usual businesses serving the surrounding farmlands, were the core of this rural hamlet. In the late 1950s, Centreville was annexed by Kitchener and urban-commercial development ensued.

Chicopee Hill
A huge mound of clay, sand and gravel formed by the long-ago presence of glaciers over Southern Ontario, at 1,250 ft., Chicopee Hill is the highest point in Waterloo Township. In geological terms, it is called a kame, the same land formation as the Baden Hills. Originally farm pasture, its potential for skiing was developed in the 1930s with the Chicopee Ski Club.
Chicopee Mills

Chicopee Mills was the site of a saw mill on the Grand River, just north of Freeport in Waterloo Township. In use from the early years of settlement, the mill was acquired by Isaac Hagey around 1846. Hagey sold his property to the Cliff brothers in 1859, who built a woolen mill; the property changed hands several times after that. In 1906 the settlement had twenty inhabitants and the saw mill was defunct, although the woolen mill continued. In 1918 the Chicopee Mills water power was one of only two remaining water powers on the Grand River. The woolen mill was still in business in the 1920s, but was later converted to another use, then finally destroyed by fire. It was taken down in 1972.

ruins of Chicopee Mills, ca. 1970

Ruins of the Chicopee Mills, ca. 1970.
DHC 975.026.002.3

Crowsfoot Corners
Located on the township line between Woolwich and Waterloo Townships, Crowsfoot Corners sat on a main north-south road though Breslau and Bloomingdale to Elora in Wellington County. At the township line, another road forked off north-west toward the village of Conestogo. This intersection was Crowsfoot Corners, mainly known as the site of Ebenezer Chapel, one of the earliest United Brethren churches in the county. The church was later relocated to Bloomingdale.
Delview, or Dellvue, was a stop on the Grand River Railway between Centerville and Freeport in Waterloo Township, before the electric railway line closed in 1955.

Previous Names: Beck's Hill, Oregon, Tow Town

History of Doon

Before the village of Doon was conceived, there existed in its place an area of forested land near the confluence of the Grand River and Schneider's Creek. The history of Doon, as with other communities in the Waterloo Township, begins with the story of Richard Beasley and Block Two land holdings. In 1800, John Biehn Sr. from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania bought 3,600 acres of land from Beasley along the west bank of the Grand River, which included the area that would become the village of Doon. Biehn's relatives from Pennsylvania, including the Bechtels, Rosenbergers, and Kinzies, acquired lots subdivided from his large acreage and took up clearing the land for farming. John Biehn Jr. settled directly in the area of Doon where he eventually established a sawmill. Because other areas of land further out in the township had not yet been made accessible with roads and trails, for several years the general locality of Doon was one of the preferred places to settle. Although both John Biehn Jr. and Frederic Beck ran sawmills in the Doon area by 1830, early settlers were mainly Mennonite farmers looking to continue their agricultural way of life. These farmers were primarily German Mennonites from Pennsylvania.

Doon did not experience any significant growth until the Ferrie family established several significant businesses there in the 1830s. Settlers who arrived from this point in time were mainly of Scottish and English heritage and were primarily artisans, millers, and brick makers. It was Adam Ferrie Jr. who, after a river and lake in Ayrshire, Scotland, gave Doon its name.[1] The Ferries established businesses which included a distillery, a saw mill, a cooperage, a tavern, a general store, blacksmith shop, kiln, and workers' houses. Ferrie's water-powered grist mill, called Doon Mills, produced oatmeal, flour, and barley for customers in the village and surrounding farmlands. This mill was in full operation by 1839.[2] The Ferrie's businesses were located in the present area of Lower Doon (i.e. to the south of the nearby hamlets that were originally called Oregon and Tow Town, and later together were called Upper Doon).

Upper Doon included those villages that were originally called Oregon and Tow Town. These villages were located about a mile up the creek valley to the west of Lower Doon. The majority of the industrial enterprises established in Doon were located here. By the mid-1840s, Oregon and Tow Town had a number of established businesses. James Watson, for example, the grandfather of the world renowned landscape painter Homer Ransford Watson, established a sawmill, a carding and fulling mill, and a pail factory.[3] John Tilt, also from Oregon, operated a small sawmill and a brick yard that produced clay bricks and tiles. In Tow Town, Perine Bros. (Moses and Joseph Perine) established both a sawmill and a flax mill. The flax mill made such products as twine and rope. This mill was the first of its kind, not only in the township, but in the Dominion of Canada.[4] The mill was later taken over by a group of shareholders who renamed it Doon Twines. By 1855, Doon had a population of about 200; and by the end of the century, about 600.[5] Although the population of Doon in 1855 was rather meagre in respects to the towns of Berlin and Preston, with approximate populations 1000 and 1,600 respectively, a significant amount of settlement did occur there. This process was encouraged by the industries founded by the Ferries, the Perines, and the Tilts, which offered employment to prospective settlers. Furthermore, as settlers landed in Doon to work in these industries, so too did others engage themselves in secondary businesses and services which included, by the early 1890s, a post office, a grocer/baker, two tailors, a cooper, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a wagon maker, a bridge builder, and a scissors manufacturer.[6] Doon had grown significantly by this time and was capable of supporting its own population.

A branch of the Grand Trunk Railroad, which Doon received by the middle of the 1860s, also contributed to its growth and sustenance. When land for the Grand Trunk Railway was being surveyed in the 1850s, business owners in Doon had hoped to be included on the railway's main line.[7] A formal survey of the small hamlet ensued with the anticipation that, if it was included on the main line, it would attract greater settlement and expansion to match that of larger centres nearby. Although the main line did not go through Doon, a branch of the Grand Trunk Railway was built through Doon by the later 1860s connecting Galt to Berlin. The railway service that ensued became known as the Dutch Mail which carried both freight and passengers on a daily basis.[8] The branch railway enhanced the economy and atmosphere of Doon, connecting passengers to Berlin, with connections to the Grand Trunk Railway's main lines east and west, and regular mail delivery.[9]

Although Doon never outgrew its village status, it was a vibrant social centre. Throughout the century it had churches, schools, hotels and taverns, sports teams, and social clubs. By the end of the century, Doon was the largest unincorporated village in the township,[10] providing accommodation for business visitors and others in three respectable hotels and taverns, including the Red Lion Inn (a first class inn), the Doon Hotel (a second class inn), and the Bush Inn (a second class inn).[11]

Early schooling in the village of Doon took place in the form of private instruction. For example, the daughters of Frederick Beck went to a private school instructed by a woman of the name Chapman.[12] Although there was a log school built early in the area of Oregon, Doon's first public school (one room), named the Bonnie Doon School, was built and opened in 1878. Within ten years however, an extra room was built to accommodate larger student needs.[13] Depending on student attendance, which varied from year to year and season to season, the number of teachers employed as well as the number of school rooms used varied between one and two. Prior to the opening of Bonnie Doon School, children who wished to enter public school travelled to nearby villages. For example, children who lived in Lower Doon attended school in Blair, while those from Upper Doon attended school in Strasburg.[14] The Bonnie Doon School burned down in 1956, replaced by another school in the same year.

The earliest form of church organization in Doon was a non-denominational Sunday school established in 1848.[15] The Doon Presbyterian Church opened in 1854 and was the first formal church to be established there. Aid for the construction of the church was given by Robert Ferrie who donated the land on which the church was erected, and contributed a large amount for its construction.[16] Because of small congregations and a lack of funds, the Doon Presbyterian Church jointly shared a minister with New Hope Presbyterian Church (now Hespeler), and with the Preston Presbyterian Church by the end of the century.[17] In 1868, a Methodist Church was built. The site which on this church was built was donated by William Allen.[18] He and five Methodist members donated the funds for its construction. As with the Doon Presbyterian Church, the Methodist congregation was small, so it too, shared a minister with the Preston Methodist Church. The Christadelphians also built a meeting house for worship by the late 1880s, but it closed a short time later. Both the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church held services and missions in Doon from the 1880s, although neither had buildings there.[19] From 1865 the Mennonites in the Doon area congregated in Wilmot Township for worship. First they congregated in Green's schoolhouse, but later in the Biehn Mennonite Church which was opened in 1870.[20] They never had a meeting house in Doon.

Social organizations, sports teams, and musical groups formed an important part of Doon's history.[21] In the 1880s, a brass band was formed which once had thirty players. Its leader was M. Irving Watson, the brother of Homer Watson. Playing sports, including football (soccer) and a form of hockey, known as shinny, was another activity that Doon folks loved to play. Both indoor and outdoor activities also offered excitement and entertainment, particularly on special occasions. For instance, there were local house and barn dances, fishing expeditions, and around 1900, the newly invented phonograph to listen to attentively. The summer attractions of Willow Lake, the former mill pond of the Doon Mills, drew many to its shores in the 1920s and 1930s.

When Doon's largest manufacturing company, Doon Twines, relocated to Berlin (Kitchener) during the First World War, the village declined substantially. From the middle of the twentieth century, Doon had only a handful of small local businesses, becoming instead a pleasant suburb for commuters and their families.[22] As nearby cities have continued to expand into the present, in particular Kitchener and Cambridge, they have threatened to engulf Doon completely. Consequently, Doon has been at the centre of several heritage preservation projects in an attempt to preserve its unique historic character and picturesque charm. Although Doon will never again exist as the distinct village entity it once was, it retains a significant historical place in the history of Waterloo Township with its roots in the founding cultures of the Pennsylvania-Germans and the Scots settlers of Waterloo County.

[1] Clive S. Bean, "History of Doon," Waterloo Historical Society, 164; W.J. Wintemberg, "Origin of the Place and Steam: Names of Waterloo County Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society (1927), 358.

[2] Bean, 165.

[3] Bloomfield, 86; Janusas, 167.

[4] Bloomfield, 201.

[5] Bloomfield, 86; 201.

[6] Mrs. Lester Koch, "Biehn Mennonite Church," Waterloo Historical Society, (1964), 65; Bloomfield, 201.

[7] Bean, 170.

[8] A.O. Kummer, "Reminiscences of A.O. Kummer, Early Settler Doon," Waterloo Historical Society, (1964), 64.

[9] Kummer, 65.

[10] Bloomfield, 201.

[11] Bloomfield, 166.

[12] Pryce, 60.

[13] Mrs. George Ayres, "The Doon Public School," Waterloo Historical Society, (1959), 46.

[14] Ayres, 45.

[15] Rev. H.G. Cleghorn, "History of Doon Presbyterian Church-Doon, Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society, (1953), 15.

[16] Bean, 171.

[17] Bean, 171.

[18] Bean, 172.

[19] Kummer, 69; Bloomfield, 201.

[20] Koch, 61.

[21] Kummer, 67.

[22] Bloomfield, 261.

English Settlement
The English Settlement was at the junction of present-day Dodge Drive and Groh Drive in the former Waterloo Township, a little above the North Dumfries Township line. It was a small pocket of land developed through an emigration scheme of the 1830s called the Petworth Emigration Committee. The Petworth Project took English working families away from areas of overpopulation and unemployment to settle in Upper Canada. One of the settlers wrote about his new home in 1833: "The people is so agreeable here. The people I am among is Dutch [Pennsylvania Dutch] and English, in general. The place is called Waterloo [Township], where I live and my children." (From the Petworth Emigration Committee archives at the University of Waterloo.) The first school, a log building, was built in 1847, replaced by a brick schoolhouse (Waterloo Township U.S.S. No. 22) in 1879. The school was closed in 1966.

Named for a sawmill on nearby Beaver Creek (today the confluence of Laurel Creek and Monastery Creek) established by Samuel Erb in 1845, Erbsville was located at the intersection of present-day Erbsville Road and Conservation Drive. Samuel Erb's son John L. Erb continued the sawmill operation; it was later operated by Charles Kreutziger, producing lumber and shingles. A survey plan of the village was registered in 1861. A blacksmith shop, general store, post office (established in 1863), schoolhouse and St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church were clustered near the main intersection of the hamlet.

group of students at Erbsville School, 1932

Erbsville School, 1932, Private Collection

group of students at Erbsville School, 1953

Erbsville School, 1953, Private Collection

Fisher Mills

The hamlet of Fisher Mills was located on Chilligo Creek about 2 km. north west of Hespeler, where Jacob Fisher built a dam and established a grist mill in the 1840s. The mill produced flour until about 1890, when the building and equipment were dismantled and moved to Manitoba. A saw mill, a feed mill and a cider mill later operated on the site. Hydro-electric power from the dam was supplied to the nearby village of Hespeler in the late nineteenth century before the advent of hydro-electricity from Niagara Falls. In the nineteenth century, a hotel, a blacksmith shop and other small trades were located at Fisher Mills. In its early years, the hotel was owned by the Seagram family of distillery fame, who owned property at Fisher Mills, and where Joseph E. Seagram was born. In 1870 the village's estimated population was 100. It was not on a direct route between any of the main communities of the area, and never had railway or postal service; its population declined as other centres such as Hespeler gained in importance. The Fisher Mills dam was demolished in 2000. The historic settlement was situated near the present-day intersection of Chilligo Road and Beaverdale Road.

John T. Cooper in field, ca. 1930

John T. Cooper, Long-time Resident of Fisher Mills, ca. 1930
DHC 964.020.001


A small settlement bridging the Grand River in Waterloo Township, the Freeport area was one of the first to be settled in Waterloo County. Freeport lay on the Great Road, the main line of transportation connecting Preston with Berlin. Early names for Freeport were Toll Bridge and Bridgeville. The Freeport post office was established in 1863. A United Brethren in Christ Church was built there in 1861 and the UB Freeport Academy existed there from 1866 to 1872. The church was the focus for social and religious life for the village and surrounding area, and many parishioners contributed to charitable efforts at the nearby Freeport Hospital, which was a rehabilitation hospital during the First World War and later, a tuberculosis sanitarium.

Freeport Church Congregation, ca. 1910

Freeport Church Congregation, ca. 1910.
DHC 2001.819.001

people on bridge during Freeport Bridge Construction, 1925 Freeport Bridge Construction, 1925

Freeport Bridge Construction, 1925.
DHC 2001.570.001.1, DHC 2001.570.001.3

A crossroads hamlet just west of New Germany (Maryhill) in the former Waterloo Township, Freiburg was at the junction of present-day St. Charles Street West and Shantz Station Road. Although it had one of the early post offices in the locality (from 1851 to 1883) as well as a tavern and a variety of tradesmen, it gradually declined as New Germany grew larger.
German Mills

Previous Names: Bleams Mills, Edenburg, Hopewell Mills, Jewsburg, Parkway

German Mills was slightly north of where Doon Heritage Crossroads is located today. It was situated along present-day Manitou Drive in Kitchener, about .3 km. south of present-day Fairway Road. A saw mill on Schneider Creek existed on this site from 1812, established by Philip Bliehm. A plan for the village of Edinburgh (or Edenburg), an early name for the village, was drawn in 1857; the village never had a post office. Other early and unofficial names for the village were Bleam's Mills, Hopewell Mills and Jewsburg. From 1857, German Mills was a stop on the Doon-to-Berlin Preston & Berlin Railway (later the Grand Trunk Railroad) until that branch line closed in the 1950s. In the 1940s, the German Mills station was renamed Parkway. Despite the fact that it was on a railway line, German Mills was never a significant settlement. Its population in 1891 was 75; in 1913 it was 25. The Lehman Shirk flour mill sustained the community's existence, with related businesses that included a stave mill, a cooperage, and a general store. There was no school in the village, and children attended school at the nearby Parkway school, built in 1923; before that, children attended school in nearby Strasburg or Centerville. Some people who lived in the German Mills area had small acreages which they worked, while traveling by train to jobs in town.

S.S. NO 5B Parkway School, 1923

Waterloo Township S.S. No 5B Parkway School near German Mills, Ontario, 1923.
DHC 974.077.014

A small hamlet in the former Waterloo Township at the corner of present-day Kossuth Road and Hespeler Road, Glenchristie was built around a lime kiln. Although a branch of the Great Western Railway (later the Grand Trunk Railway) passed nearby, and it was close to the Speed River, these potential advantages did not impact on the size of the settlement, essentially a rural crossroads straddling the county line between Waterloo and Wellington Counties. From 1939, Glenchristie was a stop on the railway line from Galt to Guelph. A Glenchristie school is referred to in the Waterloo South District Jubilee Women's Institute history, possibly in Wellington County.
This was a locale between the villages of Berlin and Waterloo, to which the 1820 Waterloo log schoolhouse was relocated in the 1840s, according to Thomas Pearce, Waterloo County's Public School Inspector from 1871 to 1912. (After the former schoolhouse had been used there as a private dwelling for another fifty years, it was moved to Waterloo Park.)
Hagey's Crossing

Located in the present day area of Fountain Street and Cherry Blossom Road in Cambridge, Hagey's Crossing was a trolley stop on the electric railway line between Preston and Freeport, carrying local residents to school and jobs in Preston and Kitchener. Hagey Mennonite Cemetery is on the south side of the still-active C.P.R. railway crossing.

Preston and Berlin Railway near Hagey's Crossing, ca. 1915

Preston and Berlin Railway near Hagey's Crossing, ca. 1915.
DHC 999.249.001


Previous Names: Bergeytown, New Hope

Water power on the Speed River was the genesis of settlement in what would become (in 1858) the village of Hespeler in Waterloo Township. Early mill sites were developed by Pennsylvania German and continental German settlers from 1835. The village developed around these, with a post office from 1851. Early and unofficial names for the village were Bergeytown and New Hope. It was the entrepreneurship of Jacob Hespeler which established the locale as a thriving mill town, in its heyday manufacturing predominantly textiles. Hespeler became one of the principal textile producing centres in Canada. With the decline of Canadian textile manufacturing in the mid-twentieth century, Hespeler suffered drastic unemployment. In later years diversification brought renewal to the Hespeler area, and the town's amalgamation with Preston and Galt in 1973 also served to promote regrowth.

Hespeler Football Club, ca. 1905

Hespeler Football Club, ca. 1905, Hespeler, Ontario.
DHC 985.001.003

Hespeler Old Boys' Reunion Parade, 1906

Hespeler Old Boys' Reunion Parade, Hespeler, Ontario, 1906.
DHC 2003.079.009.1

Warp-Weave Department, R. Forbes Co. Ltd. 1931

Warp-Weave Department, R. Forbes Co. Ltd., Hespeler, Ontario, 1931.
DHC X.964.331.001

Idylwild Station

A stop on the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway line, Idylwild Station provided access to Idylwild Park on the Speed River between Preston and Hespeler in Waterloo Township. Providing a large picnic gazebo and scenic views of the river and countryside, Idylwild was a popular destination for group outings from the 1890s until it closed down in 1916.

Family picnic at Idylwild, 1907

Family picnic at Idylwild, 1907.
DHC 2003.080.001.4

Idylwild, tinted postcard, ca. 1905

Idylwild, tinted postcard, ca. 1905.
DHC 999.249.001


Previous Name: Sunnyside

A suburban area in Waterloo Township, annexed by Kitchener in 1952, Kingsdale (formerly called Sunnyside) was laid out in 1912 in the area of present-day Franklin and Weber Streets. Close to the trolley line, residents could commute to school and jobs in the centre of the city. Initially, the Kingsdale area posed problems to the city because of formerly unregulated development and lack of proper infrastructure. There was a post office at Kingsdale from 1949 to 1953.


Previous Names: Berlin, Ebytown, Mount Pleasant, Sandhills

More to come...


The settlement of Kossuth in Waterloo Township is usually said to have been named after Louis Kossuth, a nineteenth century Hungarian patriot who was widely acclaimed as a champion of liberty in Europe and abroad. However, Tremaine's 1861 map of Waterloo County indicates that two properties in the settlement were owned by Mrs. Kossuth, suggesting a more immediate source. Located a little to the north of Hespeler, along the road from Preston to Guelph, the hamlet sat at the present-day junction of Kossuth Road and Shantz Station Road. During the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway in the mid-1850s, traffic passed though the hamlet hauling supplies to the Breslau area from the Speed River. A pottery, a post office, hotel, and various trades workers supplied the needs of the surrounding farming community during the heyday of Kossuth in the latter half of the nineteenth century. A log school was established in 1842, replaced with a stone structure in the 1870s (also known as Reist's School and Waterloo Township S.S. No.16). Somewhat fittingly, the Kossuth school was purchased by the Hungarian Canadian Club when the school was closed in the 1960s.

Reist's School, Kossuth

Waterloo Township S.S. No. 16, Reist's School, Kossuth, Ontario.
DHC X.961.028.001


More to come...

Little Paradise

Little Paradise was a locality near the present-day Pioneer Tower, between Freeport and Preston, near present-day Highway 8. In an article about the closing of the Pine Grove school (near the corner of present-day Highway 8 and Maple Grove Road), the author mentions that this school served the localities of Limerick, Pine Grove, Freeport and Little Paradise (Waterloo Historical Society, V. 67, p. 85). The place name was taken as the title of a German-language history of Waterloo County.

group of people at Pine Grove School near Little Paradise, ca. 1890

Pine Grove School near Little Paradise, ca. 1890.
DHC 974.033.001

Maple Lane Stop

This was the name for a suburban part of east-end Kitchener, in the area of present-day Ottawa Street and Nyberg Street, that marked the city limits in the post World War One years. Maple Lane was a stop on the Kitchener Waterloo Street Railway. Another stop on the electric railway line in the south east end of Kitchener was called Cedar Grove.

car hit by train, 1929

Radial Smash at Cedar Grove on electric railway, 1929.
DHC 999.249.001

Located near the junction of present-day Ottawa Street and Natchez Road, this was the location of a school from 1842 to 1963. The choice of Natchez as the name for the school is unclear; the Natchez were a First Nations tribe of the American South. In the nineteenth century, there was also a series of steamboats named Natchez, at least one of which brought German immigrants to America.
New Aberdeen
The village of New Aberdeen in Waterloo Township was in a pocket of predominantly Scottish and German settlement in the south west corner of the township. It was named by George Davidson, a Sheriff of Waterloo County, for his birthplace in Scotland. Its first industry, a sawmill on Aberdeen Creek, was established in 1836, and a post office existed from 1847 to 1877. Due to its location on the Huron Road, the village flourished in the pre-railway era but had virtually disappeared by the turn of the twentieth century.
Nine Pines
Nine Pines was the location of a school near the present-day intersection of Ottawa Street and Fischer-Hallman Road in Kitchener. Nine Pines School, Waterloo Township S.S. No. 23, was active from 1850 until 1966.

Previous Names: Cambridge Mills, East Preston John Erb's sawmill established in 1805 at the confluence of the Speed and Grand Rivers, in what would become Waterloo Township, was the first industry in the Block Two settlement and the genesis of the village of Preston. A few years later Erb built a flour mill on the same site which he called Cambridge Mills. Initial Pennsylvania German settlement in the area attracted continental German immigration from the 1830s. The Preston post office was established in 1837. The village grew rapidly, and Preston was incorporated as a village in 1853, with a predominantly German character. Its location on the Great Road running from Dundas north through Berlin and early railway connections ensured continued growth, with a number of factories and foundries manufacturing goods including flour, agricultural implements, furniture, stoves, shoes and textiles. In the late nineteenth century, Preston became famous for the hotels centered around its mineral springs. It became part of the new city of Cambridge in 1973.

Grandfather Erb's Store, ca. 1895

Grandfather Erb's Store, Preston, Ontario, ca. 1895.
DHC 981.035.001

Preston Streetscape Postcard, 1905

Preston Streetscape Postcard by James Esson, Preston, Ontario, 1905.
DHC 956.018.074.90

Kinzie's Dairy Wagon, ca. 1910

Kinzie's Dairy Wagon, Preston, Ontario, ca. 1910.
DHC Research Files.


One of the earliest schools in Waterloo County, Riverbank School was established in 1832 at the present-day junction of Riverbank Road and Fountain Street. In its early years, it was called the High Banks School, and later, Waterloo Township S.S. No. 15 school. A log structure was replaced by a frame building, and later by a stone schoolhouse around 1870. The school closed amid some controversy in 1960, and for a brief time was used as the headquarters of the Waterloo County Library.

Riverbank School, ca. 1970

Waterloo Township S.S. No. 15 Riverbank School, ca. 1970.
DHC X.961.034.001

Rosendale was a cluster of dwellings on small lots situated just south of the village of Bloomingdale in the former Waterloo Township. The hamlet furnished day labour for large farms in that area. A large creamery operation was centered at Rosendale for many years. Its present-day location is near the intersection of Ebycrest Road with the Bloomingdale Road.
Possibly named for two families called Rummel and Hardt who once lived here, Rummelhardt was a small settlement west of Waterloo on Erb Street where it meets the Erbsville Road. The 1871 Census of Ontario records the surname Rummelhardt in the Waterloo North census district; this is perhaps a more plausible origin for the place name. These early German settlers in this locality were predominantly Roman Catholic, emigrating from the Alsace part of western Germany in the 1830s. A school was established at the junction in 1844, replaced with a stone school in 1867. This structure was acquired by the K-W Bilingual School in 1966; its facade was restored in 2001.
Virtually synonymous with Shantz Station, Shantz was the name given to a proposed railway station and development of lots on the Grand Trunk Railway slightly to the east of Breslau in the former Waterloo Township. The proposed community never materialized. (See also Shantz Station.)
Shantz Hill

The present-day junction of Highway 8 with Fountain Street in Cambridge, Shantz Hill was on the north edge of Preston, and was the site of the P.E. Shantz foundry which was active from 1875 until the late 1960s. The foundry manufactured a range of agricultural machinery. The stone buildings housing the company were demolished in the late 1960s.

P.E. Shantz Foundry, 1900

P.E. Shantz Foundry, Preston, Ontario, 1900.
DHC 971.031.001.5

Shantz Lane
Shantz Lane was a suburban neighbourhood near the present-day location of Wilfrid Avenue and Weber Street, Kitchener. Near the main trolley line on King Street, it was developed in the 1930s as a residential area for people traveling to work or school.
Shantz Station
Located in present-day Woolwich Township on Shantz Station Road near the intersection with Victoria Street North, the site was formerly on the farm of Samuel Y. Shantz. Samuel, his wife Esther and their twelve children lived on the farm between 1846 and 1867 before moving to a farm on the Roseville Road in North Dumfries Township. The Grand Trunk Railway was built through the Shantz farm in 1856, but hopes for a railway station did not materialize. Also, plans for a village to be built alongside a proposed railway station (Shantz Station) never materialized. An early post office there was closed in 1863.

Previous Name: Holm's Mills

Once situated at the present-day junction of Blackbridge Road and Townline Road in Cambridge near the Black Bridge, Speedslee was originally called Holm's Mills after Niels Peterson Holm, a Dane, who acquired land on the stream feeding from Puslinch Lake into the Speed River in 1829. He built a dam and operated a sawmill, and enlarged it in 1850. In 1856, he dammed the Speed River to power a flour mill which continued to produce into the twentieth century. The mill was subsequently operated by W.A. Kribs. The name Speedslee is mentioned in connection with archeological excavations in that area. Possibly the name came into use when the property passed out of the Holms family.

W.A. Kribbs Flour Mill (Holm's Mill), 1906

Tinted postcard. W.A. Kribbs Flour Mill (Holm's Mill), Hespeler, Ontario, 1906.
DHC 956.018.074.92.


The site of a woollen mill built by Thomas Stewart on the Speed River in the 1850s, Speedsville was located on the first Concession Line of Waterloo Township east of Preston, where the present-day Speedsville Road crosses the Speed River. The mill produced woollen cloth and yarns until the mid-twentieth century, when the building was converted to a factory and foundry which produced metal goods up until the 1980s. Residents of Speedsville were served by the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway from the 1890s until the 1950s.

Speedsville Dam, 1944

Speedsville Dam, Waterloo County Scenic Calendar, 1944
DHC 2004.020.006

Steam Town
Steam Town was a locale said to be near the intersection of present-day Woolner Drive and Zeller Drive in south east Kitchener, close to the Grand River.
A saw mill built by David Weber in 1835 on a tributary of Schneider Creek (today called Strasburg Creek, and earlier known as Williamsburg and Aberdeen Creek) was the genesis of Strasburg. Although the hamlet's name reflected German settlement, this was also an area of early Mennonite settlement. The post office in nearby New Aberdeen was relocated to Strasburg in 1877; it was closed in 1914. A school (Waterloo Township S.S. No. 2) was active from 1842 to 1964. The present-day location is in the vicinity of Huron Road and Strasburg Road in Kitchener.
Trussler's Corners
Situated on the Huron Road and the township line between Wilmot and Waterloo Townships (present-day Trussler Road), Trussler's Corners was the location of a saw mill. The Trusslers, an English family, purchased three of the German Company's smaller lots here in 1841 and established the mill which operated for many years; subsequently, most of the Trussler family migrated out of the county, although some married into Mennonite families in the locality.
Tuck's Hill
Tuck's Hill in Waterloo Township was situated on the west side of the Speed River, separated from Holm's Mill (Speedslee) by the Black Bridge. It was probably so named after a family of the same name who farmed in that locality.
Two Bridges
Two Bridges was a locality in the vicinity of present-day Ottawa Street and Westmount Road in Kitchener. This was possibly the location of a dam and sawmill established in the 1830s by Abraham D. Shoemaker on a tributary of Schneider Creek west of Berlin. The farm was then on what was called the Petersburg Road.
Located in the vicinity of present-day Maple Grove Road and Beaverdale Road near the Speed River, the hamlet of Wanners took its name from the nearby Wanner Mennonite meeting house, itself named for the Henry Wanner family, Mennonite settlers who came to that area of Waterloo Township from Pennsylvania in 1810.
More to come...
Williamsburg was partly located on the Histand Tract, a parcel of 726 acres purchased by David Histand, a settler from Pennsylvania, in 1804. Sawmills were established on Strasburg Creek at Williamsburg in the 1840s by Mennonite farmers Abram Clemens and William Moyer. The hamlet itself was named for an early settler, Anthony Wilhelm, a German immigrant. Located on the Bleams Road at the intersection of present-day Fischer-Hallman Road, Williamsburg provided the usual amenities for the surrounding farm lands. The Williamsburg schoolhouse, Waterloo Township S.S. No. 7, was active from 1842 until 1966.
Zion's Church
Zion Methodist Church is located at the corner of present-day Speedsville Road and Maple Grove Road in the city of Cambridge. It was built in 1851, becoming part of the United Church of Canada in 1925. It was located in a locality of mixed settlement and its membership lists reflected the diversity of cultural origins in the Lower Block of the Block Two lands.