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The Mennonites of Waterloo Region (Pre 1900)

The Mennonites who first came to the Waterloo Region were known as the “Pennsylvania Germans,” who had settled in the northern region of the British Thirteen Colonies (New England) as early as 1753. They arrived under a British incentive to bring hard working “foreign Protestants” to North America, to counterbalance the French Catholic presence. The Mennonites were also known as individuals who could successfully develop agricultural settlements in any conditions. Due to their strong religious, ethnic, and familial ties, the Mennonites were not assimilated into New England society. The Mennonites, who religiously opposed violence, did not become involved in the American Revolution (1775-1783) militarily, and were not assimilated into the growing “American” nation.

Between 1780 and 1830, the Mennonites emigrated from the United States into modern day Southern Ontario, primarily the region that was named “Waterloo” (to commemorate British and Allied victory at the famous Napoleonic battle), after 1815. Before the Region was named, , Pennsylvania Germans purchased 60,000 acres of land along the Grand Riverin 1805. This became known as the “German Company Tract”.  The Mennonite settlers established a strong agricultural tradition, and established a German-speaking society. The pioneering, farming, and cultural roots that the Mennonites established in the Region attracted immigrants from the German States. Immigrants from the smaller kingdoms and duchies, which later formed a unified Germany, immigrated to the Waterloo Region. European Germans soon eclipsed the Mennonite population by 1830. Both the Mennonite and European Germans contributed to the German cultural identity of Waterloo Region.

(McLaughlin, Kenneth. The Germans in Canada. Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association, 1985.)