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Settlement of Waterloo North (Pre 1900)

This sub-district of the Waterloo Region, made up primarily of the town of Waterloo, the city of Berlin (now Kitchener, as of 1917), Elmira, and surrounding rural communities, is best known for its Mennonite population, who arrived shortly after the turn of the 19th century. Mennonites and European Germans purchased land along the Grand River as a part of the German Company Tract to settle Waterloo North. The Mennonite community has inspired several tourist attractions, such as the St. Jacobs Market and the Pioneer Memorial Tower. Both of these landmarks are symbols of settlement, hard work, and unique Mennonite heritage. However, by 1911, Mennonite people were a minority in the Waterloo Region and lived collectively primarily in the rural areas of Waterloo North. The region’s German-Canadian population was comprised mostly of European German immigrants who outnumbered the Mennonites soon after their arrival in Southern Ontario. After the Mennonites settled the region in the early 19th century, waves of German immigrants seeking to escape the conditions of war torn Europe settled the region between 1812 and 1815. Until the 1860s, immigrants from Germany flooded to the region, often departing from Bremmen, Germany. Once they arrived in Quebec they travelled to the Waterloo Region, drawn to the region due to the overwhelming presence of German culture there.

(August 1914; Briethaupt, Catherine Olive. 1914 Diary (Briethaupt Diary Collection, Rare Books Room, Dana Porter Library, University of Waterloo), 3 August 1914; McLaughin, Ken, and John English. Kitchener: An Illustrated History. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983.; McLaughin, Ken. The Germans in Canada. Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association,1985; Celebration of Cityhood 1912. Berlin: The German Printing and Publishing Co of Berlin, 1912; Fifth Census of Canada 1911, Volume I. C.H.Parmelee: Ottawa, 1912; Fourth Census of Canada 1901, Volume I. Ottawa: S.E.Dawson, 1902; Third Census of Canada, 1890-91. S.E.Dawson, 1893; Second Census of Canada, 1880-81. Maclean, Roger & Co: Ottawa, 1883; First Census of Canada, 1870-71. Ottawa: I.B. Taylor, 1873.)


Settlement of Waterloo South (Pre 1900)

While Waterloo North was largely shaped by an ethnically German population, Waterloo South, comprised of the small towns of Hespeler, Preston, and Ayr, as well as the larger town of Galt (present day Cambridge), present a different story. The small towns of Hespeler and Preston share a similar story to that of Waterloo North, comprised primarily of German Lutherans. Galt and Ayr are unique, as they reflect Anglo-Celtic ethnic and religious dominance.

In 1816, the Honourable William Dickson, a Scottish politician from Dumfries, Scotland, sealed the fate of the district. Dickson established the settlement of Shade’s Mills, and portioned out his 90,000 acres of land primarily to lowland Scots. Soon after, Dickson renamed the settlement Galt, named after Scottish novelist John Galt. Dickson advertised immigration to Galt, Ontario in Scottish newspapers and primarily attracted Scots from the lowlands of Roxboroughshire and Selkirkshire. Dickson’s efforts solidified British dominance in Waterloo South by 1911.


(City of Cambridge. “The Evolution of Galt.” Accessed April 15, 2014.)




William George Weichel (1911)

William Weichel was born in Elmira, Ontario, on 20 July 1870. As a young man, he worked for his father at the family hardware store. In 1896, he opened his own store in Waterloo. In 1911, he was appointed Mayor of Waterloo, and was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Waterloo North, defeating Liberal candidate William Lyon Mackenzie King. Weichel represented the people of Waterloo North during the First World War as a Conservative MP; this changed in 1917 when he became a “Unionist” (Pro-War Conservative) candidate and lost his seat to William Daum Euler, the former Mayor of Berlin.

(Celebration of Cityhood 1912. Berlin: The German Printing and Publishing Co of Berlin, 1912; PARLINFO. “Weichel, William George.” Accessed April 20, 2014.