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Waterloo’s Early Settlement

Iowa Indian Cessions

Iowa was opened for pioneer settlement in 1833. Over the next 20 years, the land that we now know as Iowa, was gradually negotiated or “ceded” away from the Indian groups who lived in Iowa. The map below illustrates these land areas also called “cessions”. A “cession” is something such as a territory that is ceded to another group.

Iowan Indian Cessions Map

Where Indian groups once lived, large numbers of pioneers now came to settle in Iowa. First they settled in the eastern counties. Gradually they moved west until by 1870, pioneer settlers had purchased land and built homes and farms in every county of the state.


Waterloo’s First Settlers

Iowa map indicating where Waterloo is

The first pioneer settlers arrived in Waterloo in the summer of 1845. George and Mary Hanna and their two children, and Mary's brother, John Melrose, arrived at the east bank of the Cedar River. The Hannas staked their claim and became the first settlers of "Prarie Rapids Crossing."

Mary Hanna

They were joined later that year by William Virden and his family. In 1846, Charles and America Mullan came to the area from Illinois as did James Virden, William's brother. Over the next several years, the community continued to grow. In 1850 the whole of Black Hawk County had only 135 settlers. By 1860, just ten years later, the population of Waterloo was about 1,200.

 

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