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Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower – A monument to the Pennsylvania Dutch pioneers of Waterloo County

September 2020

In the south-western Ontario city of Kitchener, a 62-foot tapered tower, built of rounded fieldstones from the surrounding area. This monument, on the shore of the Grand River, is dedicated to the Pennsylvania Dutch (Mennonite) immigrants who came to what was then Upper Canada. Travelling from New York State and Pennsylvania in the late 18th and early 19th century, these German (Deitsch) immigrants were the first farmers in the area.

Conceived by William Henry Breithaupt, the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower was dedicated on 28 August 1926, to commemorate the early homesteaders of what would be known by the dawn of the 20th century as “the German Capital of Canada” for its many families of German descent living in the area.

It was also a gesture from Breithaupt, who wanted to heal the wounds that tore the city apart during World War I, when anti-German sentiment amongst the residents of British heritage led to the re-naming of the city from Berlin to Kitchener in September1916, named in honour of British Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, who died three months earlier.

The tower was topped with a steeply pitched “Swiss-style” copper roof and a weather vane in the shape of a Conestoga wagon, the type of wagon in which many of these early immigrants made their journey.

An interior staircase takes visitors to an observation deck at the top, that provides a view of the surrounding area, integrating references to true north and the Grand River Trail on which the Mennonite immigrants travelled to settle the area.

The tower was built on land once owned by Samuel Betzner, one of the original homesteaders, and includes a cemetery containing the graves of Samuel Betzner and other Mennonite settlers of the area.

The Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower is a historic cultural site of Canada, owned by Parks Canada and managed by the Woodside National Historic Site. The tower is open to the public, but only by request.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_Pioneer_Memorial_Tower, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchener,_Ontario, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_fhbro_eng.aspx?id=3323.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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