A Pictorial History

by Margaret Corwin & Helen Hoy


Mary Melrose Hanna was born in Edwards County in 1821, and died on November 12, 1912, appropriately as the oldest resident of Black Hawk County. She married George Hanna in 1837, at age 16, and came to Waterloo eight years later. They had 8 children, one of which, James Monroe, died shortly after arriving at the new homestead. Their son, Philip, gained distinction as consul to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The Hanna pioneer cabin served as community center, church and courthouse for the community 17

In 1845, at age 24, Mary Memrose Hanna, "The Mother of Waterloo," clear beauty of the Cedar River, the rippling waves of first set foot on the site of present day Waterloo. The blue-joint prairie grass and the rich loam inspired the petite woman to declare, "Oh, I did not think there was such a place this side of heaven."

Her six-foot husband, George Washington Hanna, observed that the river would provide water power, the graceful timber line, needed fuel and shelter and the virgin prairie soil would be their sustenance. The decision made, Mary Hanna looked across the river to the bluffs sprinkled with oak and maple and made her prophetic statement to her two young sons, "This seems to me to be the river of life and over yonder is Canaan. Let's cross over. Boys, if you live long enough, you will see a fine town grow up in these hills." Pg 10

According to Mary's diary, they arrived at 11 a.m., July 18, 1845.

George Hanna was born in White County, Illinois, 1817, died in Waterloo in 1890, having served as both Chaplain and justice of the Peace. Known for his generosity in donating land for the town's first dam, mill and schoolhouse, he was not only Waterloo's first settler but also the original town booster. pg 17


Please note here that the book states: "The second settler, William Virden Jr., died during the Civil War and no photo of him was available."


Photo credits: #1: Hartman History #2: Waterloo Public Library #3: Hartman History


To find out about acquiring a copy of the book, "Waterloo, A Pictorial History." contact:

  • Waterloo Public Library
  • Publisher:
    Quest Publishing
    Rock Island, IL 61201
  • Printer: Bawden Printing, Inc.
    Eldridge, IA 1983

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