spot where the trail crossed the Cedar River was known by
the early pioneers as Prairie Rapids Crossing. Nearly everywhere
along the river the banks were wooded. But, here at the
ford the bank was open prairie for about half a mile in
either direction; hence its name.
It is here that
Waterloo began with its first homes and businesses built
in this area. The first log cabin in the new town was built
by George Hanna in 1852 on the present site of the Waterloo
Savings Bank. Sam Aldrich built a cabin nearby in the same
year, and Sam Ayers built on the opposite bank in 1853.
Ayers took in boarders, as did Samuel May, who also operated
a ferry during periods of high water. The first store was
operated by Nelson Fancher where the Waterloo Public Library
now stands. When Charles Mullan applied for a post office
the town acquired mail service (as well as its present name).
The first dam
was built here in 1854, made of logs and brush. It raised
the water level two feet, making it possible to operate
a saw mill. A flour mill was built two years later, placing
Waterloo in competition with Cedar Falls for the local milling
The first bridge
over the Cedar River at this spot was a footbridge built
in 1856 at 5th Street. A wagon bridge was built at 4th Street
by miller George Couch in 1856, using timber cut on Charles
Thus it was
that a shallow place in the river, with a rocky bottom,
became the heart of a city. As the focus for east-west travel,
it was natural that homes, businesses and transportation
would center on this spot, as they have ever since.