The Beginning

Executive, Stories & More…

At a meeting held February 17, 1956, the Waterloo Area Chapter was organized with the election of the following slate of officers:

Officers, 1956

President Alson M. Weber

Vice President Roy Snyder

Secretary Vera Schweitzer






There was a time when the Pennsylvania German dialect was commonly heard in Kitchener and Waterloo and the surrounding countryside. The Waterloo Area chapter sought to have a balance of English and Pennsylvania German used in its entertainment at the annual meetings. On one occasion a vocabulary match revealed the extent to which the dialect varies, depending on geography and the erosion of time. Gradually it became clear that many members did not speak the dialect and in 1993 the executive decided that all announcements must be in English to ensure clear understanding. As time went by recitations and skits which had once been presented entirely in the dialect, were given English translation. By the year 2000 the entire program was in English.

Historical Background of the Waterloo Area:

Waterloo County’s first white settlers came from Pennsylvania between 1800 and 1820. Their ancestors who came from Switzerland had sojourned in the Palatinate correctly called Rheinpfalz or Niederpfalz during the 1700’s. In the century following, many of the descendants of these Palatinate settlers migrated to America, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On the ship passenger lists, this stream of immigrants was classified as Palatinate German, although it included substantial groups from an area just west of the Rhine known as Alsace Lorraine. In their new North American home, they became known as Pennsylvania Deutsch; their English speaking neighbors eventually referred to them as the Pennsylvania Dutch. That designation has been attached to their dialect which is rooted in the Pfalzisch German, so named because it is still used today in the region known as Pfalz.

By 1800 and the early decades following, land costs in Pennsylvania had risen to over $100 an acre. This fact, coupled with loyalist motivations toward the British Crown, led many to consider Canada as a new home.The Mennonite settlements in Upper Canada up to 1823 were located at The Twenty (now the Vineland area), York County (north of Toronto), and on The Beasley Tract (now Waterloo Region). The earliest expansion took place northward of Waterloo Township into Woolwich Township. By 1824 Amish Mennonite settlers moved into the area west of the Beasley Tract, 40,000 acres first called the German Block, later comprising the major portion of Wilmot Township. These settlers came largely from Swiss Alsatian stock living in Alsace as well as from the south of Baden, a former state in Germany.

The Pennsylvania Germans in Waterloo County a designation which has persisted although a substantial group never lived in Pennsylvania had many things in common. Their common dialect was undoubtedly the most pervasive, for it was retained and used widely in homes,churches and communities for at least a century; it is still in use by a substantial number of persons. They were also a religious people, whether from the earliest Mennonite and Amish Mennonite stock, or of the slightly later Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist persuasions. The early farmers, villagers and townsfolk were loyal to their own denominational groups, but markedly tolerant of one another’s faith. Pennsylvania German Customs and Cookery – Beatrice Miller Snyder 1979.

Some Early Settler Family Names in the Waterloo Area:

Baer, Bauman, Bean, Bechtel, Bergey, Betzner, Bingeman, Bleam, Bock, Bomberger, Brech, Bricker, Brubacher, Clemens, Clemmer, Cressman, Detweiler, Eby, Erb, Geiger, Gingrich, Groff, Groh, Hallman, Hammacher, Hoffman, Honsberger, Kinzie, Koch, Martin, Moyer, Pannebecker, Reichert, Reist, Rosenberger, Sararus, Schneider, Shantz, Schoerg/Sherk/Shirk, Schiedel, Shupe, Sittler, Schneider/Snider/Snyder, Stauffer, Wanner, Weber, Wideman, Wismer, Witmer, Woolner, Zimmerman.


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