Visitors Guide to
Monroe County, Illinois

"First American Settlement in Illinois"

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The history of Waterloo dates back to the late 18th century when Captain James Moore, a member of George Rogers Clark’s expedition into the Illinois Country in 1778, led his family and a party of 4 other families from Virginia into the region. In the spring of 1782, Moore and his party settled just south of present day Waterloo at a place the French called La Belle Fontaine because of the beautiful spring there. The community of Bellefontaine, the first American settlement in the state of Illinois, grew up around the fort Moore built at the spring as protection from attacks by Native Americans.

In the early 1800’s, Emery Peters Rogers settled here and started a permanent store, mill, and quarry in this area that became known as Peterstown, after his name. A local creek divided Peterstown to the north and Bellefontaine to the south, and there was said to have been intense rivalry between the two communities. Legend has that Waterloo got its name when in 1818, an Irishman named Charles Carroll, settled in the area, and to the astonishment of all, ignored the rivalry by building his house on one side of the creek and his barn on the other side. He is purported to have said, "It won't be Bellefontaine and it won't be Peterstown, but begorra, I give ye's both your Waterloo!” 

In 1825 the Monroe County seat was moved from Harrisonville on the banks of the Mississippi River to Waterloo and received its charter as a town in 1849. The town experienced a marked population increase in the 1840's when a large number of immigrants who were escaping the political turmoil in Germany began arriving in the region. Many of the city's buildings and citizens today still reflect the heritage left by those German settlers. In 1978, Waterloo’s Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Surrounded by rich farmland of the American Bottom, Waterloo is a 30-minute drive from downtown St. Louis along the Great River Road (IL-3.) Waterloo features tree-lined streets with century-old buildings, stately city parks, antique shops, and unique restaurants. Historic sites include the Bellefontaine House and Peterstown House. The town is host to a number of annual events including the Monroe County Fair the last week of July. The community has a sister city partnership with Porta Westfalica, Germany and hosts a Porta Westfalica Fest in June in honor of the partnership.
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