Waterloo was first known as Kees Mills. After Kees died there was litigation among the Kees heirs. Victory was won by one party to the contest and a local wit, John Ambler, suggested the name of Waterloo for the town and property (128). Mrs. Nettie R. Glass of Waterloo , informs of the early history of the community (129): “Elmore Kees took up the first land at Waterloo . He was a single man when he left the East, captain of his emigrant train, in 1847. He stopped for the winter at Oregon City and in the spring of 1848 located on land five miles above the present town of Brownsville . Soon he left and took up a claim here at Waterloo , the land including the falls and the water power and soda spring, on both sides of the Santiam River . His wife’s name was Mary J. Kees who died in July, 1894.

     “Elmore Kees built the flouring and sawmill in partnership with his brother, J. Kees, who owned no part of the land. In the town that sprung up about the mills there was a wagon shop, blacksmith shop, three dwellings, a store, post office and a feed or livery barn. To bring logs down to the sawmill there was built a wooden railroad three-fourths of a mile long, with cars drawn by oxen and rails sawed four by four.  When I first came here in 1884 the old railroad car still remained, and part of the brush dam. I was then 14 years old.

     “In the early days all supplies were brought from Oregon City by ox-tow the trip taking from four to six weeks. The heavy trail-wagons had to wind about and across the valley as best they could.. The Indians came to trade their furs at the first little store at Waterloo , and these furs were taken to Oregon City and sold. Mail came from Lebanon once a week by horseback. An old maple, still standing, beneath the branches of which a manger was built, did duty as stable and shelter for stock. Later a Mr. Gross built a dance floor under the maple boughs, and the resort was popular with young people in Waterloo on summer Sundays and evenings. Waterloo always had a reputation for being a wide—open town and some of the dances were far from orderly. Still later the old maple sheltered a skating rink.”

    The Kees built a ferryboat to cross the Santiam. During the high water of 1861—62 a small steamer came up the river as far as the falls and the flour mill. The Kees also planted an orchard in 1863, among the trees being a Black Republican cherry and a fine yellow seedling cherry. A tree is still standing in the orchard which is situated on the second street west from the river. The first schoolhouse was located on the old Sweet Home road a mile out of Waterloo , with homemade benches seating from four to six pupils - very narrow as to seat, high as to back and with the desks extremely slanting. A church was built half a mile above the schoolhouse, Christian Advent, with B. O. Norton as pastor. The soda spring was discovered from cattle ranging to drink there.

    In January, 1885, heavy snows broke in the roof of the sawmill, but the flour-mill continued to grind feed for stock for two years thereafter. Then the machinery of both mills was moved away. In 1889 an open bridge was built across the Santiam. Altogether four bridges spanned the stream at one time or another. A wooden suspension bridge was built in 1913. The present bridge uses the same cables but is much sturdier. In 1892 a hosiery mill was built on the site of the ‘old flour- and saw-mills, but was soon found to be unprofitable and was changed into a woolen mill. The town was incorporated in 1893, and at its peak claimed a population of 500 and among business concerns five stores, a millinery shop, barber shop, two blacksmith shops, livery stable, butcher shop, bakery, a large hotel and other miner shops and stores. In 1893 an Evangelical church was built. The first school was taught by W. L. Jackson, later, for many years, county school superintendent. A four—room school was built in 1893. The woolen mill ran for about six years, being destroyed by fire in April, 1898 and never rebuilt. This marked the beginning of the end of Waterloo . The present population is only 50. The town dwindled and the government was allowed to lapse. There is still a school and post office, but no industry of any sort. The district takes care of perhaps 50 school pupils, the greater part from outside Waterloo . In 1910  the Santiam Power Company bought the water power and built a dike, but nothing further was done. The first telephone come to the town in 1900, installed to serve J. H. Turpin.

     The U. S. Census gave the Waterloo Precinct 220 population in 1870; in 1880 — 390. The town of Waterloo was given 59 inhabitants in 1900; in 1880 the place is credited with no less then four water power sawmills and a flour mill (130). The census of 1940 gives Waterloo Precinct 686 people.

Waterloo Quick Facts

Location:  Twp 12S, Rge 1W, Sect 28

Name Origin:  see notes

Other Names:  Kees Mill

Post Office Established:  5 Jan 1875

First Postmaster:  Stephen D. Gager

Incorporation Date:  1893

Population 1999:  270


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Town histories were  abstracted from:  "History of Linn County", Compiled by Workers of the Writer’s Program, Works Progress Administration, 1941.  See bibliography for above-cited references.  All photos from the collection of Lisa L. Jones, unless otherwise noted.  Lisa L. Jones contributed and is solely responsible for the content of these pages.  Copyright 2001.