Situated between the northern tips of Seneca and Cayuga Lake is the town of Waterloo in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Waterloo was originally settled at the very start of the 19th century and today is celebrated as the birthplace of Memorial Day. The close proximity to both lakes affords many recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating and swimming along with the attractions of the nearby towns of Seneca Falls and Auburn. Many visitors are also attracted to Waterloo for the Waterloo Premium Outlets Mall .
Though the town is small—with a population under six-thousand, there is plenty to see and do year-round in Waterloo and the immediate area.
The Cayuga Indian village of Skoi-Yase was established about the year 1500, and was located near the rapids of the Seneca River, near the present location of Locust Street in Waterloo before it was destroyed. General George Washington in 1779 ordered the destruction of Iroquois villages and crops in upstate New York. The Cayugas valued Skoi-Yase, meaning “flowing water” because of the abundant supply of fish, especially eels, in the Seneca River. In 1792, a white man named Samuel Bear reached this site, looking for a place to settle. The next spring, he returned to Skoi-Yase with three millersand with his cousins John and Ephraim Bear. With the help of the neighboring Cayuga Indians, Bear dug raceways to harness the power of the river and built the only grist mill within several miles which brought in many early pioneers. Bear started a general store in Skoi-Yase and was the first merchant in town. Waterloo’s earliest industries, such as distilleries and tanneries sprang up along the Seneca River after that.
Some other historical notes are:
-The planning for the first Woman’s Rights Convention, which held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, took place at the Hunt and McClintock houses.
-On May 5, 1866, Waterloo conducted the nation’s first formal, continuing remembrance of veterans who had died in war.The Federal Government in 1966 formally recognized Waterloo as the Birthplace of Memorial Day.
-The first Pullman car was conceived and constructed by a Waterloo man, Major Frederick Furniss.
-In the 1890’s, funeral directors Mr. Genung of Waterloo and Mr. Eckels of Philadelphia developed the first modern method of embalming.