131st Bomb Wing – Missouri ANG Community
Monroe County celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016 with a year-long blowout of re-enactments, events and activities, including a History and Mystery Bus Tour, a Stone Bridges and Architecture Bus Tour, a Barn Quilt Trail of painted barns (www.barnquiltinfo.com) and a countywide scavenger hunt. Though the county officially became a county in 1816, it was settled long before that, in 1780, and in fact had the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory. Explore the route of Illinois’ first road, the 54-mile Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail; step back in time in the 19th-century German village of Maeystown; visit museums or the heroic Mississippi River village of Valmeyer, wiped out by the river in 1993, only to rebuild on a nearby bluff; or take in one-room school houses, signature stone bridges, tin-roofed houses, historic churches and cemeteries, and multiple events keying off the county’s German heritage. And don’t overlook the wineries. Motorists can cross the Mississippi on the Jefferson Barracks Bridge just north of Columbia. The MetroBus express bus has regular service through Waterloo and Columbia to the MetroLink station in East St. Louis.
Waterloo’s founding is the stuff of legends that start in 1780 with the French settlement Bellfontaine, named after the pure spring that refreshed travelers along the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail. In 1816 go-getter Emery Peters Rogers arrived and set up the area’s first permanent store, a mill and a quarry, a compound he called Peterstown, on the other side of the creek. The story goes that Bellfontaine to the north and Peterstown to the south squabbled furiously until in 1818 a no-nonsense Irishman, Charles Carroll, built his home on one side of the creek and his barn on the other and announced, “It won’t be Bellfontaine and it won’t be Peterstown, but … I’ll give (you) both your Waterloo.” Waterloo became the Monroe County seat in 1825 and received its city charter in 1888. Numerous German settlers arrived in the years between and today many of the city’s buildings and 10,000-plus residents reflect the German heritage. Waterloo maintains five parks whose features include walking trails, ball fields, tot-lot playgrounds, pavilions, a skate park, a roller hockey park, and as of 2015, an 18-hole disc golf course. Every year the city turns out for June’s Porta Westfalica, honoring the Sister Cities bond between Waterloo and the German town; the Monroe County Fair in July; Waterloo Homecoming in late August; October’s Pumpkin Fest with its 5K Run/Walk; the family-friendly Trunk or Treat and Halloween Check Point; and the Downtown Christmas Walk.
French traders and English settlers were the first to set up in what became Columbia, on the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail on high bluffs near the Mississippi River. With the push westward, pioneers and immigrants used the hamlet as a waystation, and in the first half of the 19th century, they were joined by scores of German immigrants, many of whom decided they’d find nothing better nearer the sunset and settled down to prosper. The town was laid out in 1820, incorporated in 1859, and designated a city in 1927; almost 10,000 people live here now, though many commute to work to St. Louis, just over the river, by way of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge. The Monroe County Welcome Center, in the old Shoemaker School from 1867, houses the Shoemaker School Museum and the One-Room School Commemorative Plaza, which honors more than 60 one-room schools from the 1900s. Columbia has restaurants for every taste and plenty of shopping, particularly for antiques. Annual events are fun and family-friendly, such as the Easter Egg Hunt, the City Wide Yard Sale, the Cause for Paws to help strays, outdoor summertime movies and music at Metter Park, the 4th of July Bike Parade, August’s Columbia Days Summer Festival, Art on the Bluffs and the Columbia FestiFall in September, Halloween Hi-Jinks and Scare Square, November’s Sparklefest, and the Bright Night Christmas Parade to kick off the holidays.