This week, Flashback Friday features this photo of the Hanna Monument, a bronze tablet set in stone. The monument pays homage to the location of the first home built by Europeans who stayed permanently in Black Hawk County, George W. and Mary Melrose Hanna.
Mary Hanna was born on Jun 9, 1821, in Edwards County, Illinois. She married George in 1837 and died of a stroke Nov. 6, 1912, at the age of 92 as the oldest resident in Black Hawk County. George was born in 1817 and died in 1890. The couple had seven children and are are buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
The couple founded Waterloo township on June 19, 1845, in what is now the west Waterloo commercial district. The home site is across from the area of the former Platt’s Nursery, near what is now the McDonald's on University Avenue.
The Hanna home was an 18-foot by 24-foot log cabin, built "on the edge of a blooming prairie," and the couple along with Mary's brother John Melrose farmed the area. They increased the land they claimed as their own until they owned "a considerable portion of the land on the west bank" of the Cedar River. They then "freely gave" their land, in small tracts, to developers that would later construct the Stewart Blacksmith Shop on Fourth Street as well as the first schoolhouse near the corner of Jefferson Street and West Park Avenue.
The Hannas moved into town in 1852, purchasing a brick structure they made into a store, and were residents there for seven or eight years before moving back to the original farm.
Mary Hanna befriended Indigenous members of the Pottawatamie, Meskwaki and Winnebago tribes that lived nearby, learned a bit of their languages and taught some of the women English, according to an early history of the Hannas. Some of the tribes made sugar in "the immense sugar tree groves, which wooded the hills along the river to the northwest of Waterloo," which they traded with the white residents for flour, according to that history.
The Hanna home was "home, church and courthouse to suit the needs of the time," according to that history. George Hanna was the county's first justice of the peace, and religious services were held "every Sunday."
The memorial site was offered by the couple's daughters, Mary Tiller and Edith Knupp, to the Early Settlers Association of Black Hawk County on the condition the grounds would be "perpetually cared for," according to a Sept. 1, 1935 article in The Courier.
The Early Settlers held annual reunions at the site until the middle of the 20th century, when descendant Emily Hanna George built an estate on the site known as "Texowa." The Early Settlers Association disbanded in 1958.
Platt's Nursery later bought much of the Texowa estate for their business and kept the monument, though it was later moved when University Avenue expanded and, with no one officially in charge of it, fell into disrepair.
The marker appears to still be standing in the grass strip between University Avenue and South Hackett Road in a July 2019 Google Street View photo.