The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Sept. 24, 1857

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Origin of the Name "Ontario." - As the word Ontario, like most American titles, is of Indian origin, the significance and derivation of the word is not generally know, though its definition has been variously rendered by writers of ingenious and fertile imagination, and of course, like all names of the aborigines, is invariably construed into something very romantic and poetical. It is contended by many to have been a wrong construction of the Indian word "Onhg-taugh-rhi-ough," signifying a "swarm of bats," but of course, the inappropriateness of the term would condemn this inference.

From ancient documents in our possession of undisputable authority - for the plausible reason that no one knows anything about them - we are enabled to give the true derivation of the word, which, it will be seen, owes it origin to a trifling incident that would probably have never been recorded, had we not rescued it from the obscure pages of the oblivious past.

A few years after the first settlement of the country by the whites, a venerable old gentleman from the north of Holland, named Myneer Vonsnappentweezer, who was extensively engaged in the wholesale ladder business, in the vicinity of New York, fitted out a prospecting expedition, consisting of half a dozen whites, two Irishmen and a Mohawk Dutchman, to explore the interior of the country, in search of a suitable site for a cork-screw manufactory. After a long journey through the wilderness, during which time the party suffered the most terrible hardships, subsisting six weeks on a bag of salt and a bottle of tomato catsup, the expedition finally reached the ancient village of Mud Lock. Here the party fell in with a Kangapoojah Indian on his way to Saratoga Springs with an invalid niece, who informed them of a very extensive water privilege directly north - referring to the Great Lakes - and offered to conduct them to the vicinity for the moderate compensation of three plugs of nail-rod tobacco and a boot full of old Santa Cruz.

Having secured the services of the guide, the party resumed their journey by a circuitous route through the John Brown Tract, and came out at the village of "Graball," now known as Mexico, though it still retains the characteristics which its ancient name would suggest; that this was the spot is established beyond a doubt, from the fact that an oyster can and an old fashioned junk bottle labeled, "Pure Old Cognac, vintage of 1532, were found a few years since in that vicinity, where it is supposed the party halted for refreshment.

Upon reaching the summit of a hill, the party were thrown into ecstasies at the sight of a magnificent sheet of water spread out before them and reaching as far as the eye could extend. The Indian guide on beholding the scene, suddenly threw up his arms in wild gesticulations, and apparently with deep emotions exclaimed "On thar I-Oh!" The sentence was here abruptly terminated by the speaker having stepped upon a piece of scantling with a rusty nail driven through, which penetrated through his galter and entered the ball of his left foot just back of the first toe, and the concluding exclamation of "Oh!" was occasioned by the sudden sensation of pain; the remainder of his remark would have been to the effect that several years previous, "on thar," - meaning upon the lake - he had brought down seventeen "helldivers" and a "shitepoke" with one barrel.

Mr. Vonsnappentweezer, however, misunderstanding the character of the remark, and observing the extravagant emotions of the Indian, joined in his supposed enthusiasm, and catching up the broken sentence exclaimed, "Ah! It is the On-tar-i oh!" "Ontario!" "Ontario!" reiterated the remainder of the party, and from that moment the name became established.

The Indian shortly recovered from the pain caused by the accident, by the application of a bottle of Persian Balm, which he happened to have in his carpet-bag, but the connection which his misfortune held to the origin of so prominent a name, was never before explained. Mr. Vonsnappentweezer after his return, published a long account of his explorations, which was extensively copied into the daily papers, describing the extensive "water privilege" in the northern part of the state, by the name so singularly bestowed.

Thus it will be seen how the intelligent and enquiring mind , (referring to the writer), can trace out and restore the legendary and doubtful portions of history, and bring to light incidents that were never before recorded, and undoubtedly never transpired.

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Sept. 24, 1857
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), Sept. 24, 1857