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Manotick – Island in the River

By Larry Ellis

Manotick - the very word makes one wonder - what does it mean? Where did it come from and why?! Moss Kent Dickinson was the founder and the person responsible for naming the town in the early 1860s. He was fascinated by the Rideau River and the island at Long Island Locks we now call Long Island - it is about a mile and a half long and half a mile wide between the bridges. Why did Dickinson choose the Ojibwa Indian word "Manotick," meaning Island in the River and not the Algonquin Indian translation instead since all the area along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers was known as Algonquin territory many years ago?

A possible explanation why Dickinson chose the Ojibwa translation is it may have been as a result of his numerous trips to the Chicago area in his early days of learning the forwarding business. He was sixteen when he went to Illinois for the first time. While there he learned as much as possible about running a business, however, he felt his future was in Canada and returned to Prescott in 1840. It is possible that on one of those trips that he met some Ojibwa Indians and their legends impressed him so much that he remembered the words for Island in the River. When the time came in 1860, he recalled the words and named our town Manotick.

The Ojibwa Indians (sometimes spelled Ojibwe or Ojibway) were an offshoot of the Chippewa Indians who formed one of the largest tribal groups in North America, living along the shores of Lake Superior. It is just possible the origin of the name Manotick goes back to one of Dickinson's trips to Chicago Illinois and his meeting the Ojibwa Indians of North Western Ontario - an interesting twist to the name of our town!

Larry Ellis was awarded Distinguished Civic Award for Heritage for 2003, is a member of the Rideau Historical Society, works for the A.Y. Jackson Park Committee, was recipient of Quebec's Golden Jubilee Medal, is publishing The History of Long Island, and volunteers for Knox United Church.

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