How Kenora Got its Name

Rats and flour just don't go together!

An Interesting Story...

The story of how Kenora, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, got its name is a very interesting one. Back in the late 1800s, the area around Kenora was a bustling stop along the CP Rail line. There was activity in a number of industries, notably gold and flour. At the time, there were three communities situated right beside each other, each with a different name. There was Keewatin, where the flour mill was situated, Norman, the island just east of Keewatin, and the bustling burb of Rat Portage. Much talk and complaining about the name "Rat Portage" occurred, but nothing was done about it until 1905.

Keewatin from above.  Photo: Darren Tacknyk

Here is the story as written on the Lake of the Woods Museum website:

It was not until 1905 that the community changed its name to Kenora. Dissatisfaction with the name of Rat Portage had been expressed by the residents of the town over the years, but apparently, it took a final push from the industry to initiate the change. The Maple Leaf Flour Company reportedly refused to build here because they didn't want the word rat on their flour bags. 

Read the full story on the MUSE website.

It didn't take long for the prospective flour barons to realize that flour in bags labeled "Rat Portage" would not be a hit with consumers. Obviously, rats and flour don't go together, especially when you think of how prolific rats are in the areas of eating and generating waste!

Downtown Kenora.  Photo: Lake of the Woods Museum

So the town fathers got together and sat down to figure out what they could name the town, without offending any of the citizens in either of the three existing communities. Someone came up with the clever idea to combine parts of the names of the three existing communities into one name. Hence, they took the "KE" from Keewatin, the "NO" from Norman, and the "RA" from Rat Portage and developed the name we all know and love today: Kenora!

So, as they say, the rest is history... KEewatin-NOrman-RAt Portage!

Kenora's Present-Day City Hall
About Gerry Cariou

Gerry is Executive Director of Ontario's Sunset Country Travel Association and is an avid fisherman and nature photographer. Gerry has been writing about Sunset Country's varied travel experiences for over 20 years and lives these experiences year-round in Kenora, Ontario.

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