How Onaway Got It's Name
Submitted by Nute Chapman
From Onaway Outlook March 13, 2015

Caption on picture. From all of our research and interviews with old timers, we find the following information taken from Fred Stutesman's 1948 "Directory of the City of Onaway and Black Lake" to be very convincing.
How did Onaway get it's name? Fact is, it had quite a struggle to get named, changed it's mind...three times before it finally stuck. The settlement was first known as Shaw's Post office which was established in 1883. Three years after the post office was started, Merritt Chandler came to the community to live. Shaw's home, Post office and hotel stood where Lee Sabin's house now stands. Chandler built his home just across the street and a little farther west of the Shaw home. Mr. Chandler was a large land holder and had a dream of building a village, a clean, quiet place, where no drink would be sold and every one would be at peace with each other. He was a Quaker, and for his day and time, well educated and cultured. He plotted a piece of ground of six blocks, between Main street and Lynn, and called it Onaway. He hoped it would grow to be his dream city. The ban on the sale of liquor was written into every transfer of property.
Onaway is the name of an Indian Maiden, the theme of a song in Longfellow's poem 'Hiawatha.' It was Hiawatha's wedding day and guests at the festivity were a dancer, "Pau-Puk-Kee-Wis", a jester, "Iagoo", and a musician, "Chibiabos". Chibiabos sang the following song:
"The Song of Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (An excerpt) Onaway! my heart sings to thee, Sings with joy when thou art near me, As the sighing, singing branches In the pleasant Moon of Strawberries! When thou art not pleased, beloved, Then my heart is sad and darkened, As the shining river darkens When the clouds drop shadows on it! When thou smilest, my beloved, Then my troubled heart is brightened, As in the sunshine gleam the ripples That the cold wind makes in rivers. Smiles the earth, and smile the waters, Smile the cloudless skies above us, But I lose the way of smiling When thou art no longer near me! I myself, myself! behold me! Blood of my beating heart , behold me! Oh awake, awake, beloved! Onaway! awake, beloved! Thus the gentle Chibiabos Sang his song of love and longing; And Iagoo, the great boaster, He the marvelous story-teller, He the friend of old Nokomis, Jealous of the sweet musician, Jealous of the applause they gave him, Saw in all the eyes around him, Saw in all the looks and gestures, That the wedding guests assembled Longed to hear his pleasant stories, His immeasurable falsehoods. And the gentle Chibiabos Sang in accents sweet and tender, Sang in tones of deep emotion, Songs of love and songs of longing; Looking still at Hiawatha, Looking at fair Laughing Water, Sang he softly, sang in this wise: Onaway! Awake, beloved! Thou the wild-flower of the forest! Thou the wild-bird of the prairie! Thou with eyes so soft and fawn-like! If thou only lookest at me, I am happy, I am happy, As the lilies of the prairie, When they feel the dew upon them! Sweet thy breath is as the fragrance Of the wild-flowers in the morning, As their fragrance is at evening, In the Moon when leaves are falling. Does not all the blood within me Leap to meet thee, leap to meet thee, As the springs to meet the sunshine, In the Moon when nights are brightest? Shaw and Chandler were related by marriage, belonged to the same church, but were of different political affiliations. In 1893 Chandler got the post office away from Shaw and named it Onaway. Four years later, a change in the administration gave the post office back to Shaw and he named the place Adalaski. Two years after this, in 1899, the village was incorporated and adopted the name of Onaway. It was at this time that Onaway did awaken, and grew from a community of a couple of hundred to over 2000 in a period of three years.
From the Onaway Outlook, March 13, 2015 page 3.
Retyped by J. Anderson

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