A recent brief comment during a town council meeting highlighted the confusion over the spelling of Mississagua Street, which may have some residents confused as well.
It had been spelled correctly, at least according to the town, in a motion made by Lord Mayor Betty Disero. But one of the town councillors asked for it to be changed to Mississauga Street, a much more common spelling, but not the one the town uses.
Residents may remember a time when both spellings could be found on street signs, but it seems those spelled Mississauga have been replaced.
Museum curator Sarah Kaufman, when asked about historical references to the street name, says this: “It’s funny you bring this up, as we had an inquiry about this a few years ago. There are two main spellings of the word that are out in the community: Mississauga or Mississagua. No one has delved into the research on this to my knowledge. However, while taking a quick look at early maps that show street names or the point names (Mississauga Point is the name of the point on which the lighthouse used to exist, and now you see the tower of Fort Mississauga from the NOTL Golf Course), there are a number of spellings: Massassagua, Massissaugua, Messessagua, etc..”
Kaufman says early cartographers probably weren’t sure of how the Indigenous word was spelled, so they used the phonetic spelling.
“I’m not sure who decided that the point would be called Mississauga Point. It could have been the Mississauga Nation, but I’m willing to bet that it was likely the British who purchased the long track of land along the Niagara River from the Mississauga
Nation in 1781,” she said, referencing the Niagara Treaty of 1781, also known as the Niagara Purchase.
“I’m guessing at this only because the earliest map I saw with the name came from the 1790s. Fort Mississauga was built during the War of 1812 and it was, of course, named for the point on which it was built,” says Kaufman.
“I would lean towards the correct spelling as being Mississauga, since that is how the Indigenous Nation for which it was likely named spells it. I believe Mississauga Street is called that because it leads from Niagara Stone Road (formerly the Black Swamp Road) towards Mississauga Point. Last I checked, which was a long while ago, the town’s street signs spell it incorrectly.”
Interestingly, an online search for the origin of the spelling of Mississagua Street brought up a TripAdvisor comment. A visitor from Windsor says, “I’ve been puzzled by this for years and I’m not sure if somebody already answered this before. Is the main road from the QEW to Niagara-
on-the-Lake called Mississauga Street or Mississagua Street, once you enter the town? Bed and breakfasts, restaurants and hotels call the street Mississauga but Google maps and the town labels it as Mississagua (pronunciation difference?? I think there is).
A response from someone who calls himself fallsdude says “the correct spelling is Mississagua, named after Fort Mississagua, which you see across the golf course at the north end of the street. I believe the story is that the Anglicized name of the Native Peoples of the area – “Missisakis” – was often spelled (or misspelled) both ways by the British and French, with both versions preserved in some places in Ontario.”
He correctly points out there is a Mississagua Lake in the Kawarthas, but is incorrect about the fort: research shows it as always having been spelled Fort Mississauga.
Town staff did not reply to a request of any history of the street name, other than forwarding Kaufman’s response to an email to her from The Local, on which she copied the town. Town documents, planning and otherwise, seem equally split between the two spellings.
Donald Combe, an author of several books, including one on street names in town, provided information similar to Kaufman’s, that the earlier maps of Niagara identify Mississauga Point, the place where an early lighthouse was built to guide ships into the mouth of the river and harbour.
By the time Europeans had arrived, the people known as the Mississaugas had occupied a good part of what is now Ontario.
During the War of 1812, the rubble from buildings destroyed by fire was used to build Fort Mississauga. “This street was originally called Fifth Street,” says Combe’s research, going directly from Mississauga Point to the outskirts of town, where it becomes Niagara Stone Road.
Although the town list of street names spells it Mississagua, it seems Kaufman is likely correct when she says at some point, the town got it wrong, unless there is research that shows otherwise.