Rochester Coordinates: Where the Genesee kisses Lake Ontario.
The name Ontario is derived from the Huron word Ontarí'io, which means "great lake". The lake was a border between the Huron people and the Iroquois Confederacy in the pre-Columbian era. In the 1600s, the Iroquois drove out the Huron from southern Ontario and settled the northern shores of Lake Ontario. When the Iroquois withdrew and the Anishnabeg / Ojibwa / Mississaugas moved in from the north to southern Ontario, they retained the Iroquois name.
It is believed the first European to reach the lake was Étienne Brûlé in 1615. As was their practice, the French explorers introduced other names for the lake. In 1632 and 1656, the lake was referred to as Lac de St. Louis or Lake St. Louis by Samuel de Champlain and cartographer Nicolas Sanson respectively (likely for Louis XIV of France) In 1660 Jesuit historian Francis Creuxius coined the name Lacus Ontarius. In a map drawn in the Relation des Jésuites (1662–1663), the lake bears the legend "Lac Ontario ou des Iroquois" with the name "Ondiara" in smaller type. A French map produced in 1712 (currently in the Canadian Museum of History), created by military engineer Jean-Baptiste de Couagne, identified Lake Ontario as "Lac Frontenac" named after Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau. He was a French soldier, courtier, and Governor General of New France from 1672 to 1682 and from 1689 to his death in 1698.
Artifacts which are believed to be of Norse origin have been found in the area of Sodus Bay, indicating the possibility of trading by the indigenous peoples with Norse explorers on the east coast of North America.
A series of trading posts were established by both the British and French, such as Fort Frontenac (Kingston) in 1673, Fort Oswego in 1722, Fort Rouillé (Toronto) in 1750. After the French and Indian War, all forts around the lake were under British control. The United States did not take possession of forts on present-day American territory until the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794. Permanent, non-military European settlement began during the American Revolution. As the easternmost and nearest lake to the Atlantic seaboard of Canada and the United States, population centres here are among the oldest in the Great Lakes basin, with Kingston, Ontario, formerly the capital of Canada, dating to the 1670s (Fort Frontenac). The lake became a hub of commercial activity following the War of 1812 with canal building on both sides of the border and heavy travel by lake steamers. Steamer activity peaked in the mid-19th century before competition from railway lines.