Ever wonder how the Tonawanda’s got their names? Well wonder no more.

Simply put, the town and city of Tonawanda and the town of North Tonawanda are named after Tonawanda Creek. That creek is actually a small river.

“Tonawanda” comes from the Iroquois word meaning “swift water.”

The creek has its headwaters in the Town of Wethersfield, Wyoming County, and has one of the biggest watersheds in Western New York.

There was also once a “Lake Tonawanda.”

At the end of the last ice age—approximately 10,000 years ago—a lake stretched from what is now Grand Island to present day Holley in Orleans County.



The other Tonawandas then took their names from the Creek:

  • The Town of Tonawanda was founded in 1836
  • The City of Tonawanda (inside the town) came about in 1904
  • And North Tonawanda was established as a village in 1865.

Now you know!

Featured photo by Martin Cathrae/Flickr

MORE: 19 Things You Didn’t Know About The Tonawandas