Last summer, David McLaughlin, a former Paynesville High School graduate, who worked at the Paynesville Historical Society Museum from 1990 to 1994, e-mailed me with some information he had found in a search on the Internet. He had entered the name, "Koronis" in a search engine. The results included references to a Koronis asteroid and a Boeotian princess.
A Russian astronomer discovered the Koronis asteroid in 1878. It was a fairly large minor planet or asteroid and was numbered 158. The asteroid belt was divided into three zones and one of the zones was called Koronis. Within the Koronis zone is a minor planet named 243 Ida. Initially, McLaughlin thought that the lake could have been named after the asteroid. But Lake Koronis appears on maps long before the asteroid was discovered and so the lake could not have been named for the asteroid.
Classical archaeology refers to Boeotia as an area of Greece dating from as early as the 5th century B.C. Greek mythology referred to Koronis as a Boeotian princess and the mother of a child of Zeus. In various reports "Koronis" is also spelled "Coronis."
A letter written by Father Joseph D. Varley, Church of St. Louis, Paynesville, on Sept. 22, 1949, explained, "the origin of the name and meaning has been hotly debated here since 1895 and perhaps long before. A lengthy article in the St. Cloud Journal Press of 1895 about the village of Paynesville says popular tradition has it that Koronis is an Indian name meaning cedar. But the writer puts that aside as having no weight and says the name is Greek meaning 'crowned.'" The Latin 'corona' would be better for that, but according to my Greek dictionary Koronis does have a second meaning of crown.
If the origin of the word Koronis is either from the Greek 'korones' or Latin 'corona' meaning crowned, how is that connected to the lake? Koronis is 'crowned' with three islands. Many references have been made in early editions of the New Paynesville Press to Koronis being crowned with three beautiful islands. In a 1995 edition of the Paynesville Press, Michael Jacobson's article, "Three islands crown Lake Koronis," sites, "So, the name Koronis may refer to the islands themselves. It may be the result of sentiments like those expressed in this 1926 St. Cloud Daily Times report: 'South of Paynesville is the largest lake in the county, and the most beautiful, Lake Koronis, crowned with three islands and a wonderful shoreline.'"
The Indian maiden theory was what I believed until I began to do research about the lake. Growing up, I heard the story many times. An Indian maiden was so distraught after learning that her warrior had been killed in battle that she threw herself off the cliff on First Island. Her name was Koronis and the theory was that the lake was named after her.
In the June 18, 1896, issue of The New Paynesville Press, a different Indian maiden story was circulated. "Legend also tells the story of the tragic leap from this open spot to the depths below, of a fair but tearful and heartbroken daughter of the woods to escape marriage with a brave that she loved not."
A third interpretation of the Indian maiden theory appeared in the May 29, 1913, issue of the Paynesville Press. In this poem the Indian maiden is striken with grief from her warrior not being true to her.
Professor A. H. Hatch wrote a poem titled "Koronis." It reads:
There once lived an Indian maid,
In legend so 'tis said,
Who wandered around the hunting ground,
Where the beautiful town of Paynesville now is found;
She loved a warrior bold,
This shy little maid of old,
But false he proved,
And she who loved,
In the beautiful lake lies drowned.
Ye bells of Paynesville ring!
Ye maids of Paynesville sing!
The story tell of her who fell,
A victim to loves sadly magic spell-
From the heights above the lake,
The fatal leap to take.
Soon all was o'er,
On Paynesville's shore,
Koronis walks no more.
Now the moon shines tonight on Lake
The breezes blowing;
The waters flowing-
Now, deep 'neath the wave the maid lies sleeping,
No more she's weeping,
On Paynesville's shore.
The name Koronis was thought to be a derivation of an Indian word meaning cedar. However, Paul Durand, author of "Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet," believes that the word Koronis is not derived from an Indian word. The Ojibwa Indians named the lake "Gagagiwigwuni Sagaiigun" which means 'Raven Feather Lake.'
Next week this column will continue to explore the name of Koronis and its relation to territorial maps, the Cedar Lake connection, and the town/post office that shares the lake's name.
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