The beginnings of the Ontario Knife Company are shrouded in the mystery of a fading past. It seems certain that three men – William B. Ensworth, Charles Albert Brace and William Maudsley, were in the picture from the start at Naples, New York, in 1889. The name of the Company derived from Ontario County where Naples was situated. The early knives were manufactured on a waterpower-run grindstone and sold via pushcart through the neighboring countryside.
As the company began to grow more space and more power was needed so an old sawmill at Cadiz located near the Village of Franklinville was purchased and also run by water–power from the Ischua Creek.
Around 1902 a move was made from Cadiz to Franklinville as the company kept growing and again more space and more power was needed. This would be Ontario Knife's current location. Also, on August 12, 1902 the company was incorporated and retained the Ontario Knife Company name.
In 1904 the owners of another local knife manufacturer, Empire State Cutlery Company, purchased the interests of the original Ontario Knife Company stockholders and in 1905 the two operations were combined in Franklinville under the Ontario Knife Company name. Once again the company expanded and a new building was built between 1912 and 1914 and is still in use by the company.
In 1923, James A. Chrestensen, who had been with the Company for a dozen years, became president and the beginning of the "Old Hickory" line would begin. His son Robert F. Chrestensen would take over as president after his father retired in 1952. Ontario Knife would expand its role in the cutlery industry with a membership in the American Cutlery Manufacturers' Association in which Robert was a past president.