Renfrew is named after Renfrew, Scotland. Before becoming an official town in 1858, it was known as Renfrewshire and it was put on the map by the lumber industry. The surrounding forests, rivers and lakes that attract tourists by the thousands today were perfect for logging and shipping lumber as Canada developed it’s heartlands. In the winter, lumber jacks would go up the Bonnechere River to cut logs and float them downstream in the spring. Through the 1870s to the 1890s the Canadian Central (later the Canadian Pacific), the Kingston & Pembroke (K&P) and Booth’s Ottawa, Arnprior & Parry Sound railways impacted Renfrew to establish commerce abroad for timber, agricultural commodities, equipment and Renfrew’s renowned creamery industry products with Ottawa, Montreal and the US eastern seaboard.
Renfrew was also put on the map by the local dairy industry. The rich farmland is ideal for raising dairy cattle. At one time, there were multiple dairies in Renfrew. The family-owned and operated Tracey Dairy is the one that has stood the test of time and is still in operation.
Renfrew is the official birthplace of the NHA/NHL. M.J. O’Brien and his son Ambrose were instrumental in forming the National Hockey Association (NHA) which eventually developed into the NHL we all know and love today. The Renfrew Creamery Kings were one of four teams in the first season of the NHA. Both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs are rooted in teams supported by the O’Brien family. Visitors to Renfrew can visit the Birthplace of the NHA/NHL Museum on the third floor of the historic post office building, downtown Renfrew.
The annual Fall Fair has been in existence longer than Renfrew has been a town. It is one of the oldest fairs in Canada and is the largest Fair in Renfrew County.
Some historical sites to visit in Renfrew are McDougall Mill Museum and the swinging bridge. McDougall Mill Museum holds three floors of artifacts, many from Renfrew’s early Industrial days. The Mill overlooks the swinging bridge over the Bonnechere River. The swinging bridge is a pedestrian bridge that has been used since 1896.