Historical Plaques of
Renfrew County

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The next 2 plaques were sent in by Martin Bootsman


Location: in the village of Wilno on the south side of Hwy 60/62

The first group of Polish immigrants to Canada, some 300 in number, established a settlement in this area in 1864. Adverse social conditions and political unrest in their partitioned homeland had encouraged them to leave. They cleared the land and rapidly established a thriving agricultural community. During the 1880's the village founded here was called Wilno after the birthplace of the Reverend Ludiuik Dembski one of their spiritual leaders. In 1875 the parish of Wilno was organized and a chapel dedicated to the polish saint Stanislaus Kostka, was built. The Canadian Atlantic Railway linked Wilno with Ottawa in 1894. This district, which received a new wave of Polish immigrants in the early 1900's retains much of its cultural heritage.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historical Sites Board,
Archives of Ontario


Location: at the Champlain Museum, Pembroke

Peter White, born in Edinburgh, was a merchant seaman when he was pressed into the Royal Navy in 1813 and sent to Canada. Following service on the Great Lakes under Commodore Sir James Yeo, he left the Navy and entered the lumber trade in the Ottawa Valley. In May, 1828, he first visited the wilderness site of Pembroke and, attracted by its timber potential, made his headquarters here. One of the areas principal lumber merchants, he also operated a general store and combined blacksmith shop and leather-working establishment. A local magistrate for some 40 years, White held various municipal offices in the community which grew up around his enterprises. He died in 1878.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario

The next plaque was sent in by Jim Brennan


Location: Renfrew

From 1869 until the great depression, England exported about 100,000 children to Canada as cheap farm laborers. hundreds, perhaps thousands came to the Ottawa Valley. Not all were orphans, some were sent over with out the knowledge or permission of their parents. Others were sponsored by benefactors who saw greater hope for them in this land of plenty. Virtually all were poor. Most were between 7 and 14 years of age, but some were mere toddlers. Each child was supposed to get room, board, token pay and some education. Many received no wages, no schooling and much abuse. To their credit most Home Children overcame privations, loneliness and prejudice to become productive and proud Canadians. Their descendants and the citizens of of Renfrew have honored them and celebrated their contributions to this country at the first Reunion for Home Children in 1991.

Erected by the Heritage Renfrew Home Children and their descendants and the Ontario Heritage Foundation with the cooperation of the town of Renfrew and the Public Library Board


Location: On the east side of Graphite Bay Road 3km north of Hydro Dam Road which is 8km west of Hwy 508
which is 15km west of Calabogie, The Township of Greater Madawaska

The most important producer of graphite in Canada during the first half of the twentieth century, the Black Donald Graphite Mine was located near here. The extensive deposit of high-quality ore it exported was discovered in 1889 but mining was not begun by the Ontario Graphite Company until 1895. Operated by the Black Donald Graphite Company by 1908, the mine increased output during World War I and in 1927 was producing approximately 90% of Canada's graphite. Although underground workings were suspended in 1939 when the ore body was thought to be exhausted, mining was resumed within four years to meet wartime needs. All production ceased in 1954 and in 1967 the site was flooded by the headpond of the Mountain Chute dam.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Citizenship and Culture


Location: In Cobden, in a park with a tall flagpole on the north side of Highway 17 behind the Visitor Center

The Father of New France, Samuel de Champlain, made the first of two voyages into what is now Ontario in 1613. He travelled up the Ottawa River seeking the northern sea (Hudson Bay) which one of his five companions, Nicolas de Vignau, claimed to have seen. The expedition struck inland above Lac des Chats and followed a chain of small lakes towards present-day Cobden. Here, on June 7th, Champlain visited with the Algonkin chief Nibachis. Later the party met with the Algonkin elder Tessouat at Allumette Lake. Not wanting the French to travel into Nipissing territory, Tessouat convinced Champlain that Vignau had lied about having seen the northern sea. Champlain, his plans thwarted, returned downriver.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation,
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation


Location: In the park, at the foot of John Street, Arnprior

One of the Ottawa Valley's most enterprising lumbermen, McLachlin was born in Rigaud Township, Lower Canada, and by 1837 had built a sawmill and grist-mill at Bytown (Ottawa). In 1851, influenced by the timber potential of the Madawaska watershed, he purchased some 400 acres at the deserted hamlet of Arnprior and in 1854 laid out a town plot. The large sawmills which he built here greatly stimulated the community's growth. In the legislature of the Province of Canada, McLachlin represented Bytown, 1851-54, and Renfrew County, 1861-63. On Arnprior's incorporation in 1862 he was elected to the first village council, and he represented South Renfrew in the first Dominion parliament, 1867-69.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: On the west side of Plaunt Street just north of Raglan Street South (Highway 60), Renfrew

Attracted by the development of the lumbering industry in the Upper Ottawa valley, a few settlers had located in this region by 1830. Six years later Xavier Plaunt acquired land here, near the second chute of the Bonnechere River and by 1848 was selling village lots and had provided land for the community's first church. In that year a post office, Renfrew, was opened and in 1851 the settlement contained a sawmill, grist-mill, tannery and foundry. The movement into Renfrew of settlers from neighbouring townships, and the opening in 1854 of the Opeongo Road from Farrell's Landing on the Ottawa River, stimulated the community's growth, and four years later it was incorporated as a Village. In 1895 it became a Town.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board,
Ministry of Colleges and Universities


Location: At 446 Usborne Street, east side, 1.2 km north of Neilson Street, Township of McNab/Braeside

This firm was begun in 1873 when James, William, John and David Gillies purchased a steam sawmill here on the Ottawa River at Braeside. Building on the experience acquired by their father, John Gillies, who had begun lumbering in Lanark County in 1842, they had established themselves by the mid-1880's as one of the Ottawa Valley's large lumber producers. This position was maintained partly by the involvement of succeeding generations in the management of the firm and by careful acquisition and exploitation of timber limits. In the twentieth century, despite the exhaustion of stands of virgin pine and pressures to diversify, Gillies continued almost exclusively to manufacture pine. In 1963 the firm was sold to the Consolidated Paper Corporation, ending 90 years of family ownership.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation
Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: On the north side of County Road 1 just west of the Bonnechère River bridge,
street number 3758, Township of Horton

A pioneer of the Ottawa Valley lumber industry, Bell had commanded H. M. gunboat "Murray" at the battle of Plattsburg on Lake Champlain in 1814. Emigrating to Upper Canada about 1817, he was granted 800 acres of land, partly located here at the "first chute" of the Bonnechere River. By 1829 he had built a timber slide and sawmill, in the vicinity of which there grew up the hamlet of "Castleford", named for Bell's birthplace in Yorkshire. The name was later transferred to the present settlement on the Ottawa River. As magistrate, commissioner of the court of requests, land agent and postmaster, Bell played an active role in the development of Renfrew County.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: In the park, at the foot of John Street, Arnprior

Archibald McNab (c.1781-1860), seventeenth chief of Clan McNab (Macnab), came to Canada in 1822. He obtained 81,000 acres on the Ottawa River in 1823 and two years later brought over 84 fellow Scots to begin colonization. McNab treated these and subsequent settlers like vassals in a feudal domain, forcing them to pay illegal rent and demanding an annual allotment of their crops. He lived in grand style while the settlers, ignorant of their rights, endured poverty. Word spread, and in 1840 a government investigation revoked McNab's settlement rights. With the removal of their tyrannical laird, the Highland immigrants prospered on the lands of McNab township.

Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation


Location: At the pull-off on the north side of Highway 17 just east of Rolphton

On June 4, 1962 the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) Reactor 3 km east of Rolphton supplied the Ontario power grid with the first nuclear-generated electricity in Canada. A joint project of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Ontario Hydro and Canadian General Electric, NPD was the prototype and proving ground for research and development that led to commercial application of the CANDU system for generating electric power from a nuclear plant using natural uranium fuel, heavy water moderator and coolant in a pressure tube configuration with on-power refuelling. As a science and engineering research centre, NPD produced internationally significant knowledge and techniques. It was also a training centre for nuclear plant operators. NPD closed in 1987 after exceeding its operational goals.

Ontario Heritage Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario


Location: In Barry's Bay, in front of the post office on the north side of Highway 60 at Road 62

This was one of the "colonization roads" authorized by the Province of Canada in an attempt to open up the districts lying inland from the settled townships. Surveyed in 1852 by Robert Bell, P.L.S., 100 miles were completed by January, 1854 as a winter road from the Ottawa River at Farrell's Landing to Opeongo Lake. By 1867 some 78 miles of road were open for year-round traffic, but further construction had been abandoned. In 1885 T. P. French was appointed to supervise settlement, and free 100-acre lots were offered along the road, which brought many settlers to Renfrew County and aided the region's important lumbering industry.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: In a park on the north side of Pembroke Street West across from George Street, Pembroke

Constructed primarily as a supply route to the lumber camps in the Upper Ottawa Valley, this Colonization Road was begun in 1853 and opened the following year as a winter road from Pembroke to the mouth of the Mattawa River. The relocating of a portion of the road between Petawawa and Point Alexander in 1863 and improvements on other sections resulted in the opening of some forty miles for year round traffic in 1867. Eight years later the entire 98 miles were completed. Some sections of the road were later incorporated into the present Highway 17, but a long section of the original road remains between the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa and Deep River.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board, Archives of Ontario


Location: In Deux Rivières, on the east side of Dunlap Crescent, street number 730,
just north of Highway 17 just west of the bridge

For over two centuries the Ottawa River was part of the main canoe route to the West. Some of the river's most spectacular and dangerous rapids were located immediately downriver from here: the Rapide de la Veillee, the Trou and the Rapide des Deux Rivieres. Further on lay the legendary Rapide de la Roche Capitaine. In 1800 the explorer Daniel Harmon counted fourteen crosses commemorating voyageurs who had drowned in its swirling waters. By 1950, with the construction of the Des Joachims generating station, these rapids and their portages had been submerged in the dam's headpond, Holden Lake.

Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Communications


Location: On the outside wall of the community centre in Ma-Te-Way Recreational Park, Renfrew

Local tycoon M. J. O'Brien launched a bid to bring the Stanley Cup to Renfrew in 1910 by offering hockey stars like Lester and Frank Patrick and "Cyclone" Taylor extravagant salaries to play for the Renfrew Creamery Kings. The team was quickly nicknamed the "Millionaires". That season they played thrilling games against Cobalt, Haileybury, Ottawa and Montreal teams, but Renfrew's hopes were dashed when the Montreal Wanderers took the cup. After the First World War, the emergence of the National Hockey League signalled an end to small-town participation in big-league hockey.

Ontario Heritage Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario


Location: On the SE corner of Bruce Street and Albert Street, Renfrew

Premier of the Province of Canada 1851-1854, Governor of Barbados 1856-1862, and British Guiana 1862-1865, Hincks was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1803, settled in Upper Canada in 1832, and was elected to the Assembly in 1841. He was prominent in the Reform campaign for Responsible Government and was a keen advocate of railway building. While Finance Minister, 1869-1873, Hincks framed the Bank Act of 1871 which laid the foundation of Canada's banking system. In 1853 he purchased property here, laid out a subdivison and provided land for building mills at the Second Chute of the Bonnechere River. Twice elected a Member for Renfrew, 1854 and 1869, he donated land for a public square. In 1874 he settled in Montreal, where he died in 1885.

Erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Recreation


Location: In front of the School House Museum, street number 35753,
on the south side of Highway 17, 12 km north of Deep River

The first steamboat on the Upper Ottawa River was the 25 horse-power "Lady Colborne" built in 1833 for service between Aylmer and Chats Falls. Gradually other sections of the river where opened to steam navigation and in 1854 the "Pontiac" was launched to navigate the 40-mile route between Pembroke and Rapides-des-Joachims. The "Pontiac", the first steamboat to ply in waters above Portage-du-Fort, was operated by the Union Forwarding Company which contributed to the rapid development of the Upper Ottawa as a lumbering region and tourist attraction. The steamboat gradually gave way to the railroad and by 1879 the Company (incorporated as The Union Forwarding and Railroad Company in 1859) had abandoned its passenger and freight traffic on the river.

Erected by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board,
Ministry of Colleges and Universities


Location: At the mouth of the Madawaska River on the south shore in a park at
the end of Leo Lavoie Road off Riverview Drive, Arnprior

The rafting of square timber down the Ottawa River, begun in 1806, reached its peak during 1861-91 and ended in 1909. Pine "sticks" from one to two feet square and 40 to 50 feet long were floated down tributary rivers such as the Petawawa, Madawaska, Bonnechere and Mississippi to rafting points on the Ottawa. There "cribs" were made up, containing 20 to 40 pieces of timber, and as many as 200 cribs, were in turn assembled into a raft. These rafts could be taken apart for passage down rapids or the timber slides which by-passed them. Arriving at Quebec City as much as two months later, they were dismantled and the timber loaded for shipment overseas.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario


Location: On Highway 17 at a pull off on the east side of the highway 4.2 km south
of the intersection of Highway 17 and Main Street (Road 8) in Cobden

Nearby was found in 1867 by Edward George Lee an astrolabe bearing the date 1603. This instrument, used for determining latitude, is believed to have been lost by Champlain about 7th June, 1613, on his exploratory expedition up the Ottawa River.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada


Location: On the north side of Road 55 just west of its intersection with the northern
end of Petawawa Blvd just before the entrance to Canadian Forces Base Petawawa

The first military demonstration of aircraft flight in Canada was given at Petawawa Camp in August 1909, by J.A.D. McCurdy and F.W. Baldwin, with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Engineers. On the morning of 2 August, they made three successful flights in the Silver Dart. This aircraft was destroyed in landing after the fourth flight. Further flights were made in the Baddeck No. 1 on 12 and 13 August. The tests ended on 13 August, after this aircraft was damaged.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada


Location: At the Centre Culturel Francophone de Pembroke 303 James Street
on the east side between Isabella and Mary Streets, Pembroke

Jeanne Lajoie, a dedicated teacher and advocate for the establishment of French schools in Ontario, was born in Lefaivre, near Hawkesbury, in 1899. In 1923, Lajoie helped a group of francophone parents to establish the first independent French school in Pembroke. The school ensured that their children were educated in their own language. The creation of L'École Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc was one of the last major events in the Franco-Ontarian struggle against Regulation 17, which from 1912 to 1927 prohibited instruction in French after Grade 2. Lajoie taught at the school, initially located in the Dominion Street home of Moïse Lafrance and then in a Mary Street house purchased by the parents. Suffering from fragile health her entire life, Jeanne Lajoie died of tuberculosis at the age of 31. She was immortalized as the "Pucelle de Pembroke," the "Maid of Pembroke," in reference to Joan of Arc, for her commitment to providing education in French and preserving francophone culture within Ontario.

Ontario Heritage Trust, an agency of the Government of Ontario