Renfrew County is marking its birthday this week.

On June 8th, 1861, Renfrew County separated from Lanark County to make its own distinct municipality. Formerly 37 townships, this was lowered to 17 after the amalgamation of 2001.

The establishment of the County came at a time of settlement in what would be known as the Madawaska Valley. Although the railways would not come for another few decades, Renfrew County would be founded at around the same time as many settlements in the area. With the construction of the Opeongo Road, the region saw many migrants of Polish and Irish descent. Wilno had been founded only a few years earlier in 1859 by Kashubian settlers. Barry’s Bay would be founded a few years after the County was, and was still no more than a few cabins along Kamaniskeg Lake.

In its century and a half history, Renfrew County has seen rail lines come and go, saw the sinking of the Mayflower, and has seen its small villages of Renfrew, Arnprior and Pembroke become large towns or even cities. Today the County is the largest in Ontario, covering over 7,600 square kilometres.

Warden Debbie Robinson marked the occasion by praising the friendship and partnerships with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, as the County was founded on traditional Algonquin territory. Robinson says they look forward to the next 160 years, building upon the rich history and culture of those in Renfrew County.