William Rennie

Section P, Lot 119
Toronto Necropolis


William Rennie was born on March 15, 1835 in a log cabin and learned the rudiments of agriculture on the Scarborough farm of his parents, who had emigrated from Kirknewton, Edinburghshire, Scotland, in 1832. He left the homestead in 1860 to take up farming in Markham Township on 120 acres belonging to his father and, from 1867, to Rennie himself. By 1864 he was importing wheat-, barley-, and oat-seed from Scotland to improve his crops and to test his theory that a “change of seed grain” could allay the crop failures plaguing many farmers in Upper Canada. In 1870 he rented out his farm and moved his family to Toronto where he founded the William Rennie Company Limited, which sold agricultural and horticultural seeds and supplies for the next 91 years. The business, centred at Adelaide and Jarvis streets, eventually had offices in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, and, at Rennie’s death, was described by the Toronto Daily Star as the “largest of its kind in Canada.” Beginning in 1871, it also reached out to farmers and gardeners across Canada through increasingly colourful, annual mail-order catalogues. He was father of Thomas Rennie, harbour Commissioner for whom the 1950 Island Ferry was named. William Rennie died on July 24, 1910 in Swansea.