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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Ebenezer “Aben” Nicholson

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a.k.a. “Little Mac”

Born in Brockville, July 11, 1844


“Little Mac” was the stage name under which Ebenezer Nicholson performed with shows such as Dan Bryant’s Minstrels during the 1860s.

Notable Brockvillians

Small in stature but big in talent, this local boy gained fame all over North America. Ebenezer Nicholson, born in Brockville, and known as“Aben” by his family and friends, made his theatrical debut in the United States with”Dan Bryant’s Minstrels” who travelled around the continent, when minstrel shows were all the rage. At some point he adapted the stage name of “Little Mac.” This was also the derogatory nickname given to Union General, George B. McClellan at the time of the Civil War.


This well-dressed young man from Brockville was a well-known performer the day he posed for a New York photographer. Ebenezer Nicholson grew up in Brockville, and later became a Minstrel Show performer.


This is Aben Nicholson in his stage costume and make-up for his role as “Little Mac“.

Nicholson, Ebenezer & Reid, Michael  1860s

While home in Brockville visiting his parents, Aben went to the photographer’s studio to have his picture taken with his friend, Mike Reid.

[These photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Sources: This set of photographs was originally owned by Michael J. Reid, one of Ebenezer Nicholson’s friends in Brockville. They were handed down in the Reid family. The shot of Aben in his dark suit was taken in the Clarke’s Union Photographic Gallery, 643 Broadway Ave, New York. The two photos of “Little Mac” were taken in the studio of D. Frederick’s & Co., 587 Broadway Ave., New York. You might notice he’s wearing two different costumes, so they were probably taken on two separate occasions. The fourth picture is taken here in Brockville at the International Gallery owned by A.C. McIntyre. Michael J. Reid and Aben Nicholson are posed against the classical backdrop which started to show in photographs taken in 1866 by the McIntyre Studio.

Copyright April 2008 - Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

Brockville in 1936

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This is how the business interests of Brockville described themselves in 1936:

“Brockville is the Eastern Gateway to the Thousand Islands, the Venice of America, and every day, at convenient hours, commodious sight-seeing boats make trips through the scenic beauties of the St. Lawrence, leaving from a readily accessible dock in the centre of the city, just one block from the hotel district. At Brockville is located one of the finest Tourist Parks in the Province of Ontario. Every comfort is provided, including dressing-rooms, bathhouse, lavatories, stoves, fuel, hot water, etc. This is a free park. It is magnificently situated on the river bank with a view of the islands and channels.”

Pine Street   1936

This photo shows the block of Pine Street, east from Victoria Ave. On the left are the grounds of St. Vincent de Paul Hospital, followed by the brick house then owned by dentist, Geraldine and Dr. H.A. Clark. On the right are seen the house of Jean and Lewis C. Dargavel , and the manse for Wall St. United Church , then occupied by the Rev. Frederick E. Malott. At the corner of Garden St., just beyond, the house at 25 Pine was owned by Margaret and McLeod Gardner.

King St. East   1936

The above picture shows a King Street East that has changed very little over the years with the exception of the trees . This view from Bartholomew St., looking east, shows the houses on the north side beyond the grocery store formerly run by Mrs. Hannah Simpson . On the south side are the familiar large homes of Mabel and Frank Clayes , and Mrs. Mary Walsh (wid. of Maj. James M. Walsh) .

York 5c to 1 dollar Store

Some older residents of Brockville may remember the York Store run by Isadore Schneiderman. He established his “5 cent to a dollar” store in Brockville in 1927. It was located on the north side at 134-138 King St. W. just east of the Central Block, on the site of the present Tim Hortons. On the left was the china and glassware department, and on the right was the ladies ready-to-wear coats, dresses, hats and hosiery section. They also advertised a good selection of smallwares, toys, dolls, fancy goods, games, etc.

[These photographs can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Sources: The material for this post is mainly taken from an 18-page business publication entitled: “Magazine of Progress, Brockville, Ontario, Canada, Pen sketches of a number of enterprising merchants, manufacturers and financial interests, contributing to her wealth and prosperity”. This 1937 magazine was subtitled “A illustrative review number descriptive of a live wire city in Leeds County.” I want to thank Beula Livingstone of Athens for the loan of this booklet. Other details on home owners were found in Vernon’s Directory of Brockville.

Copyright April 2008 - Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

North Portal – Brockville Railway Tunnel

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North Entrance of Brockville Railway Tunnel ca.1946

ca. 1946

Built in Brockville

This interesting photograph of the north end of the Brockville Railway Tunnel was taken by local historian Col. F.C. “Ted” Curry sometime in the 1940s. It shows the condition of the northern approach of the CPR line to the tunnel.

We are proud to claim this tunnel as the first and oldest of its kind in Canada. It was built for the Brockville & Ottawa Railway Co. over a number of years, starting in 1854 and ending with its opening for traffic in 1860.

The last diesel train is believed to have passed through in 1966. The tracks were removed in 1977.

[This photograph can be viewed full size in a separate window by double clicking on the picture on this page until you reach the enlarged version further in the system]

Sources: This photograph of the north entrance of the Railway Tunnel comes from the collection of the Brockville Museum. It came there as a small snapshot earlier owned by Lt.-Col. Frederick C. Curry (1891-1965), a well-known druggist and military historian in Brockville.
Following the death of his widow Helen in 1974 a large collection of his documents and photographs were donated to the Brockville & District Historical Society by her nieces, Helen DeNike and Betty Harding.

Copyright April 2008 - Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

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