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Category Archives: Biography

Benjamin Chaffey – John McMullen Houses

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30, 32 Apple Street

built about 1834



This picture comes from the collection of the Lorimer family. Shown is a pair of attached stone homes which date from about 1834. The photograph was taken in 1911 during the period of ownership from 1908-1920 of James Lorimer, the father of Hal Lorimer.

This empty lot was acquired in 1833 by Benjamin Chaffey (1806-1867) for 75 pounds from Sabina Buell (1786-1859), the unmarried daughter of William Buell Sr. The home in which she lived for over thirty years is located to the north at 36 Apple St.


Benjamin Chaffey


Builder, Contractor and Engineer

taken in the 1860s

It is very likely that Chaffey, a young building contractor, erected these houses on Apple St., and that he lived here in the 1830s and 40s while engaged in building many of the stone buildings in Brockville.

The property changed hands in the 1840s and was later acquired in 1856 by the tempestuous Irish newspaper publisher and writer, John M. McMullen (1820-1907). McMullen’s book, The History of Canada from it’s First Discovery to the Present Time, was first published in 1855 and filled a need for a Canadian history book. Subsequent editions came out in 1867 and 1892.

He also edited and published the local newspaper, The Brockville Monitor starting in 1857, but to less favourable response. McMullen and his wife Sarah Nesbitt lived here along with their 6 children. He died in 1907. In the next year it became the property of Jim Lorimer, and when he married Mae in 1910, No. 32 became their first home together.


John M. McMullen


Historian, Newspaper Publisher, and Town Councillor

Source: The Building picture is from a photograph loaned by Hal Lorimer, Anchorage Bay, west of Brockville. The two portraits are from my collection.


Word Press

Edwin P. Comstock (1865-1892)

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The tragic early death of a young man, whose talents and potential were widely recognized by the people of Brockville and area, is a story that has been lost in our history.

Edwin Perkins Comstock was the only son of William H. Comstock (1830-1919) and his first wife, Josephine Flint (1840-1890). He was only twenty-six years old, but had gained a reputation in business and public matters that was beyond his years. His father, one of Brockville’s successful patent medicine manufacturers, had taken him into the family business when he was only 19 years old.

Young Comstock had become involved in many of the activities of his home town, and was well-known, bright, and popular, with all those he came into contact. He was described by the Rideau Record as “of a particularly cheerful and loveable disposition, kind and generous, good and true, strikingly free from many of the failings which oft times ruin the lives of young men in his position.”

Another outside newspaper, the Ottawa Free Press wrote that “the universal opinion of his fellow townsmen is that Brockville never had a citizen of his age before, who did so much for the advancement of his native place, and contributed as largely to the interests of charity.”

His health had been a concern for about a year before his final days. He had been struck in 1891 with what was described as a “hemorrhage,” leaving him in a critical condition. He rallied, however, and went south to spend the winter there. On his return to Brockville he felt very much improved. In the spring of 1892, however, he contracted a severe cold from which he never fully recovered, and which led to his death. He was attended by two physicians, Dr. McMonagle and Dr. Cornell who were unable to combat his illness which was pronounced in the press as “inflammation of the heart and stomach.”

His Funeral

On the day of his funeral, Wed. May 25, many people gathered at the family home called “Rockcliffe,” located on King St. East where his body had been laid out for two days. A short service was held at the house in the early afternoon, after which a procession led off for the public service at the First Presbyterian Church on Court House Square.

Funeral Procession on King Street for Edwin P. Comstock, May 25, 1892

This photograph records the afternoon possession of funeral carriages traveling along the main street on May 25, 1892 from the family home of Edwin P. Comstock at 185 King St. E. to the mournful celebration of his life in the First Presbyterian Church. This young man had died two days earlier in the prime of his life and career. The shock and loss felt by the people of Brockville resulted in one of the large funerals ever known to be held in the town. The picture also shows the south side of King St. just west of West Market St. including the businesses from the Revere House hotel to Ritchie’s store. Notice, as well, the dirt road, wooden sidewalks and crossing, and the new wooden electrical power poles.

His funeral was the largest and most impressive seen in Brockville up to that time. The service was conducted by the Rev. William A. MacKenzie, assisted by Rev. Dr. Saunders, Rev. Mr. Cairns, and Rev. Mr. Cheetham. The church choir who supplied the music was led by Miss French.

After the formal service was completed, a long period of time was allowed for citizens to view the body while it was in the church.
It was not until about 4:30 pm that the procession to the old Brockville Cemetery led off. In the lead was the 42nd Battalion Band, followed by the 42 members of the volunteer Hook and Ladder Fire Co. with their wagons, Members of the Board of Trade, Town Council, and other citizens were next, all on foot. Then carriages provided by the Comstock Company and the Leeds Reform Association came along filled with floral tributes. Next came the undertaker’s carriage with Rev. MacKenzie, the hearse with his coffin, and numerous citizen’s carriages.

Besides the many people walking in the procession there were about 125 carriages in line. The cortege, owing to its great length, was fully a half hour in passing down Court House Ave. Every place of business was closed, the large factories were closed down and mourning emblems were displayed at frequent intervals along the route. Both sides of King Street, as far as the Kingston Bridge, were lined with people, many of whom could not hold back their tears.

The chosen pall bearers for the funeral were all warm personal fiends of the deceased, Messrs. George A. Dana, Oliver K. Fraser, Frank E. Clayes, Thomas Southworth, Alson A. Fisher, and Charles S. Cossitt. The casket of Edwin Comstock was buried next to that of his beloved mother, Josephine who had died just two years before, in the family plot in the old Brockville Cemetery on the south side of the highway.

As a final note, to quote the Brockville Evening Recorder: “Party feeling, which for many years had been carried to its highest point in Brockville, seemed to have been buried in the general grief, and as a result, young and old, rich and poor, Liberal and Conservative, united in giving expression to the general sorrow which all felt.”

Sources: This little-known story of the life and death of Edwin P. Comstock was found on the microfilmed pages of the Evening Recorder during the period of May 23-27, 1892. These filmed copies are invaluable for research, and can be viewed at the Brockville Public Library. These and other historical resources can also be discovered in the research library of the Leeds & Grenville Genealogical Society in the basement of the Brockville Museum. The photograph, a copy which is now in the photo collection of the Brockville Museum, is believed to have been owned by the family of Mrs. Griswoldine (Comstock) Lewis. Edwin was her half-brother. The photograph was also first published in Brockville, A Pictorial History (1972), edited by Adrian Ten Cate.

Copyright, June 2008, Doug Grant, Brockville, ON

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

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