James Bros. General Store

In the late 1880’s, the W. E. James family, brothers Henry, Samuel and Thomas, mother Emily and father William came from Bangor Township and started building a homestead with attached general store called “James Bros. General Store” beside the Madawaska River serving the community. It was located across the road from the board and batten Hudson House (originally it was the Dennison House). On August 5, 1911 a roaring fire ripped through the James property, and on the north side of the road the Hudson House, stables, John Inglis’ tinsmith & blacksmith shop, village hall and several homes. It is believed the fire started in the Hudson House from mice and matches. About eight to ten buildings in total were destroyed by the fire including the side-wheeler steamer “Hudson Bros.” at the dock in front of the Hudson House. The James family did not rebuild. The Mission House Museum has on loan a large crock that had the name “W. E. James, Combermere” imprinted on the side.

Frank Stafford had a general store in Barry’s Bay and also rented what is now the “Valley Market” in Combermere from 1911 to 1912. In early 1912 Frank decided to build his own general store on the same location as the James Bros. Store after the fire. He operated the store until the 1930’s when John (Jack) Hudson Waddington bought the business. He operated it for many years and then sold it to his half brother William Lewis (Lew) who took it over in the 1930’s. Lew had operated a retail store in Smith’s Falls for several years before moving to Combermere. The Combermere store was very popular with both local residents and summer cottagers from Ontario and the U.S.A.

The general store was a typical old country store with hardware, groceries, meats and vegetables and even an ice cream parlour with booths to sit in. The Waddingtons lived on the second floor of the building. At one time a credit union and the Merchants Bank of Canada had offices upstairs. For a few years a separate wooden building to the east named “Scrooges” operated by Lew’s son Cameron (Cam), served lunches, hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and soft drinks. Beside the main store building on the east was an icehouse from which blocks of ice were used to cool the refrigerators in the store. An old-fashioned hand-operated Shell gas pump with two glass bowls was located beside the store to provide gasoline and oils to vehicles.

The Waddington store was demolished in 1958 to make room for the new curved, sloped concrete bridge, the first one in Ontario. At that time the Waddington family moved the store stock to a large room in the front of the Hudson House and continued to operate the general store business there for several years. Eventually the business closed down circa 1970, the end of a long and popular tradition in the village.