This two-storey clapboard “stopping place” was built in the 1850’s by unknown persons at the time of the building of the Peterson Colonization Road and the first wooden bridge over the Madawaska River.

The original deed to this property at Dennison’s Bridge (Combermere) in 1870 lists Angus Bangs as the person who purchased it from the Crown. He then sold it to George Moulton who lived in the hotel and served meals. In 1881, Matilda Moulton, his wife, leased the building to William Harlett.

In 1879, the O’Brien family from Bells Rapids where most of the family were born, moved to  Combermere. In 1894 the O’Brien family rented the hotel at this location from Mr. Moulton for a few years and then purchased the hotel from Moulton in 1896. Prior to this time in the 1860’s, “Paddy” Patrick O’Brien operated his first stopping place further to the west on the old Peterson Road at Purdy.  He renamed the Combermere business as “O’Brien House”. The family lived upstairs in the rear. There were seven guest rooms upstairs at the front of the hotel. There may have been a lounge area upstairs for the guests as well. About 25 years after the hotel was built, a two-storey addition was added to the hotel at the rear of the building.

The hotel was the first place in Combermere to have a telephone switchboard in the early 1900’s. It was used on November 13, 1912 to notify the people in the village that the steamer “Mayflower” had sunk with a loss of nine people. Paddy was one of four men who hung onto the casket carrying John Brown’s (Braun) body and swam with it reaching the smaller island on Kamaniskeg Lake. Paddy died of exposure upon arriving at the island.

In 1915, the heirs of Paddy O’Brien sold the property to Matilda M. Sadler (nee O’Brien), wife of Dr. George Samuel Sadler, the local medical practitioner. The Sadlers owned the property from 1915 to 1944.  Dr. Sadler’s office was in the front part of the hotel and provided medical care from the early1920’s to his death in 1941. George married Matilda or “Tillie” O’Brien, daughter of the owner but did not have any children.

On the left side of the hotel, “Howie” Howard O’Brien (son of Paddy and Matilda) and Ozzie Miller owned and operated a grocery store with all kinds of merchandise including equipment for the local farmers. It was quite a busy business and operated from 1925 to 1933.

In 1944 Mrs. Sadler sold the property to Ontario Hydro because she was afraid it might be flooded as there was talk of a dam in Combermere.

In the space previously occupied by the grocery store there was a tearoom in 1946 known as the “Lilac Lantern”. It was started by Ralph Jenkins who lived in lived in half of the house after Dr. Sadler’s death and operated it for a year or so. “Paddy” Patrick Lennon took the tearoom over in 1947 but closed it in 1949 due to lack of business.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, rented the property from Hydro from 1949 to 1961. In 1961 she purchased the property for her growing Catholic community. Initially, the building was used as a dorm for Madonna House female guests to stay. Madonna house operated the local Red Cross Society out of this building supplying items of a medical nature. In addition, clothing and other supplies were provided to people who had been burned out of their homes. In 1963, the building became “St. Joseph’s House”, where it became an outlet for selling slightly used merchandise. The building has been used on a weekly basis ever since to sell donated items at very reasonable prices, dropped off at Madonna House by local people.

COMBERMERE HERITAGE WALK, A PROJECT BY THE COMBERMERE HERITAGE SOCIETY INC. – 2013