One individual who wanted to be part of the fur and lumbering trade was Daniel Johnson. Daniel was born in Ontario Oct. 17, 1836, of Scottish descent, Methodist; his wife Anne was born in Ireland Mar. 15, 1832 of Irish descent, Methodist / Church of Ireland, their daughter Mary Louise was born Oct. 15, 1859 in Ontario of Scottish descent, Methodist (1881 Census). The family had previously been living in the province of Quebec.
It is thought Daniel came to the area during the trapping and fur trade and timber and white pine craze taking place in the 1840-1850’s throughout eastern Ontario. He and his brother Hiram built a white pine log building probably in 1856 in Dennison’s Bridge (later to become Combermere in 1865). It is believed the building was initially used for the purpose of trading furs. That same building still stands and it has been a general store since 1858 and now known as Valley Market. The logs were quite large by todays standards some being 15" wide x 7" thick. There are some of these logs in the Mission House Museum. At one time there was a shed beside the store that stored kerosene, for sale (Nels). It is probably the oldest general store still operating as a general store in Renfrew County and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008 (having started in 1858). Since the store began it has seen fifteen owners. This store became the nucleus or hub of the community where all kinds of businessmen and other individuals would conduct transactions, discuss the local events, gossip and socialize.
Daniel Johnson's residence, Combermere
Daniel Johnson subsequently started a water-powered sawmill just off Mullin Rd. on a creek today called Johnson Creek. At that same location he also had a wood shingle manufacturing facility. Daniel sold his sawn boards and shingles in his store. In Sept 1, 1865 when Canada Post wanted to establish a post office in Combermere, he became the first postmaster and the facility was located in the rear of the store. This post office was the 6th in the Madawaska Valley area behind Brudenell (1859), Hopefield (1861), Rockingham (1864), Purdy (1864) and Bark Lake (1864).
In 1894 Daniel bought or built a boat to assist in moving logs in booms around the Madawaska River, Kamaniskeg Lake, York River etc. It was called the E. L. Perkins. Built in 1887 by Alfred Driscoll of Alymer, Quebec. This vessel measured 45’ long by 8’ 6" wide by 6’ 2" deep. She weighed 17.45 gross tons and 15.91 tons registered. The first owner of the Perkins was Edward Lyman Perkins, hence the name of the ship. Driscoll died in 1892 and the ownership of the boat was transferred to his wife Eleanor Conway. In 1894, Daniel Johnson acquired title to the vessel. She apparently sank in the Madawaska River off Opeongo Resort point in Hyde’s Bay just north of Combermere. She had been scuttled to the waterline for some reason. Her registry was closed off on June 7, 1895.
The Johnson family was listed as living in Raglan & Radcliffe Township (Combermere) in the 1871 census. Daniel owned 100 acres, one house, two sheds, two barns/stables and one wagon, 250 pounds of butter (census). He is listed as a merchant. His property was in Lot 5, Concession 6 and included the area where Opeongo Trail Resort stands today, Bill Schweig's homestead and over to Johnson Creek (Nels). The mountain behind the store is called Johnson Hill.
Scow pulling logs
In 1865 the rear part of the store served as the first post office and was officially opened Sept. 1, 1865. Johnson was the first postmaster and served in that role until July 4, 1884 when he resigned. On Aug. 13, 1884 John E. H. Miller took over as postmaster and the post office was relocated to his home on Mill Street. The Miller’s (John and his daughter Mabel) continued to operate the post office until Jan. 22, 1951.
The Johnsons lived across the street in a large house with an attached warehouse probably where the lumber and shingles were stored that sold through the store.
Daniel owned property in Bangor on Concession C, Lots 31 & 32 where he farmed and grew produce for sale in the store.
Daniel, Annie and Mary are all listed as living in Combermere in the 1901 census. In the 1871 census it lists Daniel with 30 cords of firewood. The family left the area in 1911 but it is not known where they went. It is believed they may have gone to Montreal, QC where they had lived previously. Daniel is buried in Mt. Royal Cemetery in Montreal, QC and Mary is buried in Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, ON.
The store was also very popular with the inhabitants of Craigmont. As Craigmont was in the 'dry' Township of Raglan, inhabitants would come from this village of over 1,200 population to Combermere for their alcoholic refreshments and groceries, although there was a company general store in Craigmont. The store these Craigmont people shopped in was owned by Daniel Johnson. Eventually there were several other general stores in Combermere, including; James, Stafford & Son, W. L. Waddington, Blais, Coulas, Dennisons,, O. Miller & E. Stubbs in the O’Brien House Hotel to name a few.
B. P. Coulas store with owner