Born at Penrith, England about 1799, John Dennison held a commission in the British army and had served in the Peninsular war and in India under a commanding officer named Sir Charles Stapleton Cotton, Viscount of Combermere Abbey in Cheshire and senior officer, in the wars mentioned. In 1821, Captain Dennison married Anne Sanderson of Edinburgh, Scotland. At the time he was engaged in the management of the family distillery and brewing business.
In 1933 the Dennison family, including children Mary, Elizabeth and John Jr. emigrated to Canada and settled in Quebec City. Here the couple had two more children, Henry and Anne.
In the rebellion of 1831 Dennison distinguished himself in military action, achieving the rank of Captain that would carry the rest of his days. At the end the hostilities he and his family moved to Montreal, where he was demobilized about 1839. While living there, Dennisonís wife died and was buried at St. Andrews, Quebec.
Original Hudson House
Some time in 1852, Captain Dennison and his family moved to Ottawa, Ontario where for four years he operated a distillery. Then, upon leaving Ottawa the family made its way up the Ottawa River to Renfrew County where steady immigration was expanding the country. In recognition of his military service, Dennison received a free land grant. The family settled on a narrow section of the Madawaska River where he constructed and operated an Inn, around which grew a sizable settlement bearing the name Dennisonís Bridge.
At this time, s government road was under construction between the Ottawa River and Lake Opeongo to the north and west and Dennison hoped to gain a foothold in the area to serve the influx of immigrants expected to fill the free land grants being offered. The 1871 census taken in Renfrew County lists John and Henry Dennison of Combermere, but not their father (Captain Dennison). The family was well established at Combermere with close to 300 acres of land, of which a good percentage was listed as 'improved' or tillable. The two brothers showed their industrious side in that they were listed as having 'two boats and about fifty fathoms of net' as well as showing copious amounts of grain, hay and produce. They had two horses, two fillies, several cattle and swine. Indeed, five cattle and three swine were slaughtered that year and no doubt the carcasses went to feed the men in the numerous lumber camps, which were being opened. All of this was left behind as they began their move north and west.
West side of bridge, Combermere
Co-incident with the death of the Viscount Combermere at his home in England in 1865, Daniel Johnson, a merchant, lumberman and land baron, opened a post office in his store at Dennison's Bridge to serve a growing population in the surrounding community. In order to honour Captainís Dennisonís old friend the former commanding officer, it is believe the name of Dennisonís Bridge was dropped in favour of the name Combermere.
At this same time, the Dennison family moved its belongings by canoe via an established trading route upstream on the Madawaska - across Bark Lake, Victoria Lake and through a chain of lakes to the Opeongo River and to the a site at the Narrows. At the Narrows, which separate the east and south arms of Lake Opeongo they cleared land, John on the east side and Henry on the west, with the area becoming the site of the Dennison farm.
Dennison's store (wide view)
West side of bridge, Combermere
In 1881 at the age of eighty-two, Captain John Dennision perished in a fatal encounter with an enraged black bear that was caught in a trap, It is said that Dennison, accompanied by his eight-year old grandson Jackie, left his long gun stand by a tree while making his way into a ravine where the bear, caught in a large metal leg trap, appeared to have died. It seems the bear revived just as Dennison approached and the two became locked in a death struggle as he called to his grandson to 'go home'. Somehow he got his long-blade hunting knife into his hand and it must have been his last and supreme effort for he disemboweled the animal. Next morning, when family men reached the site, they found both bear and man cold and still. Young Jackie would perish eight years later in gunshot accident while hunting moose. Captain Dennison was buried on his farm, not many yards from his beloved Lake Opeongo. To this date, a split rail fence surrounds the grave, inside of which a black cherry tree grows. On the tree a small copper or bronze plaque reads 'At Rest'.
John Dennison's Plaque
Barry's Bay This Week