TOUR STOP 8: The Brown House- Bootlegger - 179 Main St.

179 Main Street

This address is the site of one of the earliest houses in the village. A map drawn in 1840 shows a house at this location marked “A. Russell house”. A. Russell was Abel Russell who came to this area from the United States in 1809 at the urging of his brother-in-law, Truman Hicock.

An ambitious man of twenty-one, Russell saw the potential of the standing timber in the sparsely populated Gananoque River watershed. Much of the land was held by the Crown or absentee owners which facilitated timber predation. Abel Russell began cutting timber and hauling it onto the ice at South Lake to be floated down to Gananoque each spring. The outbreak of the War of 1812 interrupted his operations and he returned to the United States until hostilities ceased. Upon his return he resumed cutting timber in Pittsburg Township and soon acquired a reputation for timber piracy with government officials.

About 1830 Abel Russell purchased the lease for Lot 4, Concession VII, Leeds Township which was later became the site of the village of Seeley’s Bay. He built a house on the northeast corner of the lot adjacent to the road leading to Kingston. In addition to his timber enterprise Russell turned to land speculation and farming; he acquired the adjacent Lot 5 and leased sections of his property to other farmers.
In 1859 the University of Toronto sold Lot 4 to Abel Russell’s son, Truman, who then engaged Walter Beatty to survey a plan for the village of Seeley’s Bay. Unlike most of the town lots that were 1 chain (66 feet) by 2.5 chains (165 feet) in size, village lot 19 where Abel Russell’s modest house was located was about a half acre in size which suggests that there were other buildings on the lot.

Abel Russell died about 1862 and the property fell into disrepair. Lot 19 was owned by Truman Russell who sold it to John Atkison in 1871 for $72.50. The property had been improved by 1900 when Atkison sold it for $300. In 1904 it was purchased by Dr. Henry Elliott who had the house enlarged with an addition at the rear.
The property was purchased in 1919 by Alex Brown and his wife Julia who lived there for twenty-seven years.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s the Township of Rear Leeds and Lansdowne including the village of Seeley’s Bay was a dry municipality, i.e., no alcoholic beverages were sold or served. For a number of years during this period Alex Brown operated a bus/taxi service between Seeley’s Bay and Kingston. Along with his passengers he carried liquor and beer ordered by villagers as well as a supply for his own house. The Brown house was a regular gathering place for those who enjoyed a drink; merriment and song were often heard along with an occasional ruckus.
Alex Brown sold the property in 1944 and purchased the adjacent brick house formerly owned by Melvina Doggett.

Lot 5, Concession VII, Leeds that Abel Russell purchased in 1841 had originally been granted to Allen McDonnell, a British officer during the American
Revolution. McDonnell lived in Glengarry County and his agent, Jehiel Mitchell was living on lot 5. Mitchell cut timber on the lot and planted grain between the stumps. Mitchell had a still and most of the grain was converted to liquor.

In recent years the house has been vacant and then remodelled to its lovely version today.

Seeley's Bay Heritage Walking Tour - 130 Mill Street
  1. TOUR STOP 2: Seeley's Bay Wharf and the Rideau Queen - 130 Mill St.
  2. TOUR STOP 3: Seeley's Bay Saw Mill (Hartley's) - 136 Mill St.
  3. TOUR STOP 4: The Plane Crash - 130 Mill St.
  4. TOUR STOP 5: Horse Racing and Ice Cutting on the Bay
  5. TOUR STOP 6: The Dr. Christie House - 148 Mill St.
  6. TOUR STOP 7: The National Hotel - 160 Main St.
  7. TOUR STOP 8: The Brown House- Bootlegger - 179 Main St.
  8. TOUR STOP 9: Home of John Bracken - 172 Main St.
  9. TOUR STOP 10: The Hotchkiss House Murder - 196 Main St.
  10. TOUR STOP 11: Coleman's Hotel - 152 Main St.
  11. TOUR STOP 12: Dr. Gardiner House- presently Ridgway Confections - 159 Main St.
  12. TOUR STOP 13: The Bank - 148 Main St.
  13. TOUR STOP 14: Stage Coach Depot/ George Cheetham's Blacksmith Shop - 103 Bracken St.
  14. TOUR STOP 15: Kelly’s Fresh Mart formerly Sweets - 144 Main St.
  15. TOUR STOP 16: St. Peter's Anglican Church - 155 Main St.
  16. TOUR STOP 17: Dr. Bowen's House -145 Main Street
  17. TOUR STOP 18: Seeley's Bay Masonic Hall - 108 Adelaide St.
  18. TOUR STOP 19: Seeley's Bay United Church - 129 Hellen St.
  19. TOUR STOP 20 - A. Neal and Son, Brick and Tile Co. Circa 1900 - 109 Hellen St.
  20. TOUR STOP 21: A.J. Sly's Furniture and Undertaking - 140 Main St.
  21. TOUR STOP 22: Gilbert Carriage Works - 129 Main St.
  22. TOUR STOP 23: Gilt Edge Cheese Factory - 118 Main St.
  23. TOUR STOP 24: Sunny Acres- The Ashery - 119 Haskins Point Rd.
  24. TOUR STOP 25: Haskins Point - 148 Haskins Point Rd.