Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
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His surviving son from his first marriage, James, was at a military academy in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Currier went to visit him and was impressed with an estate there on wooded grounds. When he returned to Ottawa he found land available south of Rockcliffe Park which was a similar forested environment. He became a partner in the company which purchased the land and turned it into Beechwood Cemetery.

Ann had been buried in a cemetery north of the Rideau River, but Currier had her grave relocated to Beechwood. There is also a memorial to Ann Crosby in Lake George, N.Y.

Currier married his third wife, Hannah Wright, in 1868 when he was a member of Parliament. She wanted a fancy house, so that’s when he built the large house at 24 Sussex Dr., across the street from Dickinson. The architect was a cousin of Currier who had the same initials (J. M.).

His son James became a civil servant and married Florence Slater; he lived opposite the West Block on Wellington Street in Ottawa. The top floor had a large, well-used billiards room, and there was lots of accompanying drinking. Florence ran off with another man, and later James married Sarah Pratt from Marlborough and lived at 196 Carling Ave.

As a child James was neglected by his family, and was brought up by Alonzo and Mary Wright. Ironically, James’ son Cyril and his brother were also brought up by Mary (Sparks) Wright. Cyril (Brian Hull’s grandfather) went to Ashbury (which was then on Wellington St.) and one day he skipped school and went swimming in the canal. So his father thought he didn’t take education seriously, and didn’t let him go to McGill. So Cyril became a bank clerk.

Later he was administrator of Nicholas Sparks’ estate. [Ron Wilson remembers his dad meeting with Cyril about the farm mortgage.]

Brian had so many stories we didn’t want to stop listening, and we asked him if he was going to write this history down. He does have a couple of books in mind that he would like to write, The Curriers of Sussex Street, and Nicholas Sparks of Ottawa. His great-aunt used to tell him lots of family stories, so he seems to have a deep well to draw from. Thanks for an interesting evening, Brian! Those of us who work at Dickinson House and Watson’s Mill have new material!  

Discussions after the meeting

Discussions continued after the meeting. Brian is a friend of Tom MacDonald, in the foreground.  

Brian Hull, speaking as Joseph Merrill Currier (1820-1884), spoke about his life and his family, with lots of anecdotes and stories, even a little scandal. Judging from the questions and discussion during and following the talk, he kept his audience enthralled. Three wives, children, several occupations, and a roller-coaster life made for an interesting life.

Side note: Currier’s ancestor Richard Currier arrived in North America from England and was indentured to the man who signed the death warrant of Charles I. This may be why a painting of the death of King Charles ended up in one of the Currier houses.

Brian Hull speaking

Brian Hull is a descendant of Joseph Currier, who in partnership with Moss Kent Dickinson, built Watson's Mill.

Joseph Currier began life in the town of North Troy, Vermont. Interestingly, the layout of Manotick is very similar to that of North Troy, including a mill. Currier, the youngest of 7 boys in his family, left home at the age of 17 and after some travels ended up in Thurso, Quebec. An influential family friend in the Ottawa Valley who was originally from the U.S., Horace Merrill (1809-1883), got him his first job on the Bigelow mill in Buckingham where he worked for several years, learning on the job. Following the sale of the mill Currier took over the lease of the Rideau Falls mill with Moss Kent Dickinson. In the late 1850s and early 1860s he set up a sawmill and grist operation in Manotick with Dickinson.

Currier had three children with his first wife, Christine Wilson from Cumberland. But then two of these children died of typhoid and Christine died in 1846 of grief. Currier met his second wife, the wealthy Ann Crosby, when she was very young, and her parents wouldn’t let her marry until she was 20. After their wedding in 1861 they went to Bermuda for their honeymoon and returned to Manotick. Currier’s old friend Merrill was showing Ann around the mill when her skirt caught in the mill shaft and she died of her injuries. Grief-stricken, Currier sold both the little cottage (with French doors) that he had built for her, and his interest in the mill, and left Manotick.

The October 2014 Presentation

The Curriers of Manotick

Presentation by Brian Hull

Article and photos by Susan McKellar