Traveling east on Highway 515 in the Ottawa Valley leads to an intersection with Highway 512. Heading north takes you to a village of past-greatness, Brudenell, which once boasted three hotels, a race track, blacksmith shops, and the Costello store which provided winter supplies to the loggers heading into the lumber camps, and ran a tab for their families.
About 200 people populated Brudenell in its heyday in the latter-years of the 1800s, there were also daily stage services to Eganville, Rockingham and Combermere.
Originally known as “Brudenell Corners” or “Payette Corners” (after Madame Desiree Payette’s busy hotel, Brudenell village and township were named about 1857. The name commemorates James Thomas Brudenell (the 7th Earl of Cardigan), the leader of a cavalry charge which took place during the Seige of Sebastopol, a port on the Black Sea, during the Crimean War. Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, published in 1854 immortalized the event.
The “corners” was dropped in 1859, when Charles Hirsh opened the first post office.
James Costello and later Hugh (Cooey) Costello ran a hotel and store from the Brudenell house. James Costello acquired the nickname Black Jim. He was known as a tough, shrewd businessman who allowed the loggers credit so that their families could draw supplies from his store while the wage earners were in the lumber camps.
Men settled their accounts at the Costello store in spring when they returned from the winter camps with their pay. It seems that there was seldom much cash left over once the bills were paid. One of Black Jim’s accomplishments was bringing by ox-team and wagon a Heintzman grand piano to Brudenell for his wife. Since he did not know there was a method of disassembling the piano, he removed one wall of the house in order to place it in its intended location.
Costello’s hotel burned in 1886 but was quickly rebuilt and expanded. It soon became known for its gambling and “sins of a far worse nature”. It has recently been sold and is undergoing renovation.
Now a ghost town, you can also still see what is left of the local Brudenell general store.
Also nearby is the Rockingham Church.
513 Rockingham Road
Step back in time as you climb the hill to the historic Rockingham Church, a unique relic of pioneer days. The old wooden church is known for its round-headed windows and copper steeple. The surrounding graves mark the lives of the earliest settlers, including John S. J. Watson, Rockingham’s founder and an early warden of Renfrew County. Known as St. Leonard’s Anglican Church it was built about 1875 on land donated by John Watson. The church is open daily in the spring summer and fall, admission is free but donations are welcomed.