Corey O’Dell was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, on June 27, 1827. There is evidence of his being licensed to keep and drive a Public Coach there in both 1848 and 1850. In the intervening year, 1849, it is believed that he found his way to Nova Scotia — in those days the ferry boat traveled from Saint John directly to Annapolis Royal — in answer to an advertisement for Pony Express riders. The Pony Express service was short lived. It lasted only the year, but Corey O’Dell did indeed become the Pony Express rider for the Kentville-Victoria Beach part of the Halifax-Victoria Beach run.
Although Corey returned to Saint John after the demise of the Pony Express, he must have discovered something to his liking in the bustling commercial centre of Annapolis Royal, for by the late 1850s, he and his wife Mary (Harris) and their two sons Carman and Griffin were residents of the town. Corey worked for a number of years as the tavern/innkeeper in the thriving Commercial House on Lower St. George Street before he purchased the large double lot and buildings, situated just to the east.
He moved the existing house, except for the kitchen ell, to the back of his property, where it became a carriage house. He then built a fourteen-room home and place of business onto the ell, where he practiced his trade of tavern/innkeeper.
Local tradition has it that much of the building was given over to the business: the tavern, dining room, front parlour, six bedrooms upstairs and the area over the old kitchen (reserved for the stagecoach drivers) were all used by the public. Situated at the head of the Annapolis to Granville ferry slip, and only a short distance from the wharves, which saw the comings and goings of the Saint John and Boston ferry boats, the O’Dell House was ideally located to attract trade. Although Corey O’Dell eventually replaced the tavern with a grocery store, his business efforts apparently met with success. At his death on March 14, 1887, he was a man of considerable material wealth.
There is some evidence to suggest that rooms were still rented out to guests as late as the 1920s; however, for the last decades of O’Dell ownership, the business element seems to have disappeared. Corey O’Dell’s daughter-in-law Sarah died in 1957 and the house passed out of the family. The new owners converted it into an apartment building. A few years later, in 1967, it was bought by Ralph and Marguerite Wagner on behalf of Historic Restoration Enteprises (now the Annapolis Heritage Society) with a view to turning it into a museum. The O’Dell House Museum opened to the public in 1969.
The parlour features 11 pieces of original O’Dell furniture, including the grapeback sofa, three grapeback straight chairs, a grapeback easy chair, two rocking chairs, a marble top table and two half tables. These have been generously loaned to the museum by Heather, Corey, Carman and Lorraine O’Dell, direct descendants of the original Corey and his wife.
Also on loan in this room are three oval-framed photographs of Corey and Mary O’Dell and Corey’s mother Salome Downey O’Dell. The photograph of Corey, located on the right, is the only known image of him in existence.