A new Friends of Ferris initiative – Memories of Ferris Provincial Park

Started in 2015, submissions were requested, from residents and visitors alike, describing stories or special events that have taken place in our Park.

Memories from the early pioneer days, right up to the present day will be accepted.
Some may appear in the annual Tabloid, some may appear below, collated in a “Memory Book” and kept for posterity.

Contact us via email at info@friendsofferris.ca
or regular snail mail at
Friends of Ferris
474 County Road 8, Campbellford, Ontario,

Grills Family
This story starts when two brothers, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Campbell and Major David Campbell, arrived here shortly after 1831 to claim their well-deserved land grants from the British Navy. Their property included the future town site and Ferris Park. Early settlers would “ford” the Trent River on the brothers’ property, a short distance north of Ranney Falls.
This became known as Campbell’s Ford – now Campbellford. In 1836 Robert died, leaving his portion to David.

David then sold his holdings to James Cockburn and Nesbitt Kirchoffer; the latter subsequently, in 1871, sold his section next to the river to Nathan Grills (1822 -1891) and his wife Elisabeth (Saunders, 1831- 1918). The parcel on which you are now standing, transferred in 1887, to their son Richard and his wife Harriet (Hooper, 1843-1921) and later to the youngest of their three children, George W. Grills.

George and his wife Sarah Ann (Muffatt) lived and farmed here with their four sons until 1926. Three years later, the vacant two-story cabin burned to the ground, leaving the footprint you see today, overgrown with apple trees, rhubarb and lilacs.

Other out buildings were located at the base of the hill near the sheepwash. The property was then sold to William Scott in 1934 for pasture until the province bought it in 1968.
The loose stone foundation is the sole remaining evidence of the three generations of Grills who once farmed here and is testament to their many descendants still in the vicinity.
Take a walk back in time by following the original road allowance which identified the north property line. This trail now links Bedrock site #99 and Valleyview site #40. On top of the drumlin, a short distance south of the Comfort Station, there was a gate and a chute that was once used for loading cattle.

Prepared by Friends of Ferris and approved by William Theodore Grills – 2015

The Cock Family
The land in Ferris Park is steeped in history. Part of that history includes a small unobtrusive stone foundation which is witness to five generations of a family that once lived, worked and played here. This is their story. In 1831 the dense forest of Seymour Township was cleared along the banks of the Trent River where lumbermen pitched their tents and only a few settlers dared to penetrate inland to farm. More settlers arrived, particularly a number of half-pay military officers claiming their land grants, one of whom was Lieutenant Commander Robert Cock (Retired) Royal Navy, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars.

Robert was born in Inverkeithing, Scotland in 1789. When his father joined the navy in 1796, Robert joined too as a first-class volunteer on board the 36-gun ship, the THALLA. He was six years old! At the age of twelve he rose to become midshipman, served at home and in the Mediterranean as Master’s Mate. Approaching his 16th birthday he was midshipman on board the THUNDERER at the Battle of Trafalgar. After the battle he was sent with a seasoned boatswain to take charge of a French “Prize” ship but they became lost in the fog and landed off the coast of Spain. Robert received two medals for his actions in the Battle of Trafalgar, one at the time and one 43 years later. He became 1st Lieutenant at the age of 21, having survived the forcing of the Dardanelles, Guadeloupe and Alexandria. When the wars ended he returned to Inverkeithing where he met and married Elizabeth Greig Currie. He joined the Merchant Marine and again went to sea. After a few voyages, a ship wreck and a short period spent as ferry master on the Firth of Forth, his zest for adventure dampened. Also, considering Elizabeth’s wish that their sons avoid a career at sea, he decided to take up his land grant in Canada.
In 1834 he came to Seymour and chose his property. In good faith he left money to have a cabin built and returned to Scotland. Two hundred of his four hundred acre land grant now forms the north eastern section of Ferris Provincial Park. This particular property was chosen by Robert because the rolling hills reminded him of Scotland. When Elizabeth, Robert and their five children, (the youngest under a year) arrived in Seymour Township in the late fall of 1835, there was no cabin! They spent their first winter in a converted shed belonging to a fellow naval officer.

In the spring of 1836 their cabin was built on a stone foundation. Three more children were born here and this cabin was home to all of them. Surrounded by lilacs, the remains of this stone foundation still exist on a sheltered slope near a creek. After Robert’s death in 1855, Elizabeth sold the homestead (most of which is now parkland) to their eldest son Robert for five shillings. This Robert, his wife Mary Little and their 11 children also called this cabin home. Later they built a brick house, a barn and outbuildings north and west of the present park office. A brick yard, operated by their son Lewis was opened on the outskirts of town in 1887. After Robert’s death all of his properties were divided amongst the family.
Their son William, who remained on the home farm, and his wife, Jessie McKelvie, became the next owners.

They had two daughters, Margaret and Ella. Their farm house was destroyed by fire and a smaller home was built on the old foundation.
William and Jessie operated a mixed farm where cattle, pigs, sheep, horses and poultry were raised. Crops of grain, corn, and hay were harvested. In early spring trees were tapped and maple syrup was sold. Neighbours helped each other by exchanging work at threshing, silo filling, wood cutting, and barn building “bees”. Women worked extremely hard preparing huge meals to feed the hungry men on these occasions (sometimes 12 or more at both dinner and supper).
Often farm wives worked right along with the men helping with chores, milking and other tasks. Children did their share of the work as well — gathering eggs, feeding hens, going for the cows, piling wood and other farm chores. As with most farm families of that era, they were more or less self sufficient; their large gardens and orchards provided the family with fresh fruit and vegetables. Summer and fall were busy seasons for the entire family. By late fall, apples, potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips were stored in the root cellar. The shelves were lined with crocks of pickles, jars of jams, jellies, canned vegetables, fruit and meat. In the barn, the mows were piled to the rafters with hay and straw and the granaries and silo full to capacity.

Ella married Allan Curle and Margaret married Oscar Rannie. After William’s death the farm was sold to Margaret and Oscar and they too operated a mixed farm similar to that of the previous generation. A new barn was built, the house and outbuildings were modernized and a number of other improvements made.
This was a working farm until 1969 when the Province of Ontario purchased all of this property except the house and a few acres surrounding it. Oscar and Margaret’s four children were the fifth generation to live, work and play on this scenic farm.

Prepared by descendants and Friends of Ferris June 2015

“I just heard about the Memory Book you will be putting together.
I then started to think about a few events my friends and I put on a few
years ago…. for about 4 summers.
The “Teddy Bears Picnics”. We would go into the Santa Claus parade every
year to hand out flyer inviting everyone to come “Ferris Park” in the
summer for the “Teddy Bears Picnic”.
One year we had a large Mounties Police Bear, another year “Smokey the
Bear”, then “Nautical Bears” also in 1999 a wonderful wedding with my
bear Alexandra and Scout, the bear from the “Cottage Country” store.
Many years ago when I was chair person for “Friends of Ferris” we did do
a wonderful “Bat Day” where children and adults made bat houses.
Also it was great fun for a few years in September when we put on a
large yard sale. It was well attended.
Later I move down south for a few years and was no longer involved.
But, for many years I really enjoyed my time in Ferris Park.”

Bev Vye

Robert Lisle and his memories of Ferris Park – an interview

Robert: “My first trip to the Park, I was counting how many sites there were – 163 camp sites. That was when we moved here from our farm to Campbellford in 2011. I wanted to find out about the history of the Park. I saw these old foundations – found the old Grills’ cabin foundation.”

Carol: One of the original settlers was the Grills family. How did you know about the Grills’ foundation?
Robert: “I had an idea because of what I had heard. It wasn’t very big. I also saw some artifacts which I left at the site. I climbed some of these trails and I was amazed at the work of the big boulders they used to make the fences in the mid to late 1800’s. Livestock were corralled near the present day wash house in Valleyview campground, then picked up to go to market. I could still spot some of the fields they were farming – patches here and patches there – all hand work.”

Carol: “They mostly grazed sheep – hence the sheep wash area where there’s a gentle slope into the water. What do you know about sheep farming?”
Robert: “I only know what I heard. Sheep are close grazers. They graze it down then the new growth comes back. Sheep are more particular than goats that way. They like the fresh new growth.”

Carol: “Did you notice the stone walls? John Clarke was responsible for building the stone wall near the Sheep Wash over a hundred years ago. He included a stone stile in the wall. He didn’t use the gate….”
Robert: “… because the sheep would rush through a gate but sheep wouldn’t climb the rock wall in pursuit – unlike goats more from Switzerland. I never saw stone fences built that way – just piled up rocks 5 or 6 feet wide. They built stone piles and drove steel wheeled wagons that they would drive up and dump more stones.”

Carol: “You and Tina have been longstanding members of the Horticultural Club.”
Robert: “I had books about every type of plant but I wasn’t supposed to pick any of them.”

Carol: “In the 9 or 10 years that I have been giving tours through the Park, this past year we found the first Turtlehead. Another one we have found in the spring is the Jack in the Pulpit. What flowers do you remember seeing in the spring?”
Robert: “Trilliums – we have to respect them as our Provincial Flower even though we’d want to pick them and bring them home in bouquets – we can’t.
I’ve been checking to make sure the identified trees through the Park have been marked right. Honey Locust (3), Hop Horn Bean, quite a few Ironwood, White Pine from a Red Pine, Red Maple vs Sugar Maple. I climbed that long trail and when I could look across west I could see right out of Campbellford to Seymour west. I miss it now. I think I travelled every trail I could find there.”

Carol: “How did you get yourself out if you got lost?”
Robert: “Well, moss grows on the north side of the tree so you find the moss and you’ll know the direction. Moss grows in the shade on the north side of the tree.”

Carol: “What other memories of the Park do you have?”
Robert: “I even took my skis into the park and skied through in the winter when I could see more of the Park. The last time I skied the Park was in the winter of 2011/2012 – that was the last of the skiing for me then.”

Robert is now almost 87 years old so he was about 82 years old the last time he skied Ferris Park. He says he takes “a day at a time and that’s all I want to do.”
He says he loved cross country skiing. He thought about taking his Gordie Howe skates to skate on the pond in the Park; however, he first took them to the arena to try them out. He hadn’t had them on for 25 years. He discovered he couldn’t even let go of the rails at the arena so he decided he’s best not be taking his skates out on the pond at Ferris Park.

Robert: “Back in the 1960’s, Bill Scott had rented the land which is now the Park and we placed our cattle on the west side of the Gorge. One of our 2 year old cows swam across the river to the park and we found her with Bill Scott’s cattle. He knew it wasn’t his because we had her tagged.”
Robert adds: “F. M. Rutherford was the mayor of Campbellford back in the 1940s and had rented land for pasture, that is now the Park. Our cows were on the west side where Rutherford had also rented.”

Carol: “The Heritage Centre did an information session on the history of Dairies in the area, two of which were – the Anderson Dairy and Rutherford Dairy.”
Robert: “We had dairy cattle and when winter came on we’d truck them back to the farm from the summer pasture land. We shipped our milk to the cheese factory. Stanwood was our first cheese factory ’til it closed then Petherick’s Corners ’til it closed, then Rylestone Dairy.”

Robert and Tina Lisle’s farm was a Century Farm. Sadly, his wife Tina passed away on the 6th of June, 2016. As Robert says: “I take one day at a time and that’s all I want to do.” While he’s taking a day at a time, he waters all the raised gardens of tomatoes, beans, carrots, lettuce and other vegetables he helps to grow in the gardens.
He is also excitedly planning for the 150th Anniversary of Canada at the Warkworth Place. He has recently planted 150 tulips – hoping to put on a good show for the July 1st, 2017 birthday celebration. He says 90 of them are a variety of colours and the rest will be red and white.

Told to Joanne McIntosh and Carol Robertson Oct 2016

Ferris Park – a poem

There’s Carol, Theresa and Katherine et al
Each one’s so delighted to have built the Great Wall
There’s Elizabeth, Christina and Barbara and Bill
Who so far made it to the top of that hill.

And Julie with her measuring tools always so ‘at the ready’
Has shown us to reach Victoria we must still stay so steady.
We’ve walked and we’ve talked from St’ John’s on the sea
To Ottawa, Regina and then on to B.C..

Just look for this group in the springtime, summer and fall
Watch them following their leader over tree roots and clover,
Over each flower, and each weed seed and green ferns they hover
And each bird call, each new thing, they always discover.

Neither the beauty of the blue skies, sunshine or snowflakes can be
Nor the circus of autumn can one even see.
The fall colours of Ferris are God spreading His glory.
You must visit the Sheep Wash and learn the whole story.

The history of the first ones, the Rannie’s and Grills
Showed they were folks with a great deal of goodwill
Unless you all go there to witness the Stone Wall
And admire their holdings along with their miracles.
You’ll never admire the years of effort spent by all.

If you can’t find us, look by the Bridge o’er the river
As always by 10 bells we’ll show up like weather.
And if you’re observant you’ll wander over the skyway
And witness tiny little turtles just sun bathing in their way.

There’s Patricia and Tracy and so many others
Who arrive every Tuesday through rain clouds, whatever!!!
To walk with their new friends in sunshine or in downpours.
Some of us walk slowly and others just soared.

Always be mindful and honour each of God’s creatures
And meander to Ferris to celebrate each one of its features.
Barb’s first view of this treasure along the great Trent
Set the stage for this wonder of journeys intent.

The friendship we’ve fostered, the weather we’ve come through
The drumlins we’ve conquered, the pathways we’ve viewed
Have been part of the sojourn…..
And it’s our thanks now to you.

Written by Barbara and Bill Isaac November 2017

Driving Lessons in Ferris Park
Picnics in Ferris Park were some of the things our family enjoyed. It was usually a Sunday afternoon. Favourite recipes came out of the cookbooks for Mom to do her thing.
As was our Thanksgiving tradition, off to Ferris’s Park we ventured. We found the gates locked so we found another route in to get to our special spot, now known as “Heart Attack Hill”. Our son, learning to drive, found a way in. We exited the car with our middle sized red wagon loaded with blankets, coats and games. You know, the kind with wooden racks.
So you guessed it. Our son, thinking he was one of the Dukes of Hazard, soared over the creek. The rest of the family waded through the shallow water pulling the wagon behind us.
Once each of us landed safely on the other side, we piled back into the grey car. The old, sliver free wooden picnic table was loaded with tasty dishes: salads, casseroles, homemade pickles, cheddar cheese, butter tarts, and carrot cake.
The centre of the rickety, old table was adorned with flowers stuck in a beer can: asters, goldenrod, yellow daisies, wild fern and branches with red berries galore. Our feast was ready just waiting for folks to come and enjoy.
Our son, sporting number twelves was about to demonstrate his driving skills, especially, the one where he puts the car in reverse. His driving instructor was parked in the passenger seat. The young lad hit the gas pedal, went into backup mode. The trees went whizzing by. The terrified instructor hugged the floor boards.
The car came to an abrupt stop. Our son asked, “Well, how did I do?”
Next stop was at the home of the high school driving instructor.

Hiking in the woods or Detectives in Ferris Park
One fine sunny day, with the smell of autumn leaves in the air, three close friends went searching for pine cones in Ferris Park. They chattered about the beautiful Christmas wreaths that would be created with these pine cones from nature. They knew these treasures were waiting to be found but you’ll never guess what they discovered! Along one of the fine trails in Ferris, the three amigos sensed the ‘aura of humans’ surrounding their persons. On glancing up they noticed something black up in the tree tops. Was it a squirrels’ nest or was it a black bag big enough for someone’s coat? Or worse still was somebody watching them? But behold, just to the left of the group was a HUGE pile of leaves, tiny branches and yes lots of those coveted cones. Could their mystery person be hidden there?
Their minds started to wander, their imaginations went crazy and their bodies’ blood pressures soared. The three friends moved faster and faster, stooping and grabbing those scattered pine cones as they hastened. All at once they found blood on an old wooden picnic table.Immediate action was demanded! Linking their pinkie fingers together, the trio promised to keep these discoveries under wraps.
To their homes they ran and dropped the pine cones they so desperately wanted along the trail. One friend, out of breath and white as a ghost, forgot their promise and ‘spilled the beans’!
Her husband was made aware of what these detectives had uncovered!
He alerted the O.P.P. to respond to the scene!!!
And so the mystery was solved: the table had rust stains from an old painting endeavor, within the black bag was a ton of old garbage not a coat, and the old pile of leaves held pine cones galore: their pine cone wreaths made them smile.

Above stories presented, as submitted, by Nancy Jolliffe, 2017

Shirley Davidson’s Memories of Ferris Provincial Park

I grew up in Campbellford, living on Front Street as a youngster, and would visit the Woods almost every day. I liked nature so the “Sheep Wash”, the stone walls and Ferris’ Woods, as it was called then, are all a part of me. I was free to roam with no fears; to play in the bush where all the trees, plants and animals lived.

And there was always plenty of wild life to see. I remember being on the Humpty Dumpty Road, taking a short cut through the woods, when I was followed by a skunk. It was only about a foot and a half behind me….at my heels….all the way to the stile steps. I didn’t challenge it so it never lifted its tail to spray me.
As kids, we would spend all day in the woods. We’d pack a lunch and have a picnic sitting on the stone wall then play the afternoon away….as long as we were home before the streetlights went on! Storms didn’t keep me out of the woods either. I knew the turf so I would seek protection under the trees from the rain then return home.

Later in life, as an adult, living on Saskatoon Avenue, I would walk in the park for an hour or so….at 4 a.m. After that I would go out again with the 5 hounds and my Airedale. They were happiest when roaming free off leash. On one such occasion, we were surprised by a lone wolf. All my dogs hid behind me because they didn’t want to mess with that wolf. I remember another time, hearing the growling sound of a bear. When I heard the GRRRRR sound, I kept my same pace but lengthened my stride in order to leave the berry patch. Thankfully, I lived to tell the story.

I have been known to cover 12 miles or so and never bump into anyone else, except perhaps Michael Kaufmann. In the 70’s and 80’s he would be walking his dog. One time his dog got excited and wanted to play. He jumped up and pushed me from behind, almost knocking me down. No harm done.
I remember once, on the far hill, I heard an alarming screech. I saw a doe leap over a log and race up the hill towards her fawn to protect it. It was a beautiful sight. Of course there is plenty of evidence of raccoons and rabbits.

My three kids played in the park too. I had learned to grow up that way so I thought they should too. They kept away from the water, which was the only rule. The young kids learned from the older kids in the neighbourhood. The fun, the games and the unwritten rites of passage were passed down from the older kids.
I have been guilty of putting butternuts in my Christmas Cake and I know that the south side of the far hill is a good place to find puffballs…..though I don’t like them much! I also remember harvesting wild grapes to make grape jelly. I got hell for doing that so I stopped. I understand that we shouldn’t be taking anything out of the park.

I don’t put out a birdfeeder in the backyard because I don’t mess with Mother Nature. But I do enjoy the birds in the forest; the osprey, the Pileated and other woodpeckers and the Indigo Buntings in transition. Every time I would go to the woods, I would see something different. Years ago, one winter in the late 90’s, I went out for my walk. I was greeted by a Snowy Owl. It led the way and when I turned around, it flew ahead of me all the way home. This same ritual happened every day for a month….and then….one day….it was gone.
The park is much busier now than it used to be. It doesn’t bother me when it is busy. I like “sharing” it with others who are enjoying it as much as I have. I loved it as a child, as a teen and as an adult; it is part of my life.
It was a delight to meet with Shirley and to share her memories of the park with others.

As told to Carol Robertson, with special thanks to Gloria McClure for making this possible. May 2018

Finding Ferris Forest

It was the Ferris Forest that welcomed me to Campbellford. For most of my adult life I had dreamed of living in a small town in the country. I knew nothing about this particular small town, nor about this graceful forest. Now this is home.
After decades living in downtown Toronto, my idea of nature rested with the nearby ravines, or, on a good day, my backyard garden. The ravines were never far from city traffic, city garbage or city creatures. My nature wanderings were short lived as I rushed between other daily tasks.
After arriving in my new home, I certainly noticed the many signs for Ferris Park, Ferris Suspension Bridge. I was curious, but distracted by all the tasks associated with settling a new home. Then I made big breakthrough.
In the first week, I wandered over to the wonderful local library to pick up a few books about the town and the region. As I brought these to the checkout desk, I met my first true Campbellford friend. Carol noticed my book cache, and with great bravado, congratulated me on my choices, and quizzed me about my interest. She was warm, welcoming, and best of all, she invited me to join the Friends of Ferris Walking Group she convened each Tuesday morning. I could hardly refuse. This was a wonderful beginning to my friendship with Carol and my relationship with the Ferris Forest.
No matter the weather, a small group congregated each week, hiking for an hour. Carol was our wild flower guide, our tree researcher and our local historian. The members of the group brought their own knowledge of the area, the birds, the wild life and their own life stories.
I developed a steady attachment to the forest, the rush of the Trent River, and the increasingly familiar trails. I am still a committed friend of this forest, walking the trails a number of times week.
As much as my body is invigorated from my walks, my soul certainly benefits. If I miss a walk, my spirits suffer. My walks bring me peace of mind. No matter the state of my brain when I enter the park, I soon give myself over to the scents of each season, the perpetually changing plants, the illusive calls of more birds than I can imagine. I watch the antics of squirrels, chasing each other and greedily gathering as many black walnuts as they can collect.
I have become observant to nature as I have never been before. In the forest, I wander through the full heat of summer, the glory of fall and then the settling into winter, frost and snow. The buds of spring trees and flowers revitalize my optimism. I watch the change of colours, tones, and textures. The forest is infused with science and magic.
And I meet up with other forest friends- human and canine. I have met regular buddies who walk at similar times each day. We know each other’s habits and check in about our wellbeing and our daily plans. Badger is my favourite dog. His owner is one of the 9:30 walkers. Badger has a mind of his own and patiently walks his human through the trails. Graham is the volunteer weekly trash collector. He is equipped with recycling bags, bird watching binoculars and guide books. Linda and Murray are, like me, older folks. They are true hikers, taking the hillier routes, looking out for deer. All are friendly fellow adventurers, each of us walking to our varying energy levels, and forest skills.
I take special pleasure of walking in the forest on most weekends, when visitors from all over the world discover Ferris Forest. Their extended families and groups of friends explore the trails, and I hear their voices in languages that are unfamiliar in our town. I have to admit that I envy their home cooked picnics. iI is great to share the forest with them.
The Ferris Forest is woven into my Campbellford life. It is a gift to the community and to all of us who include the forest, its plants, friends and creatures in our chosen village.

~Laura Sky April 3/21