200 YEARS AND COUNTING: Fergusons have been farming for generations in the Cornwall area

200 YEARS AND COUNTING: Fergusons have been farming for generations in the Cornwall area
David Ferguson is flanked by his uncle

CORNWALL, Ontario – A Cornwall family that carved a niche for itself on South Branch Road is celebrating a huge anniversary next month – one that only comes around once in a lifetime.

Make that several lifetimes.

The Ferguson family has been farming a 100-acre plot of land on South Branch Road for 200 years. While the given names of those farmers have changed over the decades – things began with Duncan Ferguson, a veteran of the War of 1812 who was wounded in the Battle of Ogdensburg in 1815 – the surnames of the owners of what is now a small dairy operation have remained constant through everything from Canadian confederation to the Great Depression and every world war in which this country has fought.

The current owner of Oakwood Farms is Ken Ferguson, who at 74 is looking to turn the reigns over to his son David in the not-too-distant future and continue the tradition of family farming on a property that includes a 166-year-old solid brick house that reeks of history.

“I often wonder how they made an existence, especially with the last two winters we’ve had,” said Ken, when asked about farming land that has stood the test of time for dozens of growing seasons.

“There used to be a log cabin about 100 feet from this house,” he continues, gesturing with his hand to an original piece of shelter the Ferguson family ancestors enjoyed. “There’s still an impression in the ground, of where it used to be. When we would plow it some old dishes used to come up.”

The big thing coming up now is a party. The Fergusons are inviting family, friends and neighbours to a 200th anniversary celebration July 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the farm.

Partygoers will get a chance to talk about the past…and the future.

Ken’s son David is set to take over the farm. Both father and son agree heritage is part of their daily lives.

“We have acres on the farm that is rough, that you don’t work,” said David. “The settlers couldn’t work it either, because the stones are at the surface.”

Some of the stones that could be cleared 200 years ago still have all the hallmarks of the back-breaking work that farming was…and in some cases still is.

“We come across big stones on the line fences that the pioneers put there,” said Ken.

How did the pioneers put them there? They drilled holes, by hand, into the massive boulders, and would then drag them, with a team of horses, to the edge of the property so that the land could be used to grow crops.

But crops weren’t the only thing grown on the Ferguson farm. The old brick house that supported much of the family (it’s now 166 years old) saw 30 children raised since 1849, with as many as 10 living under one roof at a time.

Those children went on to become teachers, lawyers, soldiers, nurses…even a clock maker – and more farmers, of course.

“The heritage of it – that means a lot,” said David, who is getting married July 4 to his fiancée Sandra Douglas and will likely begin his own family.

Ken, though, is likely to be close behind. Most old farmers don’t retire, or fade into the background.

“I’d be lost if I had to wake up in the morning ad have nothing to do,” he said.

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