HERB FURNISS’ FAMILY HISTORY
I realized a few years ago that most grandchildren or for that matter most people know very little about their grandparents—often by the time they are curious their own parents are gone.
So–I wrote a booklet about my parents and grandparents for my children and nieces and nephews.
The Furniss family arrived here from Penrith Cumberlandshire in 1831. My great, great grandfather Joseph Furniss took up land on Con. 5, Lot 16, Thorah Township on the shores of Lake Simcoe.
He was a shipwright by trade and brought his tools with him but never did work at this trade.
He had sons Wilson, John, George and Henry–no daughters.
Henry had 5 sons John, Fred, Herbert, Stephen and Bentley–no daughters.
Herbert married Mary Bursby, a recent arrival from the estates of the Duke of Sutherland where her grandfather had been the emuensis to the Duke(Queen Victoria’s uncle). There is plenty of evidence to suggest that my great grandfather Geo Grenville Bursby was fathered by the Duke who simply pushed his employee into marrying her. After all being personal secretary to the Duke was a very good job and if you wanted to keep it, –being handed your already pregnant bride wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.
My father whom some of you knew, was born on the farm owned by his father just south of here, part of it being where the sewage lagoons are.
My grandfather died there when my father was 6 years old (1907). The farm was sold to Rev. McLennon and the family moved to Beaverton. My grandmother, Mary Bursby Furniss raised the family of three in the house she purchased across the road from this museum. That is the house, until recently owned by Crockfords.
Herb Furniss had gone west in 1890 and worked one fall near Winnipeg.
Thereafter he was a cowboy for 5 years in Southern Alberta and Montana. When he returned to Beaverton he brought his western saddle. My father always regretted that his father died when he was so young and had no chance to hear of his experiences.
Cowboys didn’t—just happen! Most were just farm boys from the east and England. They had to learn their skills quickly on the job.
My father only had 2 years High School but he had a lifelong thirst for knowledge. In his later years he bought and reread all the classics. The year he died he could recite large tracts of poetry ie.–Rubyait Omar Kyhan, Charge of the Light Brigade and many others. He along with my mother enjoyed history and biographies.
In the winter nights when we were young, my parents took turns reading books to us. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Black Beauty, David the Incorrigible, Anne of Green Gables are among the titles introduced to us.
While working for his uncle Stephen at Point Mara he met the new school, Elizabeth Larson from Gravenhurst. Four years later they were married in 1932.
Elizabeth Larson was the daughter of Captain Peter Larson from Norway, and Ann Ross MacLean of U.E.L. stock. Some of the Ross clan had moved from Glengarry to Turtle Lake in the Parry Sound area. This is why my grandmother was born in the Muskoka area.
My maternal great-grandmother actually attended Glengarry school. She used to tell the family that even with name changes, she knew who Ralph Conner was writing about in his books. Ralph Conner was the pen name for a Rev. Gordon.
Her father, i.e. my great-great-grandfather Thomas Taylor Ross, born in 1738, and joined the Fraser Highlanders in 1757 at age 19, was one of the soldiers who climbed the cliffs in the dark and fought the next day on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec in 1759.
He returned to Kincardine, was discharged and married Isabel Ross. They came out to America in 1773 and settled in the Mohawk Valley on Sir William Johnston land.
When the revolution broke out, he served in Butlers Rangers till the end of the war. He also had two cousins, Donald Ross and Hugh Monroe join and fight in the Kings Royal Regiment for 6 years.
In 1884, they moved to Martinstown in Glengarry after the Revolution. Many of the U.E.L.’s arrived destitute, having had to desert their farms. The Crown reimbursed them for losses, provided they could produce witnesses to their court claims.
I have a copy of the claim of Hugh Monroe and would like to read it:
To this day I have many cousins in Glengarry and throughout the Ottawa valley. Some of the names include Ross, Hamilton, McLean, Kippen, McCrea, Mowat, McGillivray, McDermod, Monroe and MacMillan.
As an aside, my father’s paternal grandmother Harriette Lucinda Weeks was of U.E.L. stock, coming from Duchess County, New York, where they originally had come from Holland. Many of the Weeks family still reside in Prince Edward County and back in Duchess County.
My mother graduated from Gravenhurst High School in 1923. In those days they had trouble getting teachers for wilderness areas. The Ontario government offered free room, board and tuition at North Bay Normal School for anyone who would contract to teach in a designated wilderness area for three years. My mother and her sister Edith took advantage of this opportunity. After graduation, my mother taught school one year at Halls Lake and two years at Sea Breeze on Lake of Bays. She also played the organ in the Methodist Church on Ten Mile Bay.
To get to Lake of Bays, you took the train to Huntsville, the narrow guage train (open cars) to Lake of Bays and a steamer the rest of the way. This narrow guage railway went back into service July 1, 2000.
My parents were married in a double ceremony with her sister Edith and Dave Hopkins, in June 1932. They moved to the farm my father had purchased in 1931 from. his cousin Margaret Montgomery for $5,500.00 cash.
They started out debt free and though this was the Depression, were able to survive and eventually prosper. As everyone is aware it was all hard work then without the modern equipment and services we take for granted today.
Hobos were plentiful as two railways ran through the farm. If they split wood they were fed. They weren’t bums as we might think of them; they were just out of work and escaping the West which was harder hit than the East.
My mother never lost her love of teaching school. The day my youngest sister started high school she was back in the classroom. First at Udney, then Egypt and finally at Thorah Central.
Mother admired creative people especially writers. She admired Rae Fleming and the fact that he was a teacher and a published author. She derived pleasure in seeing former students prosper and carry on normal and productive lives.
Both of my parents participated in their community life and participated in many organizations. They were lifelong supporters of their church. The Historical Society’s creation couldn’t have been better timed. It was a real outlet for them.
In closing I would say they were ideal parents and contributing members of the community and I am very proud of them.
Chronology of Interesting Forbears
Katherine Ross…………1762.……Executed for Witchcraft.
Thomas Taylor Ross……… …….. Fraser Highlanders-Quebec
“ “ “ …………….. Butlers Rangers
Hugh Monroe………………………Kings Royal Regiment-6 years
Donald Ross……………………….. “ “ “ died of wounds-1777
Frank Furniss….Union Cavalry 6/12/1864-Awarded Congressional Medal
Of Honour with Sheridan’s Cavalry-Trevilion Stn. V.A.
Frank Edward (Ted) White………..U.S. Army Air Corp
Fighter Pilot (U.S.) WW1 Crash with Mail in Delaware River, 1924
Fred McDermid…………Opened Law Practice 1908 Saskatoon
(John Diefenbaker Articled there)
Married Margaret Dunbar Vickers
(daughter of founder of American Express)
(great-granddaughter of Susanna Moodie)
Stephen Furniss…..MP Liberal 1935-45.Owner of brick yards (2) & Farms
Alwyn Ross……….Killed D-Day 6/6/1944
Interesting segment of George Ross will
“It is hearby understood, that if the said John and Donald Ross or their heirs ,shall desire to become active in any other religion other then that they now profess(Which is the Presbyterian Religon) ,the said lands that I now bequeath shall by any change in their religion ,immediately dissolve upon the next heir and shall be given to the next heir who professes the Presbyterian religion
Note: Ira Furnis sold the farm in 2002 and retired to Bolsover. His brother Herb still has a cottage on the Mara side of the Talbot River and is active in the Beaverton and Ramara Historical Societies as well as the chief Bluebird director for the Carden Bird People