John and Sylvia Walters on Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

John and Sylvia Walters on Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Harvesting family history

Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Located just 125 kilometres east of Red Deer, Alberta, on the northwest shore of Gough Lake, is a farm as rich in human history as it is in biodiversity.

The Ferrier property is a 1,467-acre (595-hectare) haven of wetlands and shoreline habitat, essential for the deer, small mammals, grassland birds, shorebirds and waterfowl that live in and migrate through the region.

In 1904, John Ferrier and his brother Scott travelled to Canada from Perth, Scotland. Arriving first in Montreal by boat, they made their way west by rail, arriving 16 kilometres southeast of Botha, Alberta. In 1908, their three brothers George, Dave and Cecil and their sisters Agnes and Isabelle joined them and established a farm and homestead. In 1913, John returned to Scotland to marry his childhood sweetheart, Agnes White, after corresponding with her by letter for seven years. Together, they returned to Canada and the family farm in 1915 and started their family.

“This new life was all new to Mom as she was brought up in a city,” said the late Peggy Walters (Ferrier). “I remember her telling us about the time she was milking a cow and it kicked the pale, spilling the milk and scaring her half to death. As she picked herself up, she said, ‘John Ferrier, you’ve brought me out to this country to kill me,’ but she was brave and carried on milking.”

John and Agnes had five children: Peggy, Tom, William, John and Nancy. While Peggy and William eventually moved away from the farm, Tom and John helped their father tend to the land.

“John Ferrier was part of the history of Alberta,” says Sylvia Walters, a member of the Ferrier family. “John and Agnes raised their family through the tough times of the Great Depression and the World Wars. These hard times moulded a generation of hardworking, strong people.”

When John passed away in 1951, Nancy became involved in the day-to-day work on the farm and helped to take care of her mother until her death in 1966. When Tom and John passed away, Nancy inherited the farm. Since neither John, Tom nor Nancy had children, Nancy wanted to ensure that when her time came the farm would be well taken care of.

Nancy left her family’s farm and homestead to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) with the intention that it be revitalized back to the state of the land when her father first came to the area. On her 90th birthday, Nancy passed away. Honouring Nancy’s wish, Sylvia and her husband, John, helped facilitate her gift of land to NCC.

“This quiet, peaceful place is home to deer, moose, geese and ducks and many other species,” says Sylvia. “The farm has come full circle with its return to nature as my grandfather found it in 1904. Nancy would have been pleased that the farm will be left for nature for perpetuity as she wished.”

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