Fernleigh Businesses

Fernleigh Store

- About/History


1901-1903 J. Manson and Margaret Davy
1903-1945 Ervin and Evianna Martin
1945-1957 Robert and Christena Martin
1957-1970 Keith and Marjery Lyons
1970-1977 Arnold and Shirley Miller
1977-1980 Carl and June Thompson

Although Dempster Lyon established a store for a short time in conjunction with his cheese factory in 1902 at the Factory Lake site, it was not considered a general store. In his book he indicated that he sold dairy products such as cheese and milk, and a few grocery items. (Some information from Chapter 11: Starting Business at Fernleigh from Dempster Lyon's book has been included as an Appendix)

J. Manson Davy constructed the building that became known as Fernleigh General Store; the structure has remained in the same location throughout the years. Although Mrs. Margaret Davy is recorded as the postmaster from August 1, 1902 until August 31, 1918 it was not determined to be located in a store. Evianna Davy (daughter of Manson and Margaret) married Ervin Martin on May 1, 1895. A ledger dating as early as 1903 reported the General Store was operated by Ervin and Evianna (Eva) Martin. Martins took over the post office on April 15, 1920. Ervin was listed as the postmaster until his death on Oct.5, 1945; then his wife, Eva was postmaster until Jan., 1946. The Cloyne –Fernleigh Mail Service contract went to Robert Martin to commence Jan.1, 1946 for delivery 6 times per week at $670 per annum. Future store owners also operated the post office within the store.

Between the store and the school was a big shed with open doors to stable the horses on mail delivery nights. Folks would and go into the store to visit. There were benches around the entire store, spittoons in the corners (that men could hit from across the room) and a woodstove in the middle. Three nights a week the town's people would come and wait for their mail to be delivered and get the local news.

The store was stocked with everyday items needed by homesteaders from tiny articles like needles and thread to hundred pound bags of staples, farm supplies, building materials and blacksmithing equipment. Tobacco cost ten cents a plug and they carried two brands- Big Ben and Club. Agricultural items such as berries, apples, vegetables, eggs, milk, cream, butter, chickens and even livestock were sold. Hundred pound bags of grain for horses came from Cloyne direction as Lee White recalled bringing it along with the mail. Eva had socks, boots, rubbers, towels and another clothing company brought in overalls. Ervin had sheep and 6-8 cows down over the hill. Lee Ann White remembered helping Tena Martin to milk cows, turn the crank on the separator, and make butter and bread. Some loaves were sold in the store but a lot more bread came via of Cloyne in early years.

In a letter that Eva wrote to daughter, Agnes, dated Jan.5, 1944 she indicated that a huge storm had snowed many in and the road to the highway was open again. The gas truck was overdue. Rob (Bob Martin) had to take the team (of horses) to Cloyne to get bread as no bread trucks had delivered. Some had to bake bread.

Customers were allowed to keep a tab. The ledger shows monthly entries for many families. One example is shown for Tom White from July 3 to Sept.12, 1903. A sample of a Statement is shown for Arthur Young dated May 3, 1902. The McCaskey Account Register table and many billbooks have been preserved.

In 1920 Bob and Tena and their three sons, Jim, Norm and Norval moved to the old church beside the Fernleigh schoolhouse. They later moved down the road to the house on the other side of the store. (In later years the house was bought by Al and Asselstine, then the Ripleys.) Norm was not keen on the location. He said that it was too close to the store and way too close to school.

The eldest son of Ervin and Eva, Robert (Bob) and his wife Christena (Tena) Derue operated the store from 1945-1957. Of the three sons, Jim had married, was in the navy but shipped out. The twins, Norm and Norval were teenagers interested to work away from home. In a letter (dated Sept. 10, 1945) Eva reported that Norm was guiding at Ahr's and Rob and Norval were at Tobin's. (Eva referred to her son as Rob, but in later years most people called him, Bob.) In the summer nieces, Edna and Flora visited and offered some help. Many of the store responsibilities fell to Tena as Bob guided during the summer months and logged much of the winter.

During Bob and Tena's time, many of the store items were delivered weekly by National Grocers. Early in the week, the sales rep, Johnny Lockridge would come to the store and take your order for items. Before the weekend a truck would deliver. For many years the nearby lodges would place their orders through Fernleigh Store because they did not have a big enough order to get it delivered. Later a bread truck came to the door each week. A milk/ice cream truck made deliveries weekly, too. The first one was from York's Dairy in Parham.

Fernleigh Store continued to be a central place to get messages but now it was through the telephone. Mrs. Martin would call for Mrs. Theresa Weber when people were sick or deliver messages for people coming into the area for the weekend. The store phone was an important part of the communication.

After Norval and Isabel married in 1949, they lived in the upper part of the store. Norm and Vi had married and lived at the farm. Norval guided from 1952-1957 and Norm from 1952-1959 all summer as it was good paying job with the many American doctors, lawyers and such. Isabel was mostly able to help Tena at the store from 1949-1954. By then she had two children, Donnie (1950) and Susan (1954) and was unable to complete the usual store tasks. Norval got a job at CCM plant in Toronto in 1957; he was unable to contribute to the store responsibilities. (Norm went to CCM in 1959.)

In 1957 Bob and Tena sold Fernleigh General Store to Keith and Marjery Lyon. Norval and Isabel bought the Lyon's house on 100 acre lot (Lot 26 Conc 12). Bob and Tena still had the house beside the store, property across from the store, and property near the farm. They lived in Fernleigh the rest of their lives. Bob continued to enjoy the fishing and guiding and Tena got to devote more time to her grandchildren, church, her gardening, baking and community life. Bob passed away July 23, 1962; Tena passed away on July 20, 1968.

(Alpheus) Keith was born in Fernleigh (1915) but moved to Kingston to work in the Alcan plant. That is where he met Marjery Maude (Mothersill). She was originally from Toronto /Oshawa area. After they married they moved to the house at the outskirts of Fernleigh. In 1954 Keith purchased the telephone lines from James (Jim) Martin and operated the switchboard out of his house until they moved to the store. The telephone service had to be available every day and night. Keith installed a switchboard in a neighbour's house and the lady there operated the switchboard when the Lyon's family were away, such as Sunday afternoons.

Marj and Keith Lyon owned the store from 1957-1970; became the postmaster (Feb. 1957) and continued to operate the switchboard from the kitchen in the store. They had two young boys at the time, Doug and Darrell. The store was operated 7 days a week in summer because tourist business was booming. In winter they took Sundays off for family time. Their favourite family time off was for camping. Also, Marj and Keith enjoyed the dances at Twin Oaks Lodge and playing cards on weekends with friends. During the Lyon's ownership they sold everything from groceries, clothes, gas, oil, feed and seed. At the end of the store was a large shed where the grain and seed were stored. Keith used to pick up the seed and grain once a week in Tweed or whenever it was needed. Woodland Dairy brought the milk; Weston brought bread; Coke and Canada Dry both delivered pop; Robinson & Sons brought supplies weekly. Lyon's sold guns and ammunition which they got from Daltons in Kingston; Texaco gas was delivered by Lesages. The owners took credit but not bartering as Darrell recalled. Most of the time that worked out.

Darrell recalled the inside of the store was quite small when they first got there as it had a wood-box in the middle. His parents took out the partition from the living-room and made the store bigger. Counters were at the back and around ones side. They did not have a meat counter, but cold cuts were sold. There were lots of shelves. (Darrell has several items from that time period that were sold or from the store. (Horse liniment, creams, bear grease, a tobacco plug cutter, a grasper for getting objects off top shelves, the McCaskey Registry Table which held all the bill books).

As a family business everyone had to help. Darrell recalled being trained in everything. One of his first jobs was sorting the pop bottles. He also took out the big boxes after the shelves were stocked. The biggest job was shoveling snow because it had to be done before the plow came through and it was a large area. During his time off from store duties, when Darrell was about 10 years old, he became editor of "The Fernleigh Times". This was a hand-printed newspaper. It was not a school project but two of his school mates, Randy Tibble and Donnie Martin were the reporters. Saturday evening people gathered in the store and talked over the week. That is pretty much where they got the gossip, Darrell reported. Darrell has provided some samples of the Fernleigh Times in 1960.

Tourism was the main business so it was seasonal and other jobs were needed. Keith owned a dump truck at one point. He delivered for Brewers Warehouse and did a bit of guiding at any of the three lodges.

In 1970 when Lyons sold the Fernleigh General Store, the family moved into the cottage on Kashawakamak Lake. Then they moved to the Church Manse in Plevna, one of the Ministry of Natural Resources and then built a house on the Buckshot Lake Road on the outskirts of Plevna where they enjoyed community life for many years.

The next owners were (Forrest) Arnold and Shirley Iva Irene (Lemke) who owned from 1970-1977. Shirley was born in 1939 on a farm up the North Road in Fernleigh in a family with 10 siblings. She worked in Crouck's Lodge and Kring's Lodge in her youth. Arnold was born in 1938 in Hamilton but at age 3 moved to Elphin. He met Shirley at Adam and Merle Lemke's wedding reception; they married in the spring of 1957. They lived in Oshawa until 1970 when they bought the store. Shirley operated the store during the week (with help from their children, Janet, Susan, David and Donna), while Arnold continued to commute from Oshawa on weekends.

One of the first changes at the store was the addition 5 or 6 campsites to form a Tent & Trailer Park behind the store for summer campers. Most of the campers came from the overflow at area parks. There were new items such as snowmobiles. Arnold had an arrangement with John Ibey for snowmobiles and bought some used ones in Ajax and resold them as well. In the fall and winter tires were a big part of the business. National Grocers supplied most things and delivered right to the door. Johnny Lockridge, the sales rep, came to the store each week and took Shirley's order. Later in the week the supplies came by truck. Arnold also bought lots of things in Oshawa. If someone asked for an item and they didn't have it in stock, Shirley would phone Arnold and he would bring it on the weekend. At Christmas time there was a lot of cheese sold, Christmas candies in bulk, and big loaves of bread made in a bakery in Oshawa (both Christmas and Easter). One of the biggest sellers in summer was Maple Leaf wax bologna and cheese. Americans bought many pounds of each.

There were a few other changes as well. The mail slots used to be at the back and they were moved to the front. Millers added a cash register and this saved incredible time to calculate taxes. In 1976 thanks to National Grocers, the Fernleigh General Store became part of the Lucky Dollar Food Chain so they could take advantage of cheaper products. Texaco gas was sold. Gas sales were really important to keep the store going through the seasons. The Department of Highways were a big customer so we opened any time in the night for them. Especially in winter when they were plowing snow, Shirley would flip the switch and they would serve themselves. Competing with gas stations was an issue because tourists might fill up in Tweed or Northbrook before they came to their cottages or lodges. An opportunity arose in 1975 for the store to get a better deal. Millers were awarded a prize from Texaco for excellent service, even a clean washroom counted. Their prize was a stay at the Four Seasons motel. Arnold addressed the issue of cheaper gas for other stations and the rep was so happy about the award that he looked into it. Arnold recalled that they ended up with cheaper gas than the other competitors.

The store was open 7 days a week, from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. and emergencies, too. Having a business all year round was a challenge. Giving credit was also a problem at times. Arnold had two jobs with long hours. When the store closed in the evenings during the winter, Arnold and Shirley enjoyed going for snowmobile trips with other community members. That was really there only break from operating the store.

In 1977 Millers sold the store to Carl and June Thompson. They lived in the area for a short time and therefore little is known about their time as store owners. A Kingston newspaper article dated August 10, 1979 provided some information when they were interviewed along with other local business owners. By 1981 the Fernleigh General Store ceased. The building was rented as residential, then sold and renovated as apartments, then sold again in 2001.

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