Grey County's Rockford Castle the only castle ever built in this region. Its existence was a testimony to the fortitude and foresight of an early citizen, Nathaniel Herriman.
This region boasts many fine old buildings, but did you know that at one time there was a castle in our midst?
Sometime, in either 1839 or 1840, depending upon the source, a wealthy American by the name of Nathaniel Herriman arrived in Grey County. He took up land on Lot 9, Concession 1, of Derby Township, in the proximity to the current community of Rockford. Many consider Herriman to have been the first settler on what would become the northern part of the Garafraxa Road (Highway #6).
Herriman soon gained the respect of the settlers who followed him to this part of Grey County. An illustration of this regard occurred around 1842 when it was learned that the Colonial Government had given its land agents orders to rescind the land agreements which had been issued to the settlers and sell the same land to other settlers. A public meeting was held in the community of Sydenham (Owen Sound). The settlers expressed outrage at the possibility that they could lose the land which they were developing. A decision was made to fight this decree. The settlers voted to send Herriman to deliver a memorial opposing these plans to the government. The result of this action led to the Colonial Government deciding not to carry out their decree and instead, leave the land in the hands of the current owners.
At first, Herriman built and resided in a log cabin on his property. But in 1855, when he had developed his land and was achieving some success, he built a newer and larger home. His new residence was made of stone and was named Rockford Castle. He had this name engraved in large letters in the stone on the front of the building. For many years Rockford Castle was an imposing landmark for travellers going to and from the Owen Sound region.
Unfortunately, fire consumed part of the grandiose edifice. Herriman had his castle rebuilt, this time using brick. Early records report that despite efforts to maintain the elegance of the castle the brick somehow did not reflect the majesty of the stonework on the original building.
The area around Rockford Castle became known for the number of taverns in the area, with five establishments within two miles of each other. One of these inns was known as the Rising Sun and it was here that perhaps the first dentistry was performed in the area.
According to legend, one of the settlers had a bad toothache and wanted to get the tooth removed. Another man offered to take it out. This amateur dentist took a new harrow pin and placed it against the offending tooth. Then he struck the pin with the broad side of an axe. The result was immediate. The tooth flew across the room and landed on the floor.
Such immediate success probably led to a round of "good cheer" for all of the patrons, who witnessed the "dental surgery.”
Today, Rockford Castle is gone, and the taverns have disappeared, but the community of Rockford remains as it was when Nathaniel Herriman arrived 160 years ago, the last stop before Owen Sound on the Garafraxa Road.
The information used in this article came from several early editions of the Sun Times and from the memoirs of A.M. Stephens.
The original version of "Rockford Castle of Grey County" first appeared in my Local History column in the Friday, September 29, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.