Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman 

Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.


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In 1953 a house near Rockford was put up for sale. The asking price was $3500. Neither the price nor the fact that a house was for sale in Rockford 47 years ago is great historical news. But this was not any house. It had once been a castle!

No one knows for sure when the castle was built, but some sources suggest that it was erected around 1855. There were versions of the castle. The one that was for sale in 1953 was the second version, made of the more conventional materials, bricks and mortar. The first was made from stone much like the castles of Britain. 

One would think that such a structure had originally been erected by an immigrant from the British Isles where castles were a common part of the landscape. However, that is not the case with the Rockford Castle. Its builder was one of Grey County's unique characters, a man by the name of Nathaniel Herriman, who was one of the first settlers in Grey County. Herriman was from the American Midwest. 

Rockford Castle Provided Rooms and Refreshments to Travellers. 

Herriman settled in Grey County in 1839 and he ultimately came to own much of the land along what is now the Owen Sound By-Pass from Rockford to the intersection west of the Inglis Falls road. Around the time that Rockford Castle was erected Grey County was being opened for settlement and the Garafraxa Road (now Highway #6) was a busy thoroughfare for both newcomers making their way to establish homes in the area and others carrying their produce to markets. 

Herriman was active in public life in the region, but he was also known as a bit of a unique character. After he built Rockford Castle, he built a coffin! Each afternoon he would climb into the coffin and take a nap! Some said that he chose this place of rest because he was too lazy to climb the stairs to one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Others said he was just trying to get a feel for his final resting place! 

It was reported that he was a wealthy man and after he did pass away there were many searches of the castle trying to find where he had stashed his gold. A 1953 article in the Sun Times suggested that it might still be somewhere on the property. Whether this was reported to help the owners sell the building in 1953 or just another attempt to further the myth of Nathaniel Herriman's idiosyncrasies we will never know! 

Nathaniel Herriman's son, Isaac, operated the mill at Inglis Falls for many years. But his two sons left the area and earned quite a reputation for themselves in gambling circles. Russ Herriman owned a gambling house in Denver, Colorado. 

His brother, Morgan, was reputed to be the finest poker player in North America. His reputation was such that it was said that he used travel on boats between New York and Europe playing high-stakes poker. 

It was reported that Morgan was so adept at poker that he was hired by millionaires to play on their behalf. These wealthy individuals rewarded Morgan by splitting his winnings equally with him. 

Nathaniel Herriman was one colourful and unique characters that can be found researching the history of Grey County. This week his mark on the rich history of the region came to the fore once again. A land title search reveals that the land donated by Barry More,and his family, for the county's new heritage centre was once owned by Nathaniel Herriman!

A version of this article originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on November 10, 2000.

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Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.

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