Skip to content

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Stella Fullerton’s Canadian lineage

She traces her Canadian heritage back to 1906

By Joy Davis

Canada was a young country of just 53 years when Stella Ford Davis Fullerton was born at Kings Daughters Hospital in Duncan on Oct. 4, 1920, 100 years ago. She traces her Canadian heritage back to 1906 when Canada was 39 years old years old, 114 years ago.

Douglas Ford left England in March 1906 with his brother Jack and their sister’s fiancé Harry Saunders, arriving in Saint John, New Brunswick. They travelled across Canada by train, stopping in Sintalula, Saskatchewan where he worked on a farm before buying another train ticket to the coast for $25. Douglas found a job in Vancouver working for the BC Electric Railway Company building a tram to New Westminster. He purchased property on Grand Avenue in North Vancouver, describing it as “one of the most magnificent views on earth.” The great big trees were four and five feet in diameter. He chose a lot marked with ticket 799 on the tree. The ferry to North Vancouver was 20 cents return and he took his 22 rifle along with him. He was paying $1.50 a week for a room and purchased pears and apples for eight for five cents. Walking in Stanley Park he saw a coyote, monkeys, bears and a pair of buffalos and all sorts of birds. Douglas started working for the city making roads and earning 28 cents per hour.

Douglas paid $2.50 for the fare on the SS Princess Victoria from Vancouver for the five-hour trip to Victoria. He looked at real estate in North Saanich.

In 1907 Douglas Ford’s parents James and Mary Ford, and sisters immigrated from England and Douglas and his father travelled on the Charmer to Vancouver Island. They bought a ticket for $2.40 return, travelling on the E&N railway to Duncan’s where they looked at two farms; they purchased a 50-acre farm on Norcross Road for $3,450.

James Ford divided his land between his family who came to Canada. This land is where Jim Pattison Toyota is now situated. The farm was the next farm over from the Boyd Wallis (formerly James Norcross) farm that Roland Thorpe was working at this time.

Roland Thorpe was 17 when he left his position of second footman at the Sotheby’s Ecton Hall Northampton Estate for Canada in 1906. Previously he had been in service at Graylands another Downton Abby type of position. His former mistress at Graylands wrote asking Roland if he would like to move to Canada (the Colonies) to work for her eldest son, Boyd Wallis on his 100-acre farm also named Graylands. Roland wrote “the trip up the E&N railway seen for the first time I considered it even more beautiful that the wonderful Rockies.” Roland worked as a “mud pup” (a young farmer working the land) on the Norcross Road farm bordering Somenos Lake in Somenos, Duncan’s.

Roland helped plant more than 1,000 fruit trees on the farm and possibly the apple tree hanging over the fence where Stella lives now, more than 100 years later.

Roland Thorpe was working for Charles Bazett on Craig Street across from the Cowichan Merchants Building at the time it burnt in November, 1911. Later he opened Thorpe Furniture and auctioneer, which he operated in various downtown Duncan locations over many years.

With Roland’s enthusiasm for the new country, his father Alfred moved to Duncan’s, followed by his wife and second family, Doris, Clem and Alec in 1911. They sailed on the R.M.S. Megantic, five months before the R.M.S Titanic sank. Both these ships were operated by the White Star Line. The R.M.S Titanic was the next ship to leave following the R.M.S. Megantic.

Douglas Ford met Roland’s sister Doris Thorpe. Doris was said to be the “prettiest girl in town.” Douglas and Doris were married at the Alderlea Methodist Church and on their honeymoon, they travelled to Vancouver, visiting Stanley Park, and continued to Cloverdale to the end of the tramline.

Douglas built on the property his father had given him. It was a modest home that Douglas built for his new bride in 1913. It was a big improvement to the tent they lived in until the house was finished enough for them to move into. The Douglas Ford family raised their five children, of which Stella was the middle child. They lived in the midst of their old growth forest acreage on Bell-McKinnon Road two miles north of Duncan in Somenos. In 1920 the population of Somenos was 500, a land district of approximately 25 square miles.

Before the Island highway was routed through Duncan, Bell-McKinnon Road went all the way to Duncan joining up with Canada Avenue. The road was lower along the Somenos Flats, and when the road would flood over, the Ford family would have to walk along the railway tracks to get to town. Bell-McKinnon was gravel and narrower back then. Bells lived at the north end and McKinnons lived in Duncan at the south end, which is how the road got its name.

Prior to 1950, when the new Island Highway opened in Duncan, a couple acres of Douglas Ford’s land was expropriated for the new highway. They received $25 and a metal gate — a gate they wouldn’t have needed if the highway didn’t go through their property. Douglas also received $200 extra compensation, because his well was in the middle of the highway, and he had to hand dig a new well. Their property also included land on the other side of the highway. The house that Douglas Ford built is still standing in 2020.

Stella Ford married Victor Davis and they raised their children, Brian and Joy, on 10 acres two miles further north on Bell-McKinnon Road. Stella has lived most of her life in this area. At one time Stella was employed at C & R Motors, a Toyota dealer situated on her grandfather’s former property.

Always loving the area, Stella and her husband James Fullerton purchased a house on Norcross Road less than half a mile from where she grew up. She lives on the same road that her ancestors from both sides of her family came out from England to work on, or bought and settled on. It is a portion of the property which her Uncle Roland Thorpe came out from England to work on and where he planted an apple orchard.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Pop-up banner image