Frontier Ranch – An Arnprior Story

When I was 11 and 12 years old, my parents sent me to Frontier Ranch two summers in a row for a 2 week camp holiday.  Frontier Ranch was a western cowboy camp where we learned to ride real horses and sing Koombia around a camp fire. Located on 400 acres of land on Loney Lake near Arnprior, in its heyday, Frontier Ranch had 120 brood mares and three stallions, any boy’s dream.

It was run by Lyle and Florence Jeffrey.  It was a real Christian camp, the Jeffrey’s being Baptists, were very serious about their faith.  Florence grew up in Westboro, and at 15 left high school to look after her mother.  When she was 16, Florence began working as an inspector at Modern Containers. At 20 she married Lyle Jeffery, a man she had met when she was 15.  Before the birth of their second child, Lyle enlisted in the Navy. Serving in the North Atlantic, he was gone two years.

When Lyle returned from the war, he created a line of suitcases called Jeff Flite out of the basement of their Ottawa home. Recognizing a promising and growing business for Arnprior, Mayor Bob Simpson invited Lyle to build a luggage plant. Jeffrey Luggage Ltd. was built on McNab Street, and the business grew to employ 23 people.  Following a family trip to the Calgary Stampede, Florence and Lyle decided to create a Christian ranch camp for children. In 1957 they bought wooded land on Loney Lake, and opened the ranch in 1958.  Lyle, who was such a resolute Christian that he thought nothing of telling off strangers if they took the Lord’s name in vain. Mostly, people apologized, but a few snarled back and, once, it earned him a bop in the chin.

My mother was connected with the Ottawa Presbyterian church community and must have heard about Frontier Ranch.  So off I was sent for a week in 1961.  Well after getting over my fear of horses, I learned to ride and quite fell in love with “Black Sambo”.  Black Sambo was a smaller gentler horse that did not try to rub your legs off on the fence posts nor take your head off by running under low hanging branches.  I made some new friends and liked the food and crafts.  When my parents came to pick me up I pleaded to be allowed to stay a 2nd week, and they let me.

The next summer I came back for a 2nd stint.  On the first day I think it was, I was swimming to the raft in the lake with a new friend.  He started to struggle and when I went to help him he pulled me under.  I thought I was going to drown.  One of the Jeffrey boys came to our rescue and properly grabbed my friend from the back of his body and pulled him to safety.  I was very shaken by this.  Another time I was in the motor boat and who ever was driving (I think it was one of the Jeffrey boys again) made a series of sharp turns.  The motor fell right off the boat and sank to the bottom of the lake. Well, that was an adventure too that I will never forget.  I can still hear the gurgling sound the motor made as if disappeared below the boat. Ha!

I learned a lot about my fears at Frontier Ranch and also how to overcome them.  It was a tremendous experience the county side was extraordinary.  I can still see those circular low growing juniper bushes and the horse trail that ran through them.  One of my childhood experiences I will never forget.  The irony is now I am living in Arnprior, not too far from where all this growing up occurred.

The following article about Frontier Ranch appeared in the Canadian Weekly in June 1962, the Toronto Star weekly magazine Scan0034

I am also indebted to a February 2014 article in the Arnprior Chronicle-Guide about Florence Jeffrey:

http://www.insideottawavalley.com/opinion-story/4354533-tales-from-island-view-florence-jeffrey-has-enjoyed-a-fulfilling-life/

Finally, one of the Jeffrey boys – David who I must have met – went on to become a famous professor at Baylor Univeristy in Waco, TX.  Here is his story worth reading:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/observer/story.html?id=ac36c9bd-0b96-4915-a575-d3b4444246ff

In the moment, I am very grateful for everything Lyle and Florence Jeffrey did for me and for my friends.  I still love you Black Sambo.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Frontier Ranch – An Arnprior Story

  1. I too attended Frontier Ranch as a young girl in 1969 and 1970. It was the first time I had ever been away from home and the best thing for me. You see I came from a Very Violent Home and it was such a reality check to me to learn that what I had been living in was not healthy or the “Norm”. This lead me to get a degree in Psychology later on in life. It was a life changing experience in many ways.
    I wish that I still had some pictures of us from back then. I think I would have stayed all summer if I could have.
    I am so happy that I found this site. Thank you for writing this article.

    Yours Truly,
    Roberta F. Simpson
    AKA: Robbie
    Rfs7@telus.net

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments Roberta. I guess we all learned some life lessons at Frontier Ranch. Glad to hear the experience helped you to right your life after some difficult times.

      Best,

      Dave

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  2. Donna leigh-Smith

    I went to Arnprior today and remembered that I had attended camp there in 1964 and 1965. It was a wonderful experience for the most part. There were some negatives. One of the horses came in from the range and died a few days later from rabies. All of us who had tried to help care for him had to get rubie shots. Scary and painful. I remember being afraid of the water snakes in the lake. My brother went there for two weeks before me and when he got home my mother was furious because the only thing that had been unpacked from his suitcase was his swim suit.
    I loved the horses especially Fury and I had a huge cruse on our trail leader, Grant. I met several friends who I kept in contact with for years. I also learned how to shoot a bow and arrow and excelled in target shooting. Can’t believe how the time has passed. Happy memories. Donna leigh-Smith

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  3. Donna, thanks for you comments and stories of Frontier Ranch memories. I did not realize they had girls camp groups there too. I think Grant was one of the Jeffries boys. Best regards,

    Dave

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  4. Linda d

    Hi for some reason I just looked up frontier ranch today and read about Florence Jeffery in arnprior. Yes there were girls camps and I was recruited by my minister at16 yrs old to go work as a camp counsellor. I was from almonte and live not too far away now with my husband. I took him up there a number of years ago now that it is private property and asked if I could see what remains of the camp. What a wonderful couple of summers where I was able to know a side of life of families where children did. Of have the stability and love that I still enjoy with my elderly parents still. As a Christian I was able to share the reality and hope that comes from the living Christ. Did not make much money I recall about $300 for about 8 weeks of 24/7 work with 8 girls at either girls camps or coops. Ages 6/7 to teens and fortunate to work myself up to the teens whose ringtail leader from my town would “allow me to sleep” while she took her camp mates to the “can” for a cooling wash down but I went all over the camp( there were bears and other typical outdoor wildlife so I was very glad to find they did not at least head over the lake to a boys camp as it was a girls camp that week. Vivian you know who you are! Ha ha. Anyhow the dedication of all the incredible stories efforts food and wok done by the Jeffery’s was a class act and gave a chance to let children and all of us to get near the creation and ponder the creator whom loves us as no one else. My fellow leaders had lots of fun on off days to sleep under the stars with our horses tied up on the hilltop by the lake and our heads on our saddles. We had our specialities and loved to help each other learn from one another. For me that meant I finally
    Earned to do proper swim strokes. What fun at the water crafts whic I lead singing skits riding. Dear Jill j was the first person I met there when I drove up the long and lonely lane. She was about 12 yrs old and I enjoyed my lil sister hanging out with me playing guitar etc would love to see some of the folks from there. I know it meant a lot to kids with whom I wrote to have support all year long. Get in touch if you were if you were there around 1975 I would be happy to hear from you Linda (More) Dryer

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Linda for your wonderful stream of memories about Frontier Ranch. I can still smell those horses and taste that hot chocolate too. I believe Jill J lives in Arnprior though I have not met her. Life was somehow simpler back then. “What would Christ do?” was a question I would ask myself back then when I was growing up. However those thoughts got crowded with school, career and family … for many years. It is only since retirement that I have had the time to reconnect with some foundational Christian experiences I had in my youth. The Jeffreys were sure one of them. So glad you had them too and are still strong in your Faith today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson

    Dear Frontier friends — Last week Hunda (Florence Jeffrey) passed away. She’s been ready to join Chief for some time now, so we are glad that the time is come, although she will be greatly missed. She was in her 98th year! There will be a visitation at Pilon’s Funeral Home in Arnprior on Friday Jan 20th (7-9pm), and the funeral will be at Glad Tidings Church in Arnprior on Sat Jan 21st. All are very welcome (lunch reception afterwards), and please do pass on the news to other old campers/staffers/etc with whom you may be in touch.
    http://pilonfamily.ca/tribute/details/1278/Florence-Lucy-Jeffrey/obituary.html#tribute-start
    Blessings to all, Kirstin (eldest of the grandaughters, Bruce’s sister, David’s daughter.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol Maloney

    I went to this Ranch sometime between 1975-79. I went three or four times. I had a blast. I loved horses and that’s one of the places I hung around a lot. Not sure if they still do, but we would stand on our deck of the cabin and the horses would be let loose and they would run to coral and stand in their stops waiting to be tied. Loved it> Loved singing on Sundays . Inspired me to have horses and I have three. One is 22 and had him since a baby.

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  7. Tom Baugh

    I attended Frontier Ranch for many summers during the mid to late 70’s,usually for 4 weeks.I was told that I had to raise my own money if I was to stay for more then 2 weeks!! My first counselor was Revin Kevin, what a great guy.It was quite a bus ride to do the winter reunions.I was living in Montreal,so the voyageur bus to Ottawa downtown then a cab to Bells Corners to get the bus ride to the camp.I have many fond memories and still remember a lot of stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tom baugh

    Actually the 417 was a full 2 lanes but only to Ottawa ,from there it was brutal one lane each way.Ususall ymom drove me but I remember my dad taking me one time and cursing as we tried to get there on time one sunday . Knowing full well he had the long drive home alone after dropping me off.

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  9. Funny. I was thinking about this camp today and looked it up and came across this blog. I have never forgotten it. I went to Frontier Ranch for 2 weeks in 1972 or 73 – girls. My horse or the one I fell in love with anyways was named Miss Bee. I didn’t want to do anything else there but hang out with her and where the horses were lol. There were quite a few foals/yearlings there at the time too. I went in the corralled area with them to pet them and just be with them. I remember someone saying not to do that or I might get kicked. She was right – I got kicked – but I took it like it didn’t happen. Said it didn’t hurt ( probably showing off) I didn’t care, I just wanted to be around and with the horses – that’s all. I remember a blondish haired girl/woman /camp Councillor. She called herself Pokey and lived in Nepean/Ottawa. She played guitar around the camp fire while we roasted marshmallows. We / the group sang Koombiah in such wonderful harmony. There was another song she played too that I liked even more – but at the moment I’m forgetting what it was. I remember staying in a long dark brown cabin ( it seemed long at 11-12 yrs old) with a long porch that was divided into separate rooms with their own doors.6 or 8 girls per cabin room if I recall correctly on bunks with the group Councillor sleeping in the middle on a cot I think. Pretty sure our room was called the Blackfoot or it was the whole cabin building itself that was called that…A few of us washed our hair in the rain off the corner of that porch roof. It was the first time I had ever done that. I have 3 pictures of me there at that time. One with the foals/yearlings – one with Miss Bee and one with part of my family when they picked me up. Oh! and I have one when I was getting ready to leave my home in Nepean to go there.. I’m so glad that after all these years I still have them. I’ll never forget it.

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  10. Michelle Holmes

    I have very fond memories of attending Frontier Ranch, and remember Chief and Hunda very well. I attended 2 summers in a row, 1972 and 1973, and also attended one or 2 weekends that they had in the winter (?). Had great times there. I wonder who got the home made videos that were taken? I remember we went to take apart a beaver dam one year, and there is a home movie of us destroying it and me smearing mud on someone.

    Liked by 1 person

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