Ferris is on Interstate Highway 45, U.S. Highway 75, and Farm roads 660, 664, and 983 fifteen miles northeast of Waxahachie in northeastern Ellis County. It was named for Judge Justus W. Ferris of Waxahachie, a county business and civic leader. The community's establishment was associated with the construction of the Houston and Texas Central Railway in 1874. Railroad employees surveyed and laid out the settlement on land donated by the McKnight family, pioneers who had arrived in the early 1850s. Attracted by the region's fertile soil and the commercial possibilities offered by the railroad, settlers began moving into Ferris at once. A general store and a post office began operation in 1874. Within ten years the town had a population of 300, gristmills, cotton gins, four churches, and schools. In 1892 Ferris was incorporated, and its 350 residents supported some twenty businesses in addition to a number of cotton gins and hotels.
Ferris grew until the 1920s. In 1904 it had a population of 901 and in 1910, 1,233. Before World War I the Ferris Brick Company and various other brick-manufacturing firms took advantage of the mineral clays found in the soils of the area and provided Ferris with a lasting industry. By 1914 some fifty business establishments, including six brick plants, a broom factory, and a weekly newspaper operated in Ferris. The town's population stood at 1,586 in 1925.
During the 1930s and 1940s, no doubt due to the dislocations resulting from the Great Depression and World War II, Ferris declined slightly, to 1,436 people and thirty businesses by 1945. Its population rose from 1,734 in 1952 to 1,807 in 1964; the number of operating businesses decreased from sixty-eight to forty-six. Known locally as the "brick capital of the nation," Ferris had four brick plants during the 1950s. The population grew in the 1980s from 2,180 to 2,228, although businesses continued to decrease in number. Agriculture and brickmaking continued to dominate the local economy. No doubt the town's proximity to the Dallas metropolitan area played some part in its growth. In 1990 the population was 2,212 and in 2000 it was 2,175.