August 10, 2023
Cavan from the Air, June 2023
By Guy Scott
The Towwnship of Cavan had two main road arteries: Highway #28 or the Port Hope-Peterborough Road on its eastern boundary and the Centre Line Road running north-south up the middle of the township (now Peterborough County Road #10). The earliest villages were situated on these two lines and have continued to this day.
Cavan or Cavanville was located on the Centre Line at approximately the middle of the township. For years, Cavanville and Millbrook duelled to become the township ‘seat’ or main village of the township. Situated strategically on Cavan Creek, Cavanville was home to 4 mills in the pioneer period. The creek powered Taggert’s sawmill; Scott’s grist mill; Douglas Brothers woollen and carding mill; and Janes’ veneer mill and basket factory. Most of the operations were small and eventually disappeared as industry moved to larger centres such as Millbrook (just down the road) or Peterborough.
Of course the village contained at least two hotels and several blacksmiths to handle traffic on the Centre Line. Several general stores, churches and a school were a prerequisite of any pioneer hamlet and Cavanville was no exception. But the thriving village also hosted a cheese factory and a carriage factory. In the late 1800s, the village was nicknamed “Tinney Town” after the Tinney family who operated a substantial manufacturing complex that produced carriages and agricultural implements. At its peak, the factory had 12 employees.
A common complaint of many early, pioneer communities was poor transportation. Pioneer roads were notoriously rough, and in the age before railways, water transport was the only answer. As early as 1831, the residents of Cavanville held a series of meetings about the possibility of fitting out Cavan Creek as a canal leading to Rice Lake, about 8 miles away. One optimistic ‘expert’ predicted the dream could become a reality for a mere 150 pounds.
Shares were actually offered for sale in the area and in 1833 a tender was issued to build said canal. Nothing happened and the scheme disappeared into history. By 1856, rival Millbrook had a railway connection and Cavanville lost its bid to be the ‘township seat.’ The village did get its own railway station in 1885, but by then Millbrook had superseded the village. Cavanville gradually declined as an industrial town and became a sleepy crossroads village. Today it is the intersection of Centre Line and Highway #7b with a few small stores and a big history.