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Mount Pleasant

July 20, 2023

Mount Pleasant from Above, June 2023

By Guy Scott

Cavan Township lies directly west of Peterborough and south of Emily Township in Victoria County. The township has a unique history. Many of the earliest settlers in the Kinmount area hailed from Cavan Township. The township was originally part of Durham County, but in the 1970s, it was allowed to join Peterborough County as part of municipal re-alignment. Manvers Township also left Durham to join Victoria County at the same time. Cavan township is chock full of small villages and hamlets, with interesting histories.

The township received its first settlers in 1819 and by 1860 was basically “full,” forcing future generations to seek land elsewhere, especially to the north in Haliburton. The township has 2 main arterial roads: the Port Hope-Peterborough pioneer road (now Highway 28) and the “centre line” road that ran north-south up the middle of the township. These 2 roads dictated the placement of the villages of Cavan.

Mount Pleasant in the northernmost hamlet in the township, just south of the Emily Township boundary. Earliest settlers poured into the area in the early 1820s. They were part of a planned migration of Northern Irish settlers (Ulstermen) who left a rather crowded Ireland to seek their fortunes in Upper Canada. The Peter Robinson emigration happened at the same time for Southern Irish and settled around Peterborough as well. While most of the settlers were farmers, many of the Cavan contingent were ambitious merchants and businessmen. They built a whole series of mills on the small streams that flowed through the rolling countryside. These mills were primarily saw a grist mills, but woollen mills were also a going concern. At its peak in the 1870s, Cavan township contained 27 mills in operation. Around these mills, villages began to sprout as commercial activity increased. The largest village in the township, Millbrook, was home to no fewer than 8 water-powered mills on the same stream.

Mount Pleasant grew up around Foster’s Creek, a small tributary of Jackson’s Creek in the Cavan Swamp. At least 5 mills were clustered in the valley below the hill. As the economy of the area grew, the hamlet on the hill was ticketed for big things. In 1850, a townsite was surveyed. Many wanted to call the new hamlet Rosetown, but the appealing Mount Pleasant was chosen instead. This name is very common all over Ontario, but the north Cavan village was the official “Mount Pleasant” according to Canada Post.

The little village prospered during the late 1800s, when it reached a peak population of 250. It was a stop on the road to Omemee and points north. It always contained at least one blacksmith and hotel. The village also had an industrial base. It contained a large foundry for making farm machinery as well as a tannery for making leather products. Besides its many mills, the village was also home to a cheese factory.

So important was the village, it had a resident doctor until 1905. The village contained several stores, churches, a school and branches of the Orange Lodge, Canadian Order of Foresters, Order of the Good Templars, a Women’s Institute Branch and a library. It looked as if Mount Pleasant was destined for a prominent place among local villages.

But alas, it was not meant to be. While a railroad passed within a few miles of the village, it never had its own station. Industry grew in the neighbouring centres of Peterborough, Omemee and Millbrook to the detriment of Mount Pleasant. The mills all closed, the foundry went out of business and Mount Pleasant became a sleepy crossroads hamlet.

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