This year marks the bi-centennial of the arrival of the man known as Cavan Township’s first settler, John Deyell. He had a long and remarkable life, one well worth celebrating, and he left his mark.
Born in Drum, County Monaghan in Ireland in 1775, John Deyell’s first experience of Canada was in 1812 when he fought under General Brock against the Americans at Queenston Heights. He was back in Europe to serve under the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but soon after was en route to Canada again, this time with his wife Margaret Lancashire and son William. Some accounts note that he and his family were the first settlers in what is now Cavan Monaghan Township, arriving in 1816. He settled his family on Lot 23, Concession 3 on County Road 28, at the southern edge of what is now South Monaghan hamlet; remarkably the house is still there and in good condition.
Exhibiting extraordinary energy and considerable vision, John Deyell assisted in the first survey of the area and is credited with naming Cavan and Monaghan Townships in honour of his birthplace. Since his land is situated on the west side of County Road 28, it is thought that a clerical error was made somewhere in the registration process and the names switched as he likely wanted to name the township he had settled in after his home county in Ireland. However, the names stuck.
John Deyell established the first lodging house between Port Hope and Peterborough on his property in Centreville (now South Monaghan). Over the door of his inn was the motto “Live and Let Live”.
He donated an acre of his land for the first schoolhouse in the township, and later moved the school west along what is now Zion Line so that Centreville Presbyterian Church could be built. The adjacent cemetery was established where the school playground had been.
An industrious farmer, John Deyell is said to have carried his own grain all the way to Port Hope on foot to be milled. Recognizing the need for a mill close by and seeing an ideal location on Baxter Creek, in the early 1820s, he built the township’s first grist mill, where Needler’s Mill stands today.
His energy and enterprising spirit comes through in a family tale. For his five sons to prosper, he determined that he should settle four of them in neighbouring townships (and one in Millbrook), and with this in mind he was negotiating a deal for the purchase of land near Fowler’s Corners. He was aware that one of his neighbours was also interested in this land and, as he looked down the road one morning, he spotted that neighbour heading north. Suspecting that he had little time to close the deal, John Deyell set off on foot and arrived in time to secure the land. It is said a Deyell lives there to this day.
John Deyell lived to be 103 years old, and according to his great granddaughter, Mary Sloane Eakins, because his disposition was so in tune with the broad-minded motto that hung for so long above his door, he was known as “Old Live and Let Live Deyell”.
by Celia Hunter