Skip to content

1 Comment

  1. Doug Hunter
    August 15, 2019 @ 11:48 am

    Hi Ellery; Thought I’d add my two cents worth to your article on the Devil’s Door Road. Such great memories there! The derivation of this quaint designation for a back country road stirred my curiosity when I was researching my Dickey ancestors, of which I count 33, buried in the old Yonge Mills cemetery. The first Dickey in Yonge Mills was John Dickey a poet and preacher from Donegore, Northern Ireland. He married Jane Purvis, the daughter of UEL Peter Purvis, the largest landowner in the area. Old Peter set the married couple up on a parcel of land that was identified as Lot 7, Concession III of Yonge Township. This parcel of land abutted the road that came to be known as the Devil’s Door Road. John Dickey himself may have been the one who coined the name. For a while he appears to be the only homesteader living on this northward leading road that was blazed out of the virgin forest, and accordingly may have claimed the rights to naming it. John, a protege of the pioneer Presbyterian circuit rider, William Smart, was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, and an interest and knowledge of Medieval Church History is what may have lead John to name the road as he did. The religious connotation has it’s roots in church building practices going back to Medieval England. In those days the door that faced north was called the Devil’s Door. So if you take note of the old church that faces the Devil’s Door road you will observe that the entryway door faces north, directly opposite the Road. Peter Purvis himself bequeathed the property on which the church and surrounding cemetery stands in 1836. The Church was erected the year after of local fieldstone with white pine pews and pulpit. To the medieval mind the devil was a very real presence, and it was believed that he dwelt in the souls of the unbaptized child. Consequently , at the point of the child’s baptism, the devil was deemed to have been cast out, and the north side door was constructed as an exit for the retreating devil. (That is one of the explanations for the designation). Generally the entryway doors of Medieval churches were constructed to face south, possibly facing towards Rome. Obviously there was no “Popish” southward facing door on the Yonge Mills Church, only the one facing the main east-west road from Lyn. What great fun to our fertile children’s imagination to believe that a devil did in fact reside on that old bush road on Arthur Ladd’s old mail route.
    P.S. My dad took over that mail route some time after Arthur gave it up, and I travelled that road many times helping him deliver the mail. There were only a few mail boxes – mostly bush and rocks along that road, -never did get to see the devil.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *