"CAVAN, an inland county in the extreme S. of the province of Ulster, Ireland, bounded on the N. by the county of Fermanagh, on the S. by Westmeath, on the E. and N.E. by Monaghan, and on the W. by Leitrim. According to Ptolemy, it was once the seat of the Erdini, or Erneigh in the Irish language, and traces of this name are still preserved in Lough Erne, and the river Erne. This district also formed part of the ancient principality of Breifne, which was divided into the two principalities of the upper or East Breifne, and lower or West Breifne; the latter being composed of the county of Leitrim, the former almost wholly of that of Cavan. It is celebrated, in the history of the wars in Ireland, for the fastnesses formed by its woods, lakes, and bogs, which long secured the independence of its native possessors. It was made shire-ground by Sir John Perrot, Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1584, and the whole county divided into baronies, two being assigned to Sir John O'Reilly, then chief lord of the country, free of contributions, and three to other members of the O'Reilly family. In the early part of the reign of James I., in consequence of the flight of the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, and the rebellion of O'Dogherty and others, Cavan, and five other counties were forfeited to the crown, when the king determined on the general plantation of Ulster by loyal English and Scotch colonists. Castles were then built, and the foundations of towns and of numerous villages wore laid. The principal settlers were Hamiltons, Auchmutios, and Bailies from Scotland; Lamberts, Parsons, Ridgeways, and Butlers from England; and of the reinstated Irish the chief were O'Reillys. The extreme length of the county is 51 miles, extreme breadth 28 miles, although throughout one half of its length it does not exceed an average of 6 to 8 miles. Cavan is divided into eight baronies, viz.: Castlerahan, Clonmahon, Clonkee, Upper and Lower Loughtee, Tullygarrey, Tullyhunco, and Tullyhaw, and contains 746 square miles, or 477,360 acres, of which 375,473 acres are arable, 71,918 uncultivated, bog, mountain, &c., and 7,325 in plantation. The population of the county in 1861 was 153,972 against 174,064 in 1851, showing a decrease in the decennial period of 20,092, or 11.54 per cent. The great bulk of the population, who are distributed into 29,813 families, and occupy 28,129 houses, are Roman Catholics, as shown by the government returns, viz. 123,825 Roman Catholics, 23,187 Established Church, 5,536 Presbyterians, 1,319 Methodists, 34 Society of Friends, and 71 of other persuasions. About 76 per cent. of the population live by agriculture, 20 per cent. by manufacture and trade, the remainder are independent or in professions. Cavan contains 30 parishes, besides parts of seven others. It is in the diocese of Meath, Ardagh, and Kilmore, and in the ecclesiastical province of Armagh. It contains the disfranchised borough and market towns of Cavan and Belturbet; the market and post towns of Arvagh, Bailieborough, Ballyconnell, Ballyhaise, Ballyjamesduff, Cootehill, Killeshandara, Kingscourt, Stradone, and Virginia; the market towns of Ballinagh and Shercock; the post towns of Crossdoney, Mount-Nugont, and Scrabby; the modern and flourishing town of Mullagh; and the villages of Butlersbridge and Swanlinbar. Cavan, prior to the Union, used to send six members to the Irish parliament, but since it only returns two representatives to the imperial parliament. The county members are elected at Cavan, where the assizes are held, and in which town are the county courthouse and gaol. Quarter sessions are held at Cavan, Bailieborough, Ballyconnell, and Cootehill; at the three last-named towns are a sessions-house and bridewell. There are also 4 fever hospitals and 21 dispensaries, besides a county infirmary. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant and 10 deputy lieutenants, with about 85 magistrates; it has 23 constabulary stations. Cavan is in the N.W. circuit, and in the N. military district, with stations, at Arvagh, Ballyconnell, and Killeshandara, affording accommodation for about 300 officers and men, and 100 horses. There are two savings-banks; 158 National schools, with upwards of 16,000 children attending; 51.9 per cent. of the people in 1841 could neither read nor write. Cavan is uneven, something like Anglesey, forming an irregular oval, and mountains of considerable height rise at its north-western extremity. Cuilcagh, the highest point, rises 2,188 feet above the level of the sea, and forms, with the remainder of the Ballynageragh mountains, the southern boundary of the basin of Lough Erne. Some of the lakes, which are numerous though small, cover many hundred acres, and all abound with fish. The soil for the most part is a poor brown clay. Coal, iron, copper, lead, and other minerals are found; and there are numerous mineral springs, those of Swanlinbar and Derrylister being the most celebrated, the waters of which are alterative and diaphoretic. At Legnagrove and Dowra the springs contain sulphur and purging salt, and are used in nervous diseases. The well at Owen Breun, the waters of Carrickmore, and a pool in the mountains of Loughlinlea, between Bailieborough and Kingscourt, have also medicinal properties. Agriculture is in a very backward state in the county, though much improved within the last twenty years, before which period the plough was scarcely known, most of the labour having been performed with the spade. The chief crops are oats, potatoes, and turnips, though in some districts flax and wheat are grown. The average size of farms is small, and the buildings are mean, the fences of stone; labour about 1s. per day. Linen is the chief manufacture, though the quantity made is much less than formerly, the linen district being now confined to the country about Cootehill, in the N. of the county. The old flax-mills and bleach-greens, formerly connected with the manufacture, are converted to other purposes. There are comparatively few antiquities in Cavan: the chief are Clonghoughter Castle; a round tower at Drumlane, where an abbey used to be; and Holy Trinity priory, in Lough Oughter, near to Kilmore. In 1716 fossil elephants' teeth, weighing 2 lb. 6oz. each, were found in the bogs. The district between Fermanagh and Leitrim was, at the commencement of this century, inhabited by a primitive race of MacGawrens and Dolans, who intermarried and observed some peculiar customs, electing their own king and queen, to whom implicit obedience was paid, but these customs are now fast disappearing. Marquis Headford has a seat at Virginia Park, Lord Farnham at Farnham, Saunderson at Castle Saunderson, &c. In 1617 Sir Oliver Lambert was created Baron of Cavan, which title was raised to an earldom in favour of his son Charles, by whose descendants it is still enjoyed."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018