Watson’s Mill

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When I first came to Canada, I used to laugh at what locals considered “historic”. These stores boasting to have been in business for a mere twenty years and these “old” buildings dating back to the 1950s didn’t exactly impress me. The apartment I grew up in in France was at least a century older!

This is where living in the “new world” takes on new meaning.

This is not to say that there aren’t interesting pieces of history in the region—Watson’s Mill is one example, and it’s actually pretty old, dating back to 1860.

Watson’s Mill can be found in Manotick, about 25 km from Ottawa. The local landmark, located on the banks of the Rideau River, on Dickinson Square,  is one of the few remaining operating gristmills in Ontario and it is open to the public.

From the outside, it doesn’t seem that big. It’s a fairly non-descript limestone building facing the Rideau River and Long Island Locks.

Once you step inside, the smell of old wood is unmissable. It reminded me of many hostels in Latin America: dust, wood and humidity. Flour and feed were being milled and the old machinery—turbines, milestones, hopper, grain elevators, garner bon, bolter, seed cleaner, and feed grinder—was working all full speed, still in working order.

Like most historical locations, Watson’s Mill is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Ann Crosby Currier, the second wife of the part-time owner of the mill. I didn’t get to see the ghost but the bowels of the mill did feel creepy because of the smell of old wood, the incessant grinding noise and the darkness. It took a little while for my eyes to get used to the shadowy light and I recoiled at the sight of the many huge spider webs all around me which, in a way, was creepier than seeing a ghost!

You can see all the pictures of my travels in Ontario here.

Watson's Mill

Feed Grinder

Bags of Flour

Weighing Grain

Grain and Flour

Wheat, Son, Grist

Shadowed Wheel

Upstairs

Wheat

Weighting Scale

Old Price List

Watson's Mill

Dam on the River

Manotick Population

Upstairs

Upstairs

Lots of Spider Webs

Watson Mill by the River

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

10 Comments

    • Hi Elisabeth,
      esentially, as I tell people who visit the mill, Grist is the whole grain ground down. There is a process by which the bran is then sifted out and you end up getting flour. The reason the picture of flour and grint look almost the same has to do with the grind- In this instance the grind was so fine very little bran was sifted and therefore looks like the whole wheat flour.
      Hence “everything is grist for the mill”, all of it can be used.
      Hope this clears it up.
      Cam the Miller

  1. I am surprise this is still functioning and it’s good that they are open to the public. I think this is a good place for school learning journey 🙂

  2. Ah, you raise a very good point that I also observed. I love history and preservation. And I always have a little internal laugh when I see the dates here in North America; they’re quite young compared to what is historical in Europe. But then again, it’s a consequence of history. As you said, there’s a reason why they call it the New World. Except for areas like Boston for example, most historical sites here in North America are quite young, compared to European ones.

    • Yes, it definitely took me some time to adjust to North America’s vision of “history”. Visiting museums was very interesting for that. For instance, in Ottawa, museums like the War Museums tend to mix old (WWI and WWII) wars with current ones (Afghanistan). I still find it very strange.

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