Finally, spring is here! The nice weather always makes me want to hit the road, so I took the opportunity to go to Manotick for the first time. This village south of Ottawa is located on the banks of the beautiful Rideau River and has a few historic buildings, including an old mill still in use today.
I have already written about the importance of the Rideau Canal in the history of the region. Manotick is another of these villages that were born from the construction of the canal. It was created by Moss Dickinson, a businessman and politician from the region. It is said that at the age of 10, Moss Dickinson attended the inauguration of the canal with his father and came back greatly impressed. As an adult, the canal became his livelihood because he made his fortune by operating a company of barges and boats that supplied the villages along the canal between Ottawa and Kingston.
In 1859, Dickinson and his business partner Joseph Currier decided to build a mill on the banks of the canal to exploit the water power of the river. Finally, it is a series of mills that will be built (a flour mill, a saw mill, a wool mill and a carding mill). Dickinson also purchased surrounding lands to sell them as residential lots and thus was created the village of Manotick, an Algonquin word for “island”.
The mills thrived and quickly allowed Manotick to become a turning point of commerce in the region. Churches, general stores and various small businesses sprouted.
This is not just a happy story though. One year after the construction of the flour mill, co-owner Joseph Currier married a young woman from New York named Ann Crosby. A month later, on their return from their honeymoon, the newlywed couple took part in the celebrations marking the successful first year of the mill. During the evening, Ann’s dress got entangled in one of the mill’s turbines and she was propelled at full speed against a pillar. The 20-year-old died instantly. Joseph Currier, greatly affected by the tragedy, subsequently sold all his shares in the company and left Manotick. It is said today that Ann’s ghost still haunts the second floor of the mill …
The mills of the complex have not all survived the vagaries of time. Some disappeared as a result of fires, others were eventually destroyed because they were no longer profitable. The flour mill changed hands a few times before being purchased in the 1970s by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, which decided to restore it to enhance its historical significance. The Watson’s Mill (the mill is named after its last owner, Harry Watson) still works today and it is possible to visit it during the summer while it is in operation.
Several interpretation signs around the mill and on the banks of the Rideau Canal explain the history of the surroundings. It is possible to walk on the dam from which the mill takes its energy and to enjoy the beautiful view on the canal. While you’re there, look up at the windows of the second floor of the mill. Who knows, you might see a ghost …