If you’re looking to see some of Ottawa’s surrounding areas, head to the historic village of Manotick in the city’s south end. Just a 30-minute drive from Ottawa’s busy downtown core, this charming town is located on the scenic banks of the flowing Rideau River and is home to a plethora of great restaurants, high-end boutiques and a unique grist and flour mill known locally as Watson’s Mill.
Established in 1860, Watson’s Mill is older than Canada itself, but flour is still made here today!
Sitting on the edge of Manotick, this local museum is a popular stop among Ottawa residents and tourists alike at any time of the year. Spread out across four different levels, visitors can see mill machinery in action and learn about the “milling” process in which raw wheat is grinded into flour that can be used for cooking and baking bread.
This heritage stone building was built by business partners Moss Kent Dickinson and Joseph Currier, who according to the museum, later established and named the village of Manotick after an Aboriginal Ojibwa word meaning “island in the river.”
The mill has changed names over the years, starting in the 1860s as the Long Island Flouring Mills, becoming Long Island Mills, then the Manotick Mill. But according to the museum, the building has been known as Watson’s Mill since 1946.
Though the mill is visited throughout the summer and fall season, it is often very busy in the warmer weather months as visitors tend to explore the mill then enjoy their own picnic on the picturesque banks of the river. This is a popular family activity!
The mill’s tragic history has also drawn much interest over the years, as many visitors are curious about the mill’s well-known ghost.
Though Dickinson enjoyed many happy years operating the mill, Currier was not as lucky. According to the museum, in 1861, only a year after the mill was completed, Currier’s young wife Ann Crosby was killed in a tragic accident.
During festivities to celebrate the successful mill’s one-year mark, Crosby’s skirt got caught in a revolving turbine shaft, which threw her violently against one of the building’s support pillars and killed her instantly. After the incident, which happened on the second floor, Currier sold his shares in the mill and moved out of Manotick. But Crosby seems to have remained.
Over the years, Watson’s Mill staff and Manotick residents have reported hearing strange, unexplained sounds and seeing an apparition in the mill’s second floor windows on rainy and foggy nights. According to the museum, many have reported seeing a “beautiful, tall, flaxen-haired young woman.” Crosby was only 20-years-old when she died.
This mill is an important part of Ottawa’s rural history and is worth a visit either on your own or with the little ones. It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from May through October and admission is free.
And if you’d like to learn more about one of the grist and flour mill’s original owners, Dickinson House is also open daily.
Located at 1127 Mill Street in Manotick, this house served as the residence of Moss Kent Dickinson and his five children from 1870 to 1930. At different times in history, the 3 bedroom house was also Manotick’s general store, a post office and a telegraph office.