My Hometown: Manotick, Ontario
The small town of Manotick in Southern Ontario has many shops, beautiful scenery, and historical sites to discover.
Manotick, Ontario is a delightful place for a family getaway. Photo courtesy of Rideau Heritage Route.
Watson’s Mill – Hauntingly Beautiful and Beautifully Haunted
Manotick was founded in 1860 around a massive water-powered mill built by Joseph Currier and Moss Dickinson. Originally named Long Island Flouring Mills, it was located across from a small island so Dickinson named it “Manotick” after the Ojibwa name for “island in the river”. The mill’s final owner “Harry Watson” sold the abandoned structure to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in 1972. Today, Watson’s Mill has been restored with millstones actually operating to become the only working heritage site in Ontario.
Now, period-costumed guides enlighten you on the history and the workings of the old stone giant and you can buy their fresh stone-ground whole-wheat flour. The mill operations are run by a non-profit, volunteer group that organize many interesting events but their most unique activity is the “Ghost Walk” because many folks believe that Watson’s Mill is haunted.
The Tragic Tale
It was 1861 and Joseph Currier and his new second wife Ann Crosby attended a gala to celebrate the mill’s first successful year of operation. While touring the machinery in motion, Ann’s dress became caught in a revolving turbine shaft which slammed her head-first up against a post so violently that she died instantly. She was only twenty-years-old. The tragedy affected Joseph Currier so profoundly that he sold his shares to Dickinson and left Manotick forever. Reports of a beautiful woman in a long gown peering out the second story windows at night have been rampant over the years. And after it was reopened, many visitors reported sudden chilling cold in certain corners. Paranormal experts were brought in to investigate and they report that the spirit of Ann still resides there-and she is not alone. Some eight other entities have also been reputed to be haunting the mill.
Locals call “downtown” Manotick “The Village” which consists of an intricate web of winding lanes and Main Street dotted with modern strip malls such as the Manotick Mews. Much of the original town has been beautifully restored as the Dickinson Square Conservation Area with turn-of-the-century houses now hosting galleries and artisanal shops such as the Gingerbread Man and Miller’s Oven Tea Room where you can lunch on bread made from mill-ground flour. History buffs will enjoy guided walking tours with historian Larry Ellis or Gossip Tours with local actors depicting life in the 1860’s.
Eats and Accommodations
Beyond fast food, Manotick boasts a surprisingly eclectic selection of dining including gourmet pub fare, sushi, Italian, Chinese and even a first rate steakhouse and a cosmopolitan wine bar. But not to be missed for local atmosphere (think coffee klatch) is the lovely French Café in the Manotick Mews for decadent desserts, fair trade coffee and a superbly warm welcome. Accommodations are on Long Island where two charming B&Bs-Wright on the River and Chilver’s Bed and Breakfast-are located handy to David Bartlett Park, a 35-acre nature preserve.
Situated along the Rideau Canal waterway, Manotick is a boater’s haven; and the Carleton Golf and Yacht Club is also nearby. There are golf courses handy, and a large swimming pool on the island has public access. Farmer’s markets, craft fairs, and seasonal festivals are worth seeking out there, and feeding the ducks at Watson’s Mill is a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike, all year-round.