Watson’s Mill History
Situated in historic Dickinson Square, Watson’s Mill is older than Canada itself!
Watson’s Mill is located in Manotick, a historic and picturesque village situated on the banks of the Rideau River, south of Ottawa. Constructed of limestone quarried from the western channel of the river, many architectural journals describe the Mill as one of the best examples of 19th century grist mill architecture in Canada.
The Mill was built by Moss Kent Dickinson and his partner, Joseph Currier, in 1860. Dickinson and Currier intended to build a new community surrounding their mill and the damn that powered it. They purchased 30 acres of land in order to build a complex which included the Mill, a woollen mill, carding factory, sawmill and a plug, bung, and spile factory. Dickinson named the new village, Manotick, an Ojibwa Indian word meaning “Island in the river.”
The Mill remained in the hands of the Dickinson family from 1860 until 1929, when it was sold to Aleck Spratt. Originally known as the Long Island Flouring Mills, the name of the Mill has changed over time from Long Island Mills to Manotick Mills.
Spratt and his wife also bought Dickinson House which was built by Moss Kent Dickinson in 1867 to overlook his milling enterprise. Spratt died six years later but the Mill and house continued under Spratt family ownership until purchased by Harry Watson in 1946.
Harry Watson came to Canada from England in 1924. He worked and later managed the Mill under Spratt’s ownership. After purchasing the Mill and Dickinson House in 1946, Harry Watson’s first act as owner was to erect a sign over the Mill’s front door, renaming it Watson’s Mill.
In 1972 Harry Watson sold the Mill and Dickinson House to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, who subsequently restored one run of millstones and accessory machinery to the original 1860 operating condition. The original water turbines still provide power to drive the millstone up to 120 revolutions per minute.
Today Watson’s Mill is managed by the non-profit group, Watson’s Mill Manotick Inc.