History

Situated in historic Dickinson Square, Watson’s Mill is older than Canada!

Pictured are the sawmill, grist mill, carriage sheds, and Dickinson House, C. 1860s. Library and Archives Canada/PA-191438

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 business partner, Joseph Currier, in 1860.  Dickinson and Currier intended to build a new community surrounding their mill and the dam that powered it. They purchased 30 acres of land in order to build a complex which, over time, included the flour mill, a carding factory, sawmill and a bung and spile factory. Dickinson named the new village, Manotick, an Ojibwa word meaning “Island in the river.” Dickinson built a house overlooking his enterprise in 1867 and in 1870, Dickinson and his five children into the home. Mrs. Dickinson had already died in 1861 and Mr. Dickinson did not remarry.

The Mill remained in the hands of the Dickinson family from 1860 until 1928 when it was sold to Alexander Spratt. Spratt and his wife later bought Dickinson House.  Spratt died in 1935 but the Mill and house continued under Spratt family ownership for several more years. Harry Watson purchased the Mill in 1946 and the house in 1948.

Harry Watson came to Canada from England in 1924. He worked and later managed the Mill under Spratt ownership. After purchasing the Mill  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, which 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 owned and operated by the not-for-profit group, Watson’s Mill Manotick Inc.