I am fortunate enough to live in the wonderful village of Manotick, Ontario, a quaint little town with white picket fences and historic homes and buildings lining picturesque streets. What I didn’t know is that there is a dark secret lying within its most recognized jewel…a ghost in the the mill…
Nestled on the west bank of the Rideau River south of Ottawa there lies a stately stone mill surrounded by falling water and thick trees. Built in 1860 by Moss Kent Dickinson and his business partner Joseph Currier, Watson’s Mill is a gorgeously restored old grist mill that harnesses the power of the river to grind wheat into flour, of which it still continues to do today. In addition to the over 150 year old relics that occupy this unique landmark, the spirit of a ghost is said to also lie within its walls, a confined spirit who haunts the mill where a young life came to an untimely end one tragic day in 1861.
A native of North Troy, Vermont, mill co-owner Joseph Currier’s first wife died in 1858 after all three of their children died within five days of each other three years earlier. After his wife’s death, a saddened Currier traveled to the waters of Lake George, New York and stayed in the Crosbyside Hotel. During his stay at the hotel Currier fell in love with a tall, beautiful young woman by the name of Anne Crosby, the daughter of the family who ran the Crosbyside Hotel. Soon Joseph and Anne were married and honeymooned in the North Eastern United States. An investor and co-owner of brand new grist mill in Manotick, Ontario, Joseph wanted to show his new bride the mill he had built in Manotick and brought his love there to celebrate its first year anniversary that February.
A cold February night in 1861, Anne wrapped herself in a flowing assortment of clothing as she toured her husband’s new mill. Strolling through the operating machinery, Anne’s white dress suddenly became caught in the revolving turbine equipment, violently throwing her against a nearby support pillar which killed her instantly.
With his new bride dead on the floor of his mill, a heartbroken Joseph immediately sold his shares in the mill to his partner Dickinson and never set foot in Manotick again.
Anne was buried in Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa and Joseph, picking up the pieces of his shattered life, moved there where he became a member of Ottawa city council and was later elected as a representative for Ottawa in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Becoming president of the Citizen Printing and Publishing Company which produced the Ottawa Daily Citizen, he was also president of two railway companies in the Ottawa area.
Yet Anne never seemed to leave the mill. Her spirit was said to remain on the site along with blood stains and fingernail marks on the post where her body struck. Current visitors are said to feel cold air and goosebumps on the second floor where she perished.
Joseph soon built another stately stone building in Ottawa in 1868 called “Gorffwysfa” a Welsh word for place of rest, a home he built as a gift to his third wife, Hannah, granddaughter of Philemon Wright. This stone house is better known as “24 Sussex Drive” and was purchased by the Government of Canada in 1943 to become the official residence of Canada’s Prime Ministers.
Joseph Currier died in 1884 and finally came to rest next to his beloved Anne at Beechwood Cemetery where the two still continue to haunt Ottawa’s special stone buildings in their own respective ways.
Andrew King, October 2020