Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures: Manotick’s Haunted Mill

I may have mentioned that I am newly infatuated with Watson’s Mill, the historical centerpiece of Manotick and barely a few steps’ walk from the new house.

Since we moved in, I’ve been itching to get out there with my camera and simply wander around for a bit. It was Christmas morning, in fact, after everyone had settled in after breakfast to play with their toys and I needed some fresh air, that I finally managed to creep out with my Nikon.

I wandered over the dam and around the grounds, and these frost-patterned windows with their Christmas wreaths caught my eye.

Mill window

It was only later in the weekend that the hair on the back of my neck stood on end when I thought about taking these pictures. I was reading up on the history of Manotick (a post for another day) when I came across references to the haunting of Watson’s Mill. I’d heard about the Mill’s ghost before, and in fact there was even a Haunted Ottawa presentation at the Mill just a couple of days after we moved in, but somehow I’d completely forgotten about it when I was creeping around with my camera in the gloaming.

The more I read, the more fascinated — and unnerved — I became. Do you know the story of Ottawa’s most haunted place?

Foggy Mill

The Mill was built in 1860 by partners Moss Dickenson and Joseph Currier. It’s one of the few remaining operational grist mills (it uses the current of the Rideau River to grind wheat into flour) in North America. Shortly after it was built, Joseph Currier met his second bride-to-be, Anne Crosby, in Lake George, New York. She had never been to Manotick, and after their January 1861 wedding and month-long honeymoon, he brought her home to celebrate the Mill’s first year of operation. It was March 11, 1861 — almost 150 years to this very day.

By all accounts, Anne was delighted with her new husband and new home. On her first day in Manotick, Currier brought his new bride to show off the Mill. As she was ascending the stairs to the second floor, her long, hooped crinoline got caught in a piece of machinery, and she was flung against a support post and killed instantly.

Currier never set foot in the Mill nor Manotick again. He went on to become a Member of Parliament, and eight years later married his third wife, the granddaughter of Philemon Wright. He commissioned a house be built for her as a wedding gift, and called it Gorffwysfa, Welsh for “place of rest.” The address? 24 Sussex Drive.

As for poor Anne, she never left the Mill. Visitors to the Mill report chills and goosebumps when they mount the stairs to the second floor on even the hottest summer days.

When I read this account, from an undated Ottawa Citizen story, the hair stood up not just on my neck but all the way down my arms, too.

But in 1980, two boys were walking across the dam beside the mill, the old lamps along the pathway giving off a pale, yellow glow in the deepening twilight. As they approached the mill, they heard a noise from above, like someone falling. They looked up to see a woman in a long skirt, standing at the window watching them. They froze. The ghostly figure tilted her head, and the boys grabbed each other and ran. Keeping their eyes on the window, they saw Ann slip away, and then reappear in the next window, following them.

Over the years, Ann has been seen more often. She’s become possessive of her mill, and doesn’t like things changed. If tour guides move anything, they’ll come in the next day to find it moved back to where Ann wants it.

Her footsteps, pacing along the second floor, are getting louder. Some people say it’s because she knows her secret is out, so she doesn’t have to hide in the darkness anymore.

But in the cold winter months, when the mill is closed to visitors, Ann gets lonely. She comes out, sometimes walking along the front of the mill, but mainly watching people from her favorite window by the pathway.

If you walk by, late on a winter night, you can sometimes hear her low, mournful voice, calling to the people below.

Since I read this account, I’ve been back to the Mill a couple of times. I won’t stop wandering around, and I won’t stop pointing my lens at it. In fact, it’s on the route of my favourite Manotick walk.

13:365 The Haunted Mill

But I find myself cringing, trying very hard not to hear anything out of the ordinary as I cross the dam and mount the steps beside the Mill, willfully concentrating on the snow-covered steps and not the old Mill with its second-floor windows looming over me.

And when I do take my pictures, I won’t look too carefully through the viewfinder, either, lest I catch a glimpse of poor Anne Crosby Currier, lost 150 years ago.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

16 thoughts on “Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures: Manotick’s Haunted Mill”

  1. Lovely photos, especially the one of the Mill listed as “photo of the day”. The story of Anne is creepy…and mournful. I have never heard it before so thank you for sharing.

  2. Alright, so I am NOT crazy. I didn’t know the history of the mill until today. I was in there this past summer when it was one of this +1,000,000 degrees with humidity. My Son and bf were “fishing” at the mill and I went on a hunt for a washroom (which is across the street where they sell books).

    On my way back to the boys, I decided to take a detour and take a look at the mill. I was talking to one of the workers about how horrible it was outside and that you sweat without moving. All of a sudden I swear I saw something falling from the stairs when I was in there but since no one else reacted or seemed to notice I put it off. I have always been sensitive to people who have passed. (I regularly see my Grandpa M when I play cribbage) and I swear he follows me around when I am in danger.

    Two weeks ago my son, bf and I were on our way home from skiing and something told me to let my son ride home in the truck with my bf. Normally, I don’t allow it since it is a truck with no jump seats in the back, only the bench seat in the front but I suggested it. We were traveling along Cedarview going towards Fallowfield when the driver in front of my bf turned into the Cedar Hill subdivision. The next thing I knew I “saw” my grandpa in the middle of the road, I swerved to miss him and I saw the car that was in front of my boyfriend pulled out in front of me without looking and if I didn’t swerve, I would have been T-Boned on the passenger side (where my son sits). I was so fortunate that he wasn’t in the car, that the roads were dry and that there was no oncoming traffic.

    Sorry to babble on and on Dani.

  3. I grew up across the bridge from the Mill, and bailed numerous times on ouiji board sessions/make-out sessions at the Mill because I felt so freaked out!
    Such a tragic piece of history.

    Ummm, Sara needs to start a ghost blog.

  4. LOL, Sarah, no — thank goodness! I’m really quite happy to not see her!!

    Shannon, I’ve been meaning to check out the Miller’s Oven — yum! Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. You’re welcome! Let me know if you end up going. I hear their lemon meringue pie is amazing.

  6. Ooooo, such a well told story Dani, but how sad! Your photos are beautiful. I am sure I will remember this post, and Sara’s comments, when my husband is away and trying to get to sleep. (Shivers) 🙂

  7. It is interesting timing of your blog and the comments people are posting. i am the education and interpretation officer at Watson’s Mill and we are currently updating our exhibits on the second floor, one of which is the story of Ann Crosby currier. I am interested in any of the stories people have as I am looking for personal stories I can record and possibly use in the exhibit display. I have met with local historians who have helped with some of my research so if people have interesting stories to share, I would love to hear from you.

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