History sleuth Andrew King with two Manotick stories: A haunting and a long-forgotten distillery
OTTAWA -- Andrew King is an author, artist, “detective” and history sleuth.
And King is a man who loves Manotick, the community in south Ottawa he calls home, and he's discovered that it is “hauntingly beautiful”.
King describes the village as “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 mill.”
King is referring to Watson’s Mill. A beautifully restored nod to Manotick’s past on the west bank of the Rideau River.
“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,” writes King.
“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.”
The story has several layers of tragedy.
(Joseph Currier, co-owner of Watson’s Mill.)
The mill’s co-owner Joseph Currier was successful in business but lived a life of loss.
“His first wife died in 1858 after all three of their children died within five days of each other three years earlier.” Says King.
After his wife’s death, King explains, a grieving Currier traveled to the waters of Lake George, New York, where during a stay in the Crosbyside Hotel, fell in love with a tall, beautiful young woman by the name of Anne Crosby. Her family ran the 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.”
King shares more of this story and more his Ottawa Rewind blog.
(The ghost of Anne haunts the second floor of the mill to this day….)
King explains the history of the enduring Manotick ghost story. It all started on 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 Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery.
King explains that Joseph Currier, picking up the pieces of his shattered life, moved to Ottawa, where he became active in politics and 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.
Anne, though, never seemed to leave the mill.
In the popular Manotick ghost story, it is said her spirit remains at the mill.
Some visitors describe feelings of cold air and goosebumps on the second floor where she perished.
King says, “Residents say they see a figure a window on the second floor.”
Establishing a new life in Ottawa, Joseph built another stately stone building, as a gift to his third wife. A prominent address: 24 Sussex Drive.
A HIDDEN PROHIBITION-ERA WHISKEY DISTILLERY
If you have ever danced to the “Hokey Pokey”, Andrew King wants you to know it’s believed to have been based on Manotick’s role in prohibition history.
Whiskey that reached the “speakeasies” of Manhattan, distilled in a forest near Manotick.
In the first edition of “Ottawa Rewind”, published by Ottawa Press and Publishing, Andrew King tells the story of how some entrepreneurs in the 1920s, supplied their “Pokey Moonshine” to the “thirsty United States”, from an illegal still, just south of Ottawa.
“With alcohol banned in Ontario, its manufacture, unless for medicinal purposes, was illegal. That is why some entrepreneurs south of Ottawa created their own secret whiskey distillery, a hidden shack in the woods near a railway line to the United States that produced what was to become a favourite in the Roaring Twenties of New York…a product called ‘Pokey Moonshine’”.
In this excerpt from the book, “Ottawa Rewind”, King describes his detective work in tracking down the still:
King explains, it brought notoriety to Ottawa and even a fellow by the name of J.Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This secret, yet notable 1920s Prohibition whiskey shack has long been silent, but its ruins still exist in the woods.”
STILL WITH US
(The “Pokey Moonshine” would be crated as “tea” according to local lore before being loaded onto the CPR train from Ottawa bound for Prescott, then over to Ogdensburg, NY.)
King explains how the booze would be ‘loaded’ and the intoxicating cargo, would head south from just outside of Manotick Station.
“It is unclear what would happen next, whether the moonshiners paid off the train engineer to stop the train on the tracks by the hidden still, or if the train was on a scheduled stop.”
He explains in “Ottawa Rewind” www.ottawapressandpublishing.com how the whiskey made its way down to the Prescott, Ontario piers, “where it was loaded onto boats and shipped over the river to the United States and into the dry mouths the many Great Gatsbies of the US.”
THE STILL TODAY
The whiskey was disguised as tea.