Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Grant's Old Mill at 2777 Portage Avenue

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.     
Photography courtesy of Megan Redmond.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

Jared Heinrichs is a Winnipeg landscape photographer who generously donated this image. For more work by this local artist, follow this link to Jared Heinrich's Website.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2015, Heritage Officer Laura McKay and volunteer photographer Megan Redmond visited Grant's Old Mill at 2777 Portage Avenue. Operated by the St. James Assiniboia Pioneer Association, Grant's Old Mill is a two-story reconstruction of the Sturgeon Creek Mill built by Cuthbert Grant in 1829. The main floor is wheelchair accessible.

Open from May long weekend to September long weekend, the museum offers tours from 10:00am to 6:00pm, six days a week (closed Mondays). You can contact the Mill by calling 204-986-5613. (P.S. There's lots of parking available on Booth Drive and there's a path from there directly to the mill!)

The Tour

Click through the Flickr slideshow below for a look at our tour!

Grant's Old Mill_20

Cuthbert Grant

Cuthbert Grant was born in 1793, to a Scottish father and Metis mother, at Fort Tremblant, near present-day Kamsack Saskatchewan. After the death of his father in 1799, he was baptized in Montreal on October 12, 1801 at the St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church. It is believed he was then sent to be educated back in Scotland.

In 1812, he returned West with the North West Company canoe brigade. At the time, the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company were in direct competition and often conflict over the monopoly on the fur trade. Early in 1816, the North West Company appointed Grant the Captain-General of the Métis, thus making him their leader at the Battle of Seven Oaks on June 19, 1816.

For more information on the Battle of Seven Oaks and the events that lead up to it, you can read this article by the Manitoba Historical Society or this article by the Canadian Encyclopedia.

In 1817, Grant surrendered himself and went to Montreal to face murder charges in light of the Battle, but within a year returned West, cleared of all indictments by the courts of both Upper and Lower Canada.

A few years later, in approximately 1824, Grant founded the settlement of Grantown and was rapidly joined by many other Métis families in the area. This settlement is now the community of St. Francois-Xavier.

In 1829, Grant built a mill to provide ground wheat meal for his community, along the bank of Sturgeon Creek. The location of the museum is an approximate guess as to where it might have been. There are records of windmills constructed throughout the Red River Settlement, but there is no mention of any other water mill built on After flood damage every spring for three years in a row, Grant moved his mill to Grantown, converting it into a windmill in the new location.

During his lifetime, Grant filled many roles. These include being the "Warden of the Plains" (1828-1849), whose task it was to prevent the illicit trade in furs; a member of the council of Assiniboia (1835 until his death); the Justice of the Peace for the Fourth District of Assiniboia (1835);
and one of two Sheriffs of Assiniboia (1839). He was also known for having considerable knowledge and experience in medicine.

Cuthbert Grant died on July 15, 1854, and was buried in the church at St. Francois-Xavier. His contributions to Manitoba are recognized through the Winnipeg street that bears his name - Grant Avenue.

For more information on Cuthbert Grant, the Battle of Seven Oaks, and the fur trade, use the links below:
Cuthbert Grant - Canadian Encyclopedia
Cuthbert Grant - MHS Memorable Manitobans
Hudson's Bay Company - Canadian Encyclopedia
North West Company - Canadian Encyclopedia
"Winnipeg breaks ground on revamp of Battle of Seven Oaks monument" - CBC News

The Mill

Jared Heinrichs is a Winnipeg landscape photographer who generously donated this image. For more work by this local artist, follow this link to Jared Heinrich's Website.

On a map dated 1858, surveyor and mapmaker J. H. Hind noted a "Water Mill" just north of the Portage Trail on Sturgeon Creek, no more than a mile from where it joins with the Assiniboine River. Based on this evidence, the Pioneer Citizens' Association of St. James-Assiniboia chose the location just north of Portage Avenue to build a reconstruction of Cuthbert Grant's Mill.

Chosen as a centennial project by both the newly-formed New Horizon's Program as well as the Rotary Clubs of Winnipeg, the reconstruction of Grant's Mill was completed in 1975. The National Grain Company Limited pledged monies for the landscaping and beautification of the surrounding area, while the City of Winnipeg was responsible for the construction of the dam along the creek.

On May 18, 1978 the Mill was turned over to the City of Winnipeg, on the condition that it would continue to be operated by the St. James-Assiniboia Pioneer Association.

In 1990, the water wheel was reconstructed and added to the building by Peter Jackson and Alphair Ventilating Systems Inc, with the assistance of the staff of St. James Assiniboia Parks and Recreation. 

Sources & Links

City of Winnipeg Museums Board - Grant's Old Mill
Cuthbert Grant - His Rightful Place in Manitoba History on Facebook
Grant's Old Mill on Facebook  
Grant's Old Mill on Twitter
Grant's Old Mill Website 

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