Monday, April 16, 2012

Meech Creek and the former carbide mill

A popular walk near Lac Meech in the Gatineau Park takes you to the ruins of a mill on the banks of Meech Creek. This little river flows out of Lake Meech at its southern end, meanders through fields under a covered bridge and under what will soon be the extension of Highway 5 (what a mess) and eventually runs into the Gatineau River.
At the peak of the lumber trade in the 1800s this narrow watercourse channeled logs to a sawmill at Farm Point.
(From a webpage about the Lower Gatineau Heritage Trail
Wikimedia image of the carbide mill
However, the mill further upstream in the forest had nothing to do with lumber.

Thomas Leopold "Carbide" Willson (an associate of Lord Kelvin) was a turn of the (20th) century entrepreneur and scientist-engineer, the first person to own a car in Ottawa.
In 1907 he built a summer house on Meech Lake in what is now Gatineau Park. (The house is now owned by the federal government, and notable for being the site of negotiations on the Meech Lake Accord). In 1911, he began experimenting with the condensation of phosphoric acid in the manufacture of fertilizers at a mill on Meech Creek within the park. Due to this venture and running out of capital, he lost nearly all of his estate to his creditor, American tobacco king J. B. Duke.
Photo by Chris Hobbs
You can still see traces of Willson's ambitious project (condensing phosphates to produce fertiliser) on Meech Creek, around what remains of his mill. It's a place worth seeing in any case, the waterfalls above and below it being very attractive.

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