This Landmark Grist Mill was constructed in 1833-34 for the Ojibwa natives who had been settled on 3969 hectares (9800 acres) between the Coldwater River and the Narrows at Orillia on the western side of Lake Couchiching.
In 1830 Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada created the Reserve upon which some 500 native people were settled. This was following a battle in which the natives had helped defend York, now Toronto from the Americans. The native leaders were Chief John Assance, William Muskuakie (Yellowhead) and Joseph Snake.
By 1831 a good start had been made on farming in the area and some five hundred bushels (17,500 litres) of grain had been harvested and it was evident that it was of little use unless a Grist Mill was established in the area.
A master carpenter named Bell prepared the estimates for the construction of the Grist Mill for the Department of Indian Affairs, based on plans provided by George Philpotts of the Royal Engineers in 1831.
The Grist Mill was to be 13.5 meters by 8.4 meters (45 feet by 28 feet) with three storeys 2.7 meters, 3.6 meters, and 1.5 meters, (nine feet, 12 feet, and five feet on a 1.5-meter (five-foot) foundation. Consisting of five bents using .3 by .3 meters (12 inch by 12 inch) timbers with 3.6 meters and 4.2 meters (12 foot and 14 foot beams.
In the winter of 1831 and 1832 the heavy equipment was purchased and moved to Coldwater as travel with such materials was easier in winter. By March of 1832 two sets of 1.35 meter, (four foot) French buhrstones, and the mill irons had arrived.
The sawmill was built first and the timbers for the Gristmill were prepared, however excavations for the dam and millrace went very slowly.
Now ready to go with construction of the mill Lieutenant James Givens, Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Upper Canada, refused to provide funds for construction.
In the end the natives who were desperate for the mill agreed the 800 pound cost of constructing the mill be deducted from their 1200 pound land money in 1833. They reduced the specifications lowering the costs and work began in early May 1833.
The mill was constructed under the supervision of a man named Anderson, the foreman was Jacob Gill and the Millwright was Henry Hodgson. The Grist Mill was built entirely with Native money. Givens also charged them for the millstones and irons sent up the year before.
The building was completed by the end of August and varied from the original specifications. It was 14.4 meters by 8.4 meters (forty-eight feet by 28 feet) and two storeys and there were six bents rather then five.
An additional 400 pounds was required the finish the mill and it was taken from the natives allotment in 1834.
On June 22, 2008 at 12 noon a totem pole was erected in Coldwater on the grounds of the Coldwater Mill. The artist/carver Pamela Rawliuk (Kuzmicz) and Mark Douglas, a Mill board director, also assisted with the consultation of the clans of the Mnjikaning First Nation, have designed the 15 foot pole from a tree from the Fesserton area.
At the opening ceremony Ernie Sandy, a teacher of traditional culture and history gave the prayer of dedication.
Special thanks to the many who assisted in the moving of the pole to its present site, and to Scollard Design Build of Coldwater for their assistance in the installation.