Saint Mary's Bay Flour Mill
"I suffer greatly when I think that we must leave our country in order to make enough money and support our grandchildren. It is my most ardent wish to stay in my homeland that is so poor at present. As for me, I will do everything in my power to assure my capability to stay in this land that I love"
- Élisée Robichaud, 1913, in discussing the floor mill and why it was important to his community.
The Saint Mary's Bay Flour Mill was founded in 1912 as a Cooperative. To as many as 383 people and organizations of the local area, the Floor Mill was meant to create local employment and to allow the farmers an avenue to mill their wheat.
The newspaper L'Évangéline of 1913 had this to say, "The treshing of the grain has begun; barley, oats and buckwheat, each in turn. They are expecting a good crop of winter wheat. Monsieur Élisée Comeau (a typo, as this meant to say Élisée Robichaud) will soon have the mill up and running."
In the Clare Municipal minutes of 1916, a proposition was made and seconded that Élisée's mill be exempted from paying municipal taxes of $1.78 for the current year (Source : Minutes from the Clare Council 1916, page 15). This demonstrated that the mill made little profit, whereas it was an important source of employment for the village and surrounding areas.
The flour mill functioned until 1929, when it was forced to close. The mill had been producing a whole grain type of flour, which was brownish in color. Newer bleached, whiter flour was being introduced in the market, and consumer tastes were changing towards the newer, cleaner looking product. In hindsight, we know now that the health benefits would have favored the flour from the mill.
Unfortunately, although the flour mill was very much in our recent history, most of the stories associated with it have already been lost to the effects of time. Only recently have some been rediscovered with the discovery of the original ledger used by the coop in 1912, and some original invoice copies pertaining to the purchase of the equipment. Very little exists from the 1920's or 1930's.
Today, you can still view all the original equipment used in the flour mill. Our ancestors were meticulous in preserving each piece and each machine that once ran. And on many, you can still see the original paint logos, as good as the day they were painted on, in 1912.