The Rémy Mill
Grinding grain since 1825
Grinding grain since 1825
The Seigneury of Beaupré, which included the Baie-Saint-Paul area, was a vast tract of land bequeathed to the Québec Seminary by its founder, Bishop François de Laval, the first bishop of New France, in order to provide the Seminary with financial resources.
According to recent research, the name “Rémy” dates from the period of initial European settlement in the northern part of Baie-Saint-Paul, when Québec Seminary priests named a small tributary of Rivière du Gouffre in honor of Abbé Pierre Rémy (1636–1726), the first priest ordained in Montreal by François Montmorency de Laval.
The name was first mentioned in a survey recorded by land surveyor Ignace Plamondon on October 8, 1735.
Rivière Rémy subsequently appeared on a Seigneury of Beaupré map dated 1751.
The Seigneury of Beaupré, which originally included the Baie-Saint-Paul area, is a vast tract of land stretching along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. To serve the tithing feudal tenants in Baie-Saint-Paul, seigneury administrators built several flour mills, as required under the seigneurial system:
The first grist mill on Rivière Rémy was built by Honoré Simard in 1806. It served the residents of two sectors bordering the river—Mare à la Truite and Côte Saint-Lazarre—and was located on the same side of the river just downstream from the existing mill.
The first mill was built entirely of wood, a rarity for grist mills at that time. Plans found in the mill archives at the Québec Seminary give a good sense of what the structure of such a building would have looked like, although it is impossible to identify which mill they were for.
The task of building the second mill was entrusted to master carpenter Jacob Fortin in October 1825. Fortin was heavily influenced by traditional builders who had not adopted new techniques already in use elsewhere, for his mill structure is very similar to structures found in earlier 18th century buildings in New France. The mill in its current form corresponds to what was set forth in the contract signed between Fortin and the Seminary.
The frame of the roof is noteworthy as a typical example of old French architecture. Note especially the St. Andrew's crosses providing wind bracing below the roof tree.
Although the mill’s vocation changed in the mid 20th century to ensure its survival, it remained a historical landmark that people loved to photograph and paint.
When Héritage Charlevoix purchased the mill in 1999, it was in very poor condition. The water wheel and the exterior wall of the waterwheel housing had collapsed in 1943.
Most of the original mechanisms had been replaced in the 1940s when it was converted to a feed mill.
The first restoration took nearly seven years (2000 to 2007) and cost more than $5 million. It was the largest private investment in a heritage building in Charlevoix history. The project restored the building to its original appearance by rebuilding the water wheel and the structure that housed it.
The initial phase was meant to make the mill operational again. Mechanisms were reproduced from old mill parts (the originals having disappeared) with a view to bring the historic structure back to life and making it accessible to the public. The vision behind the 2020 upgrade was even bolder and more innovative: restore the building to its original purpose—serving local farmers—while at the same time installing modern equipment allowing it to generate enough income to pay for the historic building’s longterm maintenance.
The Rémy Mill still has what gave its flours its original quality: the French millstones from the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre quarry in France. The way these millstones grind makes all the difference, and it’s the only technique capable of re-creating the taste and complete nutritional qualities of traditional flours. Known worldwide begining in the 16th century, these stones, which were once produced and exported in great quantities, are rare today.
French millwright and millstone expert Thierry Croix, who has inherited the knowledge passed down in his family since 1850, headed up the restoration of the millstones and milling mechanism.
To adapt the old mill to the demands of the modern market, French experts from a long line of millstone makers (Entreprise Croix) and millers (Aetic and Minoterie Girardeau) designed custom-built modern equipment to round out the restored equipment at the mill.
This combination of old and new meets four goals:
As far as we know, no other North American mill combines traditional and modern equipment in this way.
The Rémy Mill is property of Heritage Charlevoix but it is a specialized company, Moulin de Charlevoix, which keeps it. It operates the facilities of the newly upgraded Rémy Mill and markets and sells the production.
Combining the century-old French milling expertise of Minoterie Suire and that of organic farming developed by the Charlevoix business grouping Pierre du Moulin, this new company intends to become a privileged player in the niche market for artisanal traditional flour products.
Visit their website to learn more about the flour from Moulin de la Rémy : www.moulin-charlevoix.ca
For the sake of clarity, the modern components have been integrated in a way that contrasts the old milling equipment with the new without compromising the aesthetic of either.
Public access is an important aspect of the project, even if it is restricted to the millstone floor. The mill has an interpretive space that meets the strictest food production standards and provides information about the mill, its history, and how it works today.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the mill will not open to the public until the summer of 2022.
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