A flour and saw mill
The Pointe-du-Lac seignorial mill is in fact composed of two adjoining buildings : a flourmill and sawmill. The Tonnancour seigneurie flourmill was built between 1765 and 1784, to replace the community's first mill, which dated back to 1721. From village mill to small business, the Pointe-du-Lac flourmill was bought by the Frères de l'Instruction chrétienne, a religious community in 1927. The brotherhood, who still owns it today, is responsible for annexing a small sawmill to the main building at the end of the 1940s. Both mills were used to fill the FIC's needs until its mechanisms were stopped once and for all not so long ago...
For more than thirty years now, the site has been used as an art gallery and, as of more recently, a historical site. In 2002, two permanent exhibitions were inaugurated: « Master Miller » and « Sawdust ».
The first exhibition explores the flourmill, explaining how it works, revealing many secrets about flour making and giving details of millers' daily lives. Skilled craftsmen as well as dedicated workers, millers were men of upmost importance in a community because their labor ensured the population's subsistence.
The mill, just like the church steps, was one of the village's main meeting places. Since everyone and anyone came to have their grain milled, and that the wait could sometimes be quite long, it was a great place to chat. Farmers could barter livestock, farming equipment or foodstuff. And why not use the occasion to seal a marriage proposal ? Conversations ran long and those who had traveled a long way often slept on site, using bags of grain as makeshift mattresses. It was not a rare occurrence that improvised festivities continued late into the night, especially if gifted musicians or storytellers were among the crowd. It is not surprising that many mills did not allow women to enter, the ongoing banter being deemed inappropriate for their chaste ears. Still, the miller is responsible for keeping the peace in this assembly of rowdy men, to avoid brawls or other such excesses.
Beyond his social role, the miller's main task is very delicate. The job demands toughness and stamina, since the hours are long and the moments of leisure are scarce. The miller works seven days a week and, in busy periods, the mill runs day and night. The only rest comes if the climate or mechanical breakdowns interrupt the mill's performance. The miller's task is not limited to flour making. He must also see to the mill's upkeep and make sure the mechanisms are always in perfect working order. He prevents breakdowns by a series of routine procedures, for example cleaning and deicing the canals that ensure a regular water flow. However, no matter how vigilant he is, occasional mechanical failures are inevitable. In those cases, the miller becomes carpenter or even engineer to fix his equipment and to keep it working at full capacity.
The second exhibition, « Sawdust 2.0 », explores the adjoining sawmill, allowing visitors to get a taste of the daily lives of forest workers of the last century. The Frères de l'Instruction chrétienne's little sawmill is a typical example of domestic sawmills of its time.
The existing sawmill is not the first to be located in these surroundings. Many sawmills followed one another on the Tonnancour seigneurie, but they were all built on a dike upstream of the Saint-Charles River and they were all powered by an independent waterway. The existing sawmill was built next to the flourmill in order to use the same source of energy. Two turbines, located in the basement of the flourmill, produce the necessary energy to produce flour and cute wood.
This sawmill was built after a disastrous flood swept away the preceding building in the spring of 1932. It is interesting to note that the builders began the construction by installing the tools and equipments, before even beginning to assemble the structure of the building. This way, they were able to use them to saw the beams, boards and slats they needed to build.
The wood produced in the sawmill is used for various purposes, whether it be to make ornaments for the brothers' chapel or a skating rink for the boarders. For many years, the sawdust was saved to be used to make intricate designs all along the road of the Corpus Christi parade.
The Frères de l'Instruction chrétienne community took advantage of the presence of the sawmill on their land to initiate their students to woodworking. A workshop was set up in the unused miller's quarters and the students attended a class intended to amuse them all the while allowing them to develop useful skills.