gristmill-wheatpacketIn 1872, Barrington Price (1841-1913), an English gentleman from an upper-class family moved to the Similkameen Valley to take-over the Hudson Bay Company’s ranch-land and trading post.  Success soon followed.

By 1877  Price opened a water-powered mill to turn locally grown wheat (grist) into flour and an associated store. Together, the mill and store served the needs of the local settlers, First Nations, and miners travelling on the historic Dewdney Trail.

This new business benefited the area because it added a new source of income through agriculture in addition to the traditional cattle and horse ranching. An 1881 newspaper archive noted that due to the abundant number of gold miners in the region “Price’s mill is running day and night, (but could not) keep up with the demand”.

At first, the Grist Mill produced a whole wheat flour with a simple, single grinder; however in the early 1880s Price imported new, state-of-the-art machinery from James Jones of Louisville, Kentucky. Then, through several stages of grinding, flour was carefully peeled from the bran to produce white flour, a new invention of that era.

Unfortunately within a decade, Mr. Price’s business started to decline due to changes in transportation in British Columbia. In 1885, the completion of the Canadian railroad through valleys far to the north caused the horse trails through the Similkameen to become unimportant trade routes. The mill ceased to work and the property was purchased by J. H. Coulthard as a home for his family. Price returned to England, in 1904.

In the early 1940s, after sitting idle for decades, the Grist Mill’s upper floor was cleared of machinery and used as a chicken coop. Everything was tossed into the lower floor, creating a jumbled heap of parts and pieces. Over the years, the upper floor was also used as a hay-barn and an artist’s studio. The machinery on the lower floor remained forgotten, isolated and protected. When the bottom logs of the mill decayed, the Eureka grain cleaner helped to stabilize the building. The restoration of the Grist Mill proved to hold many challenges, however after careful research, the mill was rebuilt to its 1881 operating layout. The original equipment is grinding flour once again.

Over time, the General Store became a private home to many families. Today, visitors can see the original 1895 burgundy wallpaper. Over one hundred years later, this building provides an excellent pioneer setting for heritage exhibits.

The construction of the Grist Mill encouraged First Nations and the settlers living in the Similkameen to grow wheat and for the first time, the full agricultural potential of the soil was realized. Slowly, the economic activity in the area transitioned from cattle ranching to agricultural production.