Mill bringing history to life

With his brother John watching, Jim Millar drives a newly restored 1946 Gibson SD tractor through the grounds at the Keremeos Grist Mill. The tractor was formerly only a decoration in front of the heritage site. - Steve Kidd/Western News
With his brother John watching, Jim Millar drives a newly restored 1946 Gibson SD tractor through the grounds at the Keremeos Grist Mill. The tractor was formerly only a decoration in front of the heritage site.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

The Keremeos Grist Mill and Gardens started off their 2011 season Saturday, quietly opening their gates and beginning to welcome visitors to the heritage site for another year.

And while those visitors are roaming the grounds surrounding the 1877 water-driven mill, they may catch sight of a new addition to the facilities. Though, in truth, the 1946 Gibson Model SD tractor is far from new — it’s been sitting out front of the mill gathering dust as an exhibition piece for years. But this year, it has been rebuilt and fully restored to operation.

The work was done by Cam Cartwright of Nanoose Bay, who spotted the tractor last summer while visiting with his grandson, who was spending some time at the Grist Mill with his other grandfather (Jim) last summer. While he had semi-retired from restoring old tractors, Millar said he offered to restore this one for the mill.

Work on the tractor began last fall, and Cartwright managed to have it finished and back up to the mill just three weeks ago. The tires were the last thing to mount, and Millar said they only just managed to find a set and get them mounted in time for the Grist Mill’s first day Saturday.

“They’re very rare,” he said, adding his appreciation for the aid of Kal Tire in Penticton, who spent some time searching out and locating a set of the unusually sized tires.

The tires are unusual because, well, the tractor is small. John Millar explains it was built after the Second World War, when victory gardens still abounded and there was a demand for equipment to help turn them into small scale or hobby farms.

“These tractors produced a lot of food and vegetables for people,” said John.

The original plan for the restored tractor, explained Jim, was to put it back to work, in the Grist Mill’s own garden, where they grow heritage wheat and vegetables. However, the rebuild of the little tractor turned out so well, those plans have changed.

“Now it looks so good, we don’t want to put it to work in the garden,” said Millar. “So we are looking for another row-crop tractor to do that work.”

There will also be a couple of new faces at the mill this season, greeting visitors and helping with maintenance. Millar is already looking for two students to hire for the summer, thanks, he said, to grants obtained by the foundation set up last year to help support the heritage site.

Dave Cursons said The Grist Mill Foundation expects to receive charity status this year through Customs and Revenue Canada, enhancing their ability to pursue private and public grants to further maintain, restore and improve the Grist Mill heritage site.

The mill and gardens will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through to September. For more information e-mail or call 250-499-2888.


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