Wile Carding Mill

Remarks: Both Dean Wile (ca. 1907) and Vernon Wile (ca. 1947) were proprietors of a carding mill in Bridgewater.  

In 1860 Dean Wile purchased 2 acres of land and built a carding mill. According to Dean's grandson, Walter, Dean earned the money needed for the mill by traveling from village to village and giving singing lessons for 5 cents/lesson.

The power for the mill was obtained directly from an overshot water wheel which was 9' in diameter and 5 1/2' weed, by means fo a cog gear mechanism to the main shaft. The power was transmitted from the main shaft to the various machines by means of a belt and pulley system.

In the late 1870s, Dean's oldest son, Arkanus, joined the business. 

In the 1880s the mill was often operating 24 hours/day, six days/week. Five people usually worked the mill, often women.

The mill was similar to the first double-cylinder carding machines manufactured by the Scholfield's (who created the first carding machine in North America in 1794).  The cylinders were 24'' wide and were constructed of wooden lags 2'' to 5'' wide. The frame of the machine and the spokes of the cylinders were made of iron.  At one time there were two carding machines in the mill, one for only white wool and one for black or gray wool.  The machine could card approximately 12 pounds/hour, meaning that each hour the mill was straightening 430 million fibres of wool.

The charge for carding wool was 4 cents/pound in 1884. The price was raised by a 1/2 cent in 1887, and by 1918 the price was at 7 cents/pound. In the last few years of operation, the price had been brought up to 20 cents/pound.  During the height of operation the mill carded up to 25,000 pounds of wool in a year. In 1885 Dean and Arkanus cleared $828.12. In 1888, their profit was $913. 

Around 1890, the Wiles expanded their carding mill by swinging the gristmill around and adding it to the back of the carding mill. Dean also considered turning the mill into a full-scale woolen mill, but the idea was never carried out. Partly because Arkanus had lost interest in running the mill.

For the next 20 years Dean operated the mill by himself. Working 12 hour days, 3 women ran the machines.  For working 6 days/week at 12-15 hours, one of these workers was paid $2.

Business had started declining in the 1890s. Dean Wile died in 1911, and Jane Frank, one of the female workers, took over the operation until 1920 when Otto Wile (Dean's youngest son), returned from Brookfield Mines to run the mill.

By 1920, there was only enough work for one person, so Jane Frank was dismissed, and Otto worked alone. When Otto died in 1936, business had dropped off considerably, so his son, Vernon, only operated the mill part-time until his own death in 1968 when operations ceased altogether.   

Remarks Source: 1. Nova Scotia Trade Directory. 1947.
2. Canadian Textile Directory. 1907-08.
3. The Restoration of the Wile Carding Mill", Curatorial Report Number 28, by Judy Boss, Operations and Development Section, Nova Scotia Museum, May 1978.