Wile Carding Mill - Bridgewater, NS
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 44° 22.569 W 064° 31.919
20T E 377952 N 4914793
Quick Description: In commercial operation for 108 years, and now in operation as a museum and tourist attraction, this must be the longest operating carding mill in Nova Scotia, and likely Canada as well.
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Date Posted: 5/20/2019 4:34:34 PM
Waymark Code: WM10K82
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member jotheonly
Views: 3

Long Description:
To our knowledge this is the last remaining carding mill in operation, still on its original site and employing the original machinery. There is another operational carding mill at Old Sturbridge Village in Maine, but it has been moved from its original location.

This carding mill operated as a commercial mill from 1860 to 1968, a good indication of the economic importance of sheep raising in the Lunenburg-Bridgewater area. For water power, it was built by what was variously named Sandy Brook, Shady Brook and Wile Brook. A dam at the mill impounded a pond, Whitman Pond, producing sufficient water height to drive an overshot water wheel, which drove the mill's machinery.

Renovated and stabilized in 1974, the waterwheel has been replaced with a wheel identical to the original, while inside the mill original wooden gears and machinery remain in place and in use. Several storage dams upstream are now gone, meaning that the mill can only be operated at times of sufficient water flow in the stream. Reopened as a museum in 1974, the mill is again operated as a carding mill, though only for its historical value.

In 1860, a young man named Dean Wile opened the Wile Carding Mill. Using money he had earned giving singing lessons for five cents, Dean Wile built his new mill on land his Grandfather, Andrew Wile, had purchased as early as 1796. At the time, the area was called Sebastopol (1860-1899) and, in honour of his Grandfather, the Sandy Brook that runs next to the mill was named after Andrew Wile.

Carding is the process of breaking up clumps of fibre, such as raw wool, so it becomes aligned and can then be used to make batting, felt and yarn. Traditionally, carding had to be done by hand, which was a time-consuming chore. Mills like Wile Carding used machinery to card raw fibres, effectively processing a week’s worth of wool in a single hour. Residents quickly embraced the convenience this service provided and by the 1880s, Dean Wile’s business was thriving.

At its peak, the mill employed three women full-time, operating 24 hours a day, six day a week. In addition to carding wool for locals, Dean Wile began using leftover fibres on the machines to produce ready-made batting that he could package and sell for profit. Expanding on his success, Dean Wile opened a sawmill in 1888 and around 1890, added a grist mill to the back of the Wile Carding Mill.

Once the 1900s arrived, the need for the mill’s services decreased and by 1920, there was only enough work for one person; Otto Wile. When Otto died in 1936, his son Vernon kept Wile Carding Mill open part time.

Wile Carding Mill ceased operation around 1968 and was sold to the Province of Nova Scotia in 1973. A year later, in 1974, the mill was restored and reopened as Wile Carding Mill Museum.
From the Wile Carding Mill Museum

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Wile Carding Mill Museum

Wile Carding Mill is the only remaining industry of Sebastopol, Bridgewater's 19th century water powered industrial park and one of few original carding mills in the province reflecting the history of the carding industry in Nova Scotia. Sebastopol once contained grist mills, a saw mill, foundry, wheel & carriage factory and tannery. Wile Mill also reflects the importance of Lunenburg sheep farming and its processing methods. Water rights were a major business concern of this time period and an important factor in Bridgewater history. Today, the mill is in operation seasonally, as a Nova Scotia Museum.

This building is an excellent example of a small nineteenth century industrial structure. It has its original gable roof, a back ell added in 1890 and a recent board and batten shed added over the flume. The wheel, before the addition of the ell would have originally been exposed. Original clapboards remain on the front and ends of the main building. All original wooden gears and flat belt mechanics have been retained as well as original machinery. Original front door and hardware remain with inscription (Nov 11/74 1874) carved on the back of the front door. Six over six windows are situated close to the cornice as per the period. The building is in original placement on site which provides maximum access to water power and east facing windows to access daylight. The lake (named Wile's Lake, Oak Hill Lake), brook (called Sandy Brook, Shady Brook, and Wile Brook) and pond (called Whitman pond) were an important source of power for this industrial park.

During restoration work in 1974 a complete structural stabilization of the building included rebuilding of underpinnings, sills, joists, and supporting posts. The exterior was painted with red ochre established from paint analysis of the shingles. Because several dams which once stored water in the stream above the mill have disappeared, the operation of wheel is limited to periods when the stream provides sufficient flow. The original waterwheel was faithfully reproduced from local hemlock with gears cast at Lunenburg Foundry. A later dormer was removed from the building giving it its original roofline. Windows were replaced with those built to specification at Ross Farm. Damaged wooden rain gutters were replaced to specifications.

Wile Carding Mill was established by Dean Wile, a local businessman, in 1860. Dean Wile purchased 2 acres of land from Christian Ernst in 1858. Family lore says that Dean Wile earned money to build the mill by travelling from village to village, giving singing lessons for 5 cents per lesson.Dean Wile's ancestor John Frederick Weil (1737-1807) came to Halifax from Litzelinden, Weilbourg, Germany in 1750 and moved to LaHave in 1753 after acquiring a land grant of 360 acres in the Lunenburg Township in 1761. Frederick's son Andrew Wile (1758-1832), Dean Wile's grandfather received a grant of 200 acres in Wileville area in 1796.

Dean Wile built a saw mill and a gristmill in the same area as the carding mill. He donated land for and initiated the development of Brookside Cemetery. Deal Wile's son Arkanas ran a retail shoe store; his son Otto at one time was a merchant for the Molega Gold Mines. Pearl Street was named for Dean Wile's daughter.

Excerpt from Dean Wile Obituary, Bridgewater Bulletin, June 3, 1913. "Mr. Wile was one of our most respected residents. His home has been, as far as the writer can collect, one of the most hospitable in the whole countryside. It was a rare thing for the family to dine alone on Sundays, and on other days for that matter."
From the Town of Bridgewater

Current Status: Still In Use

Current Use: Operational example of nineteenth century carding mills

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