Asselstine's Woollen Factory
Although the various ways of making woollen cloth are age-old in tradition, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that mechanization was applied to many of them on any grand scale. The first settlers in Upper Canada were not unaware of the advances being made in woollen cloth manufacturing in Britain and the United States, but it was some years before an increasing tide of immigration could provide sufficient labour, markets and raw material to make the operation of mills profitable.
In the early 1800s small water-powered mills began to offer settlers' wives some relief from the tedious and unpleasant tasks of carding and fulling by hand. By the 1840s woollen mills and factories had made their appearance in Upper Canada. These mills were able to clean and card wool, spin it into yarn, and weave and fold cloth. Like most other mills, they were water-powered.
Historically, woollen mills employed both men and women, with unequal pay. Women were generally favoured for this industry, to reduce the cost of labour. Likewise, the drive towards the reduction in labour costs meant the implementation of machinery (the powered looms, carding machines, spinning machines, etc.) modeled after the process of mechanization already in use in the United States. During this time, children under the age of 16 formed a large part of the workforce in textile factories.
Evidence suggests that the Asselstine family was involved in the manufacture of woollen material from the first quarter of the 19th century. The Asselstine Factory was run as a family business, employing up to 12 men and women. It produced yarn, batts for quilt filling, blankets, tweeds, flannels, wool sheeting and stripe carpeting.
The woollen mill is presently used as a functional exhibit for the production of blankets and textile goods.