Sunday, January 12, 2020

Webster's Mills of Marie

     I recently got a copy of the community history, Morell: Its History by the Jubilee Senior Citizens Club, 1980. I was interested to read the story about Webster's Mills of Marie - the following informations comes from Pages 46-48, written by Cuyler Dingwell.

     Edward Warrel Webster (b. 1810) was known as Edward the Miller. He married Henrietta Maria Bowley and, as a young man, established mills on the Marie River building a dam for power, possibly about the year 1835. The first lumber mill was powered by an overshot water wheel and used what is known as "up and down saws." The flour mill used stones to grind either barley or wheat into flour.
     The older sons of Edward Webster operated these mills with their father for some years; but on the death of Edward the Miller on Nov. 12, 1891, his son Robert R. Webster (1865-1956) took over their operation. Robert was married to Mary Dingwell (May) who was sister of my father, James E. Dingwell. They were the children of George H. Dingwell (postman), whose wife was Margaret Dingwell. Margaret, the daughter of Charles Dingwell and Mary Dingwell - nee Webster. She was the sister of Edward the Miller.
     After Robert took over the operation of the mills he did extensive renovations. With the lumber mill he put a modern gate type water wheel; also a rotary or circular saw and carriage; as well as adding a shingle mill. In the flour mill, the stones to be recut or sharpened at intervals. The last time this was done was by a man named MacLeod from Strathcona, who was a professional stone cutter. This information was told to me by Mr. Webster himself.
     About the year 1912, Robert bought a roller mill that had been built on the River John in Nova Scotia. he had it dismantled by a man in Nova Scotia, who re-erected it for Robert on the previous site of the flour mill, on the Marie River. Because the mill was new, the 35-horsepower water wheel did not have enough power to operate it successfully. So, R.R. as he was known, purchased a steam engine and boiler and had it installed in a shed on the side of the mill. Since it was fifty horsepower engine, it had plenty of power, but not everyone could fire the boiler properly, with the slabs from the saw mill.  I have been told that a young lad by the name of Douglas Sanderson was the only one who could do this adequately. Doug, as he is called, now lives in Cable Head. The mill operated by steam for a few years; as it became older and worn, needing less power, it was then operated by water power for it's duration.
     As well as milling, Robert Webster made brick. The last kiln of brick was moulded by Alan MacDonald, one of the "strong MacDonalds." The clay for the brick was dug just west of the mills in a field - the hollow can still be seen to this day. I cannot recall the exact number of bricks Mr. Webster told me was in the kiln, but it was up in the thousands. The bricks were baked or burned right on the site, using hardwood for fuel.
     After the war of 1914-1918, Robert's son William (1896-1969), took over the operation of the saw mills. Later, about 1930, when Robert retired from milling and moved to Midgell, Wilbur, who was married to the former Ida Jay took over the operation of the flour mills and operated them until the early 1940's. At this time, because of a failure in the wheat crops and other reasons, the flour mill never started again. Wilbur continued to operate the saw mill on a part-time basis until failing health forced his retirement in the 1960's. Somewhere around 1965, the Dept. of Highways built a new dam up stream from the old dam and put a bypass in for the fish to go from river to dam and vice-versa. About this time Wilbur's son, Garth, operated the saw mill part-time for a few years, using a gasoline engine for power. Today (1980), what was once Webster's Mills, is just a pile of rubble in the stream of Marie River.
     Part of this story are from tales my father remembered as told to me; other parts were told to me by Robert R. Webster, whom always called Uncle Rob since his wife was my Aunt May, a very dear old lady whom I will never forget. Other part are memories of my own.

2 comments:

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