The Blackstone River runs from Worcester, MA to Providence, RI. Its waters powered the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI, America's first successful cotton spinning mill. This creative spark began the nation's transformation from Farm to Factory.
The Wilkinson Mill is the last piece of the puzzle. The Wilkinson family owned a shop where they built and fixed all the machinery used in the region. They built this mill to manufacture textiles. David Wilkinson, notably, invented a lathe for cutting screw threads that became a linchpin tool in the development of the water-power textile industry and the machinery system as a whole. In 1791, Hanna Wilkinson, David’s sister, married Samuel Slater, fostering a solid business relationship between the two families.
David Wilkinson entered his father's manufactory in Pawtucket at the age of thirteen, and before reaching his majority had perfected a number of ingenious devices used in the several shops. About 1786 the elder Wilkinson began making iron screws for clothier's and oil presses and the method of cutting and finishing the screw threads was of particular interest to David. He worked on the problem for many years and finally on Dec. 14, 1798, obtained a patent for a machine for cutting screw threads which incorporated the slide rest.
David Wilkinson was born on Jan. 5, 1771 in Smithfield, R.I., the son of Oziel Wilkinson, a blacksmith. Oziel was already an industrial pioneer when David was six; he was then making the first hand-cut nails in America. In 1784, Oziel set up shop on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, the most important industrial village in America from 1780 to 1820.