Was Working in One of Our Local Mills Like Working in a Coal Mine?






About 4,000 weavers and artisans from the Scottish lowlands arrived in Lanark County around 1820. Because of the textile industry background of these settlers, Lanark County became the centre of the textile industry in eastern Ontario. Almost two dozen woollen firms once existed along the length of the Mississippi between Pakenham and Maberly. Carding (brushing/preparing) and fulling (scouring and thickening) mills augmented the wool industry and supported villagers in towns such as Clayton, Fallbrook and Maberly.


Almonte Mill-Photo-www.bytown.net

Letter to the Editor-Almonte Gazette 1879

Dear Sir,

Eleven hours of confinement in a factory is neither conducive to physical or mental
health, and surely both of these are of sufficient importance to be considered in the
decision of the question. I would therefore join in the appeal made to the employers of labour to assist in building up a strong physical and intellectual population in Almonte and Carleton Place. Let us relax the strain upon the one and affording more opportunity for the cultivation of the other, both of which objects would be secured by reducing the present fatiguing hours which make an employee’s day.

Textile Mill at Appleton, Ontario, Canada

Teskey Mills- Photo-www.bytown.net
Let our employers pass through the factories during the last hour of the present
day, and note carefully the many silent but expressive evidences that will surround
them. Nature has been and is strained almost to its utmost, and they will soon come
to the conclusion that the last hour cannot be a very profitable one.
Many of the employees are heads of families, and the early hour at which they leave
home and the late- one of their return prevent them seeing the younger
branches of their families oftener than once a week; thus the feeling of our nature
which should be the most carefully guarded and cherished, are stunted in their growth,
and harm is done to both parent of a child.



Hawthorne Mill Carleton Place

Some of us have bluntly introduced the wages question, but I think that may safely be left to the honor of the employers (and past experience proves that they are all honorable men) to be settled thus: -many of the employees work by the piece, and if, as contend, the reduction of the hours would not diminish the production, then it is evident there would be as great a demand upon the day hand; as now, and therefore having to do the same work, though in less time, they should be paid the same.

Perth Mill- Perth Remembered

In thus putting the matter I have appealed to the higher nature of the employers, but
still there is in us all a certain selfishness that is more likely to second an appeal of
this kind, it it can be shown that the parties making the change would not suffer by it,
and upon this point an ounce of fact is worth a ton of speculation.


A Friend


Photo by Linda Seccaspina –Mississippi Valley Textile Mill Museum

The writer, only known as ‘a friend’ was at one time in-charge of a manufacturer employing nearly one thousand, young and old in Scotland, and when he joined the hours were: six A. M. to seven P. M, with one hour for dinner.

After a short time he called the employer’s attention to the exhaustive nature of the employment, when kept up for so many hours. But as competition with other houses was keen, the employer was not willing to run the risk of reducing production. He however gave the writer liberty to try his views upon a small scale, and it was tried in this way:at nine and at four o’clock, twenty minutes recess were allowed.


Relate reading:

Babies in the Textile Mills

The Apple Does Not Fall far from the Tree — Virtual Tour of a Teskey Home

1844 Factory Act

R. W. Cooke-Taylor, the author of The Factory System was also an Inspector of Factories. In his book he explained the 1844 Factory Act.

The Factory Act of 1844 is an extremely important one in the history of family legislation. The Act reduced the hours of work for children between eight and thirteen to six and a half a day, either in the morning or afternoon, no child being allowed to work in both on the same day, except on alternate days, and then only for ten hours. Young persons and women (now included for the first time) were to have the same hours, i.e. not more than twelve for the first five days of the week (with one and a half out for meals), and nine on Saturday.

Certificates of age were to be granted in future only by surgeons appointed for the purpose. Accidents causing death or bodily injury were to be reported to these surgeons, who were to investigate their cause and report the result to the inspector. The factory was to be thoroughly washed with lime every fourteen months. A Register was likewise to be kept; in which were to be entered the names of all children and young persons employed, the dates of the lime-washing, and some other particulars. Certificates of school attendance were to be obtained in the case of children.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

One response »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s