David Wilkinson (1771-1852), a blacksmith from Smithfield, Rhode island moved to Pawtucket in the early 1780s. Wilkinson invented new machines, including a steamboat which he demonstrated in Pawtucket in 1792 (15 years before Robert Fulton's steamboat), a screw-cutting lathe in 1794 that became an industry standard, and by 1815, some of the first power looms.

Wilkinson built this rubblestone mill with his father between 1810-11. The building housed a machine shop, a spinning mill, and a blacksmith shop. David Wilkinson worked with Samuel Slater and also produced equipment for dozens of other new factories. Today, Wilkinson Mill houses a water-powered machine shop and administrative offices.

In 1794, Wilkinson designed a screw-cutting lathe with a slide rest on which he obtained a patent in 1798. David Wilkinson (1771-1852) developed a screw-cutting lathe that may have been based on drawings by Leonardo daVinci. Wilkinson eventually produced a large general purpose lathe in 1806 that became the foundation of the American machine tool industry.