Gile Boat and Engine Company

By James R. Jensen

A century ago one of the most successful businesses operating in Ludington was the Gile Boat & Engine Company.  The company was backed and controlled by local lumberman and industrialist Justus Stearns, but was developed using the ideas of William LeRoy Gile.

The Inventor

William Gile was an inventor brought to Ludington in 1909 by the Stearns’ interests to provide expertise for a new business being developed as the area transitioned from lumbering to other types of manufacturing.

Gile was born into a farming family on January 24, 1868 in Allegan County, Michigan. He attended Montague public schools and worked with his father on their farm until his father’s death when William was 15 years old. At that time, in order to support his family, his educational and agricultural pursuits ceased.

Over the next few years he was employed as a worker in a planing mill, a lumber jack and a mechanic for the Muskegon Street Railway Company. He later became chief engineer of that company and also worked for the C. T. Wright Company, an implement manufacturer in Greenville, Michigan.

William Gile would eventually hold several patents related to innovative engines and propulsion systems. Justus Stearns understood that the ideas and the patents that Gile brought to the new venture would be crucial to its success.