Maine Ice Harvesting



Loading the Ice Harvest, courtesy Wikimedia Commons


By mid-December, Maine lakes have often frozen thickly enough to hold horses, essential for the ice trade — a big business before electricity came along. In Maine, I live next to a former creek that was dammed in 1870 to create an ice pond. The granite blocks cut to contain the dam form our road, one which divides the ice-cutting pond on one side, from the island-studded bay on the other.

Once the lake froze, workhorses scored the ice. Workers then cut it into manageable blocks and stored it in ice houses. Thousands of tons of ice taken from this pond were shipped to New York, Baltimore, and as far south as Cuba. A pier extended for yards and yards into the bay,  out to the sailing vessels waiting to be loaded.

When warm weather came, the horses were let loose on a nearby island.

My sister and I remember as children, blocks of ice hoisted with tongs off of wagons floored with sawdust into our grandfather’s Maine house, then placed in a wooden ice box lined with metal to keep the ice  cold. For you easterners, Maine’s Kennebec River and New York’s Hudson River were at one time, rivals for the purest ice.

4 responses

  1. This is a lovely memory. Me too- remember the ice in sawdust in my grandmother’s barn. Ice was cut from Crystal Lake when it was clear and pure. It was brought up to the icehouse on the north side of the barn- never got the sun- and lasted well into August. We used to go in there and sit on the sawdust covered blocks of ice.

    • A neighbor wrote up our history from old photos etc. I never knew that the road across the dam to our house was the dam that formed the lake, the former ice pond. Now it is used for ice skating

  2. Well, here is another age mate who can remember the delivery of ice for the Icebox during our summer stay in Michigan and then later at our summer home in New Hampshire

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