Maine Ice Harvesting

 

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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.

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