Most Everyone Had An Ice House

Harvesting ice

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322 Mansfield St. Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin 54729

Gas engines that we collect, lovingly restore, show off proudly and hear some fabulous stories about, have been used for everything from washing clothes to pumping water, filling silos, etc. I have seen many ways they were used but this is more unusual than most.

I was looking at a local history book that I recently purchased at an auction, called Heritage. It's about the life and times of Cleveland Township (some times called Town of Keystone), about eight miles west of Cornell, Wisconsin. The photo was of a man named Emil St. Aubin. He is shown harvesting ice with his homemade ice saw on St. Aubin Lake in January of 1942.

The book goes on to tell that 'ice harvesting' was a necessary winter chore for Cleveland's' early residents. Oliver Lake and St. Aubin Lake were two popular spots for cutting ice because of the clarity of the water when frozen.

Ice was harvested as soon as it was two feet thick. It was scored in strips about sixteen inches apart and cut by hand with a saw about 5? feet long. Emil St. Aubin, Percy and Elmer Gorton, and Ernie Stevens were among those who developed easier methods of cutting ice using mounted gasoline engines.

The ice was cut into blocks about 16 by 24 inches and lifted with tongs onto sleds, then hauled to the ice house.

Most everyone had a little ice house. It didn't have to be a very fancy structure, just good enough to hold the insulating sawdust firm.

Ice boxes were made of wood with a metal lined compartment at the top to hold chunks of ice. Shelves in the lower part held foodstuffs. A drain allowed water to drip into a pan when the ice melted-overflows on the kitchen floor were not uncommon.