Life Before Ice in Montgomery County (1910)
Got ice? Usually, we don’t think about ice very often, unless there’s none in the freezer. Before the first successful ice-making machines were built, ice for refrigeration was obtained through a process called “ice harvesting.” Ice cutters used to risk their lives by going out onto frozen ponds with saws, tongs, and pitchforks and methodically cut and dragged blocks of ice which would be stored in hay-packed ice houses. But people did not put ice in drinks as we do now. The possibility of debris having been in the water as it froze – even a bug now and then – discouraged the idea.
Ice houses were dug into the ground to keep the temperature low; double-thick walls were often filled with sawdust for further insulation, and the blocks themselves were packed in sawdust or straw. When you wanted some ice for drinks or to make ice cream, you wouldn’t pull out a whole block; ice picks, chisels, hatchets and shavers were used to get just what you needed.
I’m not exactly sure what the structure is in the middle of the pond, but “google” said it could be an outlet structure to keep the water surface in the pond at its optimum level, which usually coincides with the maximum water level designed for the pond. If anyone knows exactly what it is, please leave a comment.
From The Evening Star, Washington, D.C. December 22, 1904
ROCKVILLE AND VICINITY GENERAL NEWS
The cold weather of the past ten days has frozen the ponds and creeks throughout this county to a thickness of six or seven inches, and the ice harvesting is now the order of the day. The quality of the ice is not regarded as first-class, however, and for this reason many persons will defer filling their houses until later in the winter.
Next time you drop a few ice cubes into a glass or take out a frozen piece of meat from the freezer, perhaps give a momentary thought to how much we take for granted the ability to have ice cold drinks, preserved foods that can be stored for months, ice cream, cold frothy beer, and so many perishable food products. Refrigeration is a modern convenience that we just can’t live without and certainly one that I take for granted … or took for granted until I wrote this!
Great piece. We live in Dallas, which is uninhabitable without refrigeration!
The stone structure is a drop inlet structure or nowadays a called a water control structure. It is connected to a pipe (usually now metal or polyethlyene plastic) allows water to exit the water body.
Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your informative comment regarding the ‘mystery’ structure in the middle of the pond. I love gaining new knowledge, so thanks for sharing this.
Nice pictures, you can see the dam that created the impoundment on the right side of the summer photo. The stone structure could have an overflow drain which would keep water from going over the dam and weakening it when the water level was high. This pond must have been on a creek or stream and may not exist anymore.
Hi Mark, Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave your comment. So happy you enjoy the pictures!
Best wishes for a Happy New Year!
Reading this was just lovely 🙂