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!
Then & Now: Windsor Store in Darnestown
Photos are our window to the past. You might not realize how much Darnestown has changed until you look back and see what it looked like in the past. In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a google street view image for “now”. Travel back 110 years in time to see how Windsor Store in Darnestown used to be.
A bit of Darnestown history: The Darnestown area, which was located at the intersection of Darnestown and Seneca Roads, was settled in the 1750s. Darnestown Road (Route 28) was an old Indian trail and is recognized as one of the oldest roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. By the 1820’s, the town began to blossom and hosted a wheelwright, the Grist Mill, a blacksmith, a physician, a post office and a variety of other businesses. Darnestown became an important place for commerce in the area. Seneca Road led to a sandstone mill and the C&O canal at Seneca Village. From Darnestown one could travel either by stagecoach along Darnestown Road or board a packet boat on the canal at Seneca.
THEN: Mr James Windsor, grandfather of Curry England, opened the Windsor Store at the corner of Seneca and Darnestown Roads in approximately 1878. He operated the store for many years, and also served as Darnestown’s Postmaster for some 20 years. During the 1800s mail arrived three times a week by stagecoach from Rockville and local people gathered for the arrival, creating a regular social event. The Darnestown Post Office was discontinued in 1911. The Windsor building survived until 1969, when it caught fire and burned to the ground.
NOW: Today, a 6-Twelve Convenient Mart sits on the site.
Ice Harvesting in Darnestown, ca.1910
Got ice? Usually, we don’t think about ice very often, unless there’s none in the freezer. At the start of the 19th century, keeping food fresh and edible was one of the biggest challenges of everyday life. So what was life like before we had that incredible device that we now take for granted, the refrigerator?
Before the first successful ice-making machines were built, ice for refrigeration was obtained through a process called “ice harvesting.” Men would venture out onto frozen ponds with saws, tongs, and pitchforks and methodically cut and dragged blocks of ice.
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!
Martin Thompson House on Darnestown Road, 1907
The home in the photo was owned by James Martin Thompson (1825–1902), Lewis Reed’s maternal grandfather. It was then called “Pleasant Hills”, which was located just opposite of the Thomas Kelly farm. In the early days, it was common practice for a family to give a name to their property. The house was accessed from Darnestown Road by a long tree-lined drive.
Route 28, in Darnestown is depicted in this photo before paving. What is now Route 28 is one of the earliest roads in the county, and was one of the main ways farmers in Poolesville, Darnestown, Dickerson, and Barnesville reached the courthouse in Rockville. Darnestown Road has existed since before the Civil war, and it remained a mud path for years into the automobile age.
Most houses in the Darnestown “Pleasant Hills” area were not very large and most were made of wood rather than brick. According to the 1860 Federal Census, Martin Thompson’s occupations were listed as Carpenter and Farmer living in Darnestown, Montgomery County, Maryland.
This photograph won an honorable mention in a contest sponsored by Rotary International for Lewis Reed.
The Reed Family (Blacksmithing in Darnestown c. 1870)
Philip Reed (1845-1918), father of Lewis Reed, was an early settler in Darnestown, Maryland. He was a Blacksmith. Blacksmiths were once important members of the Darnestown community. They provided a vital trade that continued up to the mid-20th century. Born in Darnestown, Maryland on March 17, 1845, he was raised in a family that survived on knowledge and hard work. In 1870, at age 25, his occupation is listed as a Cabinet Maker and Blacksmith. Darnestown residents of that time included a doctor, a merchant, a blacksmith and a wheelwright. It seems Philip Reed may not have considered his primary occupation as a Wheelwright, but I do know that he had a Blacksmith shop on his land and he worked with both cabinet maker and blacksmith skills.
A blacksmith is a metal worker who creates objects from iron or steel by heating the metal and using tools to hammer, bend, and cut it. Civil war armies used blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair things such as wagons, horse tack, and artillery equipment.
A wheelwright is someone who makes and repairs wheels. Early wagon and cart wheels were made of solid wood, but increasingly had iron parts, such as hubs and rims. It would not be unusual for one man to be both a blacksmith and a wheelwright, for wheelwrights were sometimes described as a cross between a carpenter and a blacksmith.