Ice houses and the ice box

Davis Brothers Furniture in Tenants Harbor

Prior to the invention of the modern refrigerator a lot of homes in St. George used the ice box, and they were in common use from the 1850s to the 1930s.

The ice man went door to door delivering the ice, which was kept in storage in local ice houses, packed in sawdust to insulate it and keep it from melting. It was common to keep ice stored this way throughout the year, with the ice house being refilled when the cold winter returned.

In St. George there were two main sources of ice—Howard’s Pond in Glenmere and the marsh in Tenants Harbor. Not only was ice from these locations made available to local residents, but there was quite a business in shipping the ice worldwide.

It appears that Samuel Trussell of Port Clyde started the ice business at Glenmere in the early 1870s. Records show Leonard Hupper gave a lease to Howard’s Pond to Samuel Loud of Boston in 1872 and in 1874 Samuel Trussell sold to Samuel Loud his interest to “all of the ice houses and wharf situated in [Deep Cove]… built by me,” along with ice plow, ice tongs, ice caulker and ice auger. In December of 1874 the trustees of the estate of Kilham Loud & Co sold these same assets and assigned the lease to Howard’s Pond to Josiah Hupper and F. O. Martin. Hupper and Martin may have started in the business earlier, as Elisha Seavey, in August of 1873, leased to Hupper “a right of way across his land” from the town road to the sea shore “used for the purpose of hauling ice from Howard’s Pond.”

The first evidence of a business venture at the Tenants Harbor marsh appears in June of 1890, when all the property owners surrounding the marsh gave a 10-year lease to the Davis Brothers for “the privilege of raising the water on said marsh about five ft. by building a dam across M[arsh] Creek near Ripley’s bridge for the purpose of their cutting and taking ice from said Marsh Creek.” The terms of the lease called for “paying therefor[e] the rent of (1½) one and one half cents per ton for all the ice sold or shipped.” Further conditions of the lease were that the rent was to be divided among all the property owners and “the bridge and town road at the head of said Marsh shall not be overflowed.”

In his History of St. George, Maine, Albert Smalley mentions George Rawley in Tenants Harbor as also being in the ice business. It is not known exactly where Rawley’s ice houses were located, although there is a late-19th century painting that shows what appears to be an ice house in the field where the Jackson Memorial Library now stands. We know that Rawley purchased the property that the library sits on in 1896 and he owned it until his death in 1917. And that same property included the land and buildings shown in the photo of the Davis Brothers Furniture Company (which was the old Grace Institute property), so it would probably be safe to assume that Rawley and the Davis Brothers had a business relationship.

Finally, It is also known that in the early 1900s John Morris had an ice house on the north side of Main Street across from the town office/fire station. This may have been the same location as an earlier ice house.

—John Falla

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2 thoughts on “Ice houses and the ice box

  1. Alison Lahnston

    Loved the article on the ice harvests. An actual incechzrvest will happen this Sunday morning at the Thompson Ice House and Museum in South Bristol. Your readers might enjoy going!

    Reply
  2. Judith Hupper Crudele

    I enjoyed the article on ice houses. I grew up in Port Clyde in the Leneta Marshall cottage across from Factory Road. Near the corner there was a defunct ice house. Sally Field and I used to go there as kids. I remember the sawdust in the tiny building. i found the article interesting from a genealogical viewpoint too. I am a Hupper and also related to the Marshalls and Louds. I love reading about the history of the area.
    Thanks for this article.

    Reply

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