By Jennifer Gully
Before refrigerators and freezers, harvesting ice was very important to keep iceboxes cool to preserve food. Iceboxes were like refrigerators, except there was no electricity to keep them cool. Thus ice was harvested from local lakes in the winter and used to keep iceboxes cool.
In Paynesville, ice was commonly harvested from Lake Koronis. Many businesses and people were involved in harvesting ice. The North American Cold Storage Company packed and stored their own ice.
Later Leo Hartmann began a business harvesting ice. His business was taken over by his son Raymond in 1916 or 1917 and after World War II by his grandson Alvin (Bub).
Forrest McKinley was also active in supplying Paynesville and surrounding communities with ice.
The process of harvesting ice began with clearing snow off a section of the lake. Snow was first cleared by a horse and plow and in later years with a truck or tractor with a plow. Ice was then marked with two foot intervals. Ice was cut with a hand ice saw.
Later a saw was made that was pulled by horses with four knives that cut 12 inches deep. Usually ice was not cut all the way through with this saw so it had to be finished by hand. In addition, a powered circular saw was later made that cut 13-18 inches deep.
To get the ice out of the lake, large tongs were used to pull it. Then the ice was loaded on a trailer and brought to an ice house, whose walls were surrounded with sawdust to prevent the ice from melting during the warmer months.
Generally, ice harvested in the winter lasted until the fall in the ice house.
Many people got ice delivered to their homes. However, the main consumers of ice were drug stores, creameries, and butcher shops. Lake resorts were also large consumers, but many had their own ice houses.
Ice blocks weighed up to 400 pounds each, so it was very hard work moving ice. North American Creameries hired farmers to cut ice. Farmers made $5 a day, and a day's work consisted of hauling eight blocks a trip, making between six to eight trips a day.
Today lake ice is not consumed, but it is cut to make beautiful sculptures or castles.
The Paynesville Area Historical Museum has an old ice plow used on Lake Koronis, many pictures of the Hartmanns cutting ice, and an icebox in its ice-cutting display.