Community Ice Harvesting

by Catherine Haug

Ice Cutting on the Swan (Elmer Sprunger, Geo. Wells & brother)

Ice Cutting on the Swan

The Daily Interlake had a very interesting feature article in the October 25, 2009 Montana Life section, titled “Block Parties,” a history of local ice harvests and ice houses in Whitefish.

Elmer Sprunger had a great photo of an ice harvest on the Swan River near Bigfork, shown left. This photo features Elmer, George Wells, and George’s brother.

There may come a time in a not too distant future, when we will need to resume this activity to keep foods cool – when there’s no longer enough electricity to run our refrigerators.

At one time, ice houses and ice cutting parties were very common in the Flathead. We ‘grew’ very good quality ice here on our mountain lakes and slow-moving rivers like the upper Swan. Just about every community had it’s own ice house, managed by an enterprising entrepreneur.  Bigfork’s ice house was located between the Garden Bar and the old Wild Mile Deli building, and was still in use when I was a small child. It was both an ice house and a meat locker.

See The Essentialist: Refrigeration without Electricity (96 KB) for more information.

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