Ice Harvesting on Chautauqua Lake

Last Ice House Standing in Mayville - The Mayville Ice Co. (Image from the Chaut. Co. Historical Society Bowman Collection)

The commercial ice industry, made possible by the railroad, started in 1871 when the first of six large ice houses were built in Mayville. These were the Chautauqua Lake Ice Co., Pittsburgh Ice Co., Carlson’s Ice, Hopson Ice Co., Cornell and Hewes and the Mayville Ice Co. on what is now Sea Lion Drive.

In 1870 the price of Ice was as high as $15 ton. This price may have been a key reason as to why Ice Houses began cropping up on Chautauqua Lake the following year. By 1880, the average wholesale price of ice was $3.75 per ton, but $5.75 and $6 were the rates during the summer.

A postcard depicting Ice Harvesting on Chautauqua Lake (Source: www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nychauta/Postcard/Postcards.html)

Pittsburgh, Meadville, Oil City, and other towns in western Pennsylvania harvested some ice in their respective localities, but they depended on Chautauqua Lake for a large part of their supply.

The local ice industry employed as many as 600 workers at its peak. With the invention of the electric refrigerator, the demand for ice quickly evaporated throughout the region and the heyday of Ice Harvesting ended on Chautauqua Lake.

In 1935, Harry Kibbe made the last ice harvest in the Town of Chautauqua at the Mayville Ice Co., also known as the Fischer Ice House (above). It was torn down the following year.

Sources:
Devon Taylor, Mayville Historian – “History of the Town of Chautauqua”

Deon Taylor, Mavyille Historian – “A Brief History of Mayville”

Allegany County, NY Local History and Geneology Site – “Ice History – New York State”

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2 Responses to Ice Harvesting on Chautauqua Lake

  1. Diane Daulton says:

    Anyone know when ice harvest (specifically use of horses to pull ice saws) became mechanized (horses may have still plowed, but the saws were mechanized)?

  2. Bill Blanchard says:

    My grandmother said there used to be an ice house next to where our cottage is located at Driftwood. The original cottage, which still exists, and 60’ of lakefront were purchased by my grandparents in about 1923. There used to be a depression in the ground where she said the ice house once stood. That was leveled in the 1960’s when my grandmother purchased that lot. There was a train that ran behind the cottage. I have often wondered if the original cottage provided shelter for the ice harvesters. Any info about this would be appreciated.

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