The harvesting of ice blocks
from lake Scugog, for both personal and commercial
use, began in earnest during the 1870s and continued
for more than 50 years.
Locally, in 1879 John Watkis was
reported to have been erecting a large ice house
capable of housing 200 tons of pure of the cold
The harvesting of ice was cold
and dangerous job, with horses and men often falling
into the cold water during operations.
On Lake Scugog, ice harvesting
didn't begin until the ice was at least 12' thick,
strong enough to support horses, equipment, and
The process began by scraping
the snow from the top of the ice, often using a
crude plough pulled behind a team of horses. When
cleared, the sheet of ice surface would sometimes
be planed. Next, the ice was scored halfway through
in long parallel lines using a cutting devise similar
to field plough, but with sharp blades.
After scoring the workers chopped
holes in the ice through which they lowered long
single handled saws, which they used to cut the
blocks free, while other harvesters used pike poles
to guide floating blocks of ice along the channels.
In later years power saws were used to cut the ice
into blocks about 22"x32" in size.
As the blocks were cut, large
ice tongs were used to load the ice onto horse-drawn
sleighs or wagons. it was then brought to shore
where it was readied for shipment by rail centres
such as Whitby, Oshawa and Toronto. Local merchants,
and residents hauled their ice to area ice-houses
where it was covered deep with sawdust to keep it
from melting. During the summer the ice would be
used to preserve the freshness of their foods by
using the ice they stored over the winter.
On Lake Scugog, by Feb. 1890,
not only were the local merchants cutting ice from
the lake, but larger companies like the Spring Water
Ice Company of Toronto commenced operations with
the intent of removing fifteen rail-car loads of
ice a day over the winter. The same month, two more
ice companies have set up operations on the lake,
with more than 1000 tons of ice being transported
by rail to Toronto.
The local newspaper often reported
on the Lake Scugog ice harvest and during the winter
of 1915 noted there was a good supply of quality
ice , being a full 18 inches thick and completely
In 1924 the Port Perry Star announced
approximately 3,000 cakes of cut ice had been stored
in the Farmer's Union Milling Co. ice sheds near
the lakefront for distribution the next summer.
The Sam Griffen Lumber Co. was
reported to have stored more than 1,000,000 lbs.
of ice in 1932, but by 1940, they tore down their
ice storage building, ended the era of ice harvesting
on Lake Scugog.
Lake Scugog provides an abundance
of opportunities for both business and pleasure
and the lake has been a popular place for ice skating
for well over a century.
But along with the pleasure of
ice skating also comes a danger of falling through
when rushing the season. There are many incidents
recorded of people plunging to their deaths or narrowly
escaping the clutches of the cold water over the
past 125 years. Some of these are recorded elsewhere
in this book.
In addition to skating, during
the early years of the 20th century the lake was
often used for ice sailing, fishing an occassionally
boating! On one occasion in 1896, after having frozen
to about 10 inches of ice, an unexpected warm spell
melted the ice and several persons were seen out
The frozen lake was also the often
used as a shortcut and roadway during the winter
months, sometimes with serious consequences.
On more than one occasion teams
of horses and their drivers were drowned in Lake
Scugog while drawing transporting lumber, grain
or other products to and from market.
One of the most popular activities
which took place on Lake Scugog during the long
winter months was horse racing. The first event
took place on February 10, 1870, when large numbers
of people braved the piercing cold and wind to witness
the horse races on the frozen surface of the lake.
Little did they know the annual tradition would
continue for more than 40 years.
The annual horse races attracted
large crowds every winter and in January 1908 the
Toronto Globe reported the Port Perry Ice Races
as being one the greatest events to take place in
Canada. That year Lady May and John McEwen paced
a dead heat with their time equalling the world's
The horse racing continued for
a few more years on the lake before coming to an
end about 1912.
Jan. 1877 - Temperatures of 60 below zero and clouds of snow were a little too much for flesh and blood and the annual ice races on Lake Scugog had to be postponed.
Jan. 1880 - Six spontaneous liquor dealers, who started a wholesale liquor business on the lake during the horse races on ice, were hauled to a reception at the office of the magistrate and fined $25 for selling without a license.
Feb. 1890 - A fine team of horses, the property of Mr. Oliver Raimes, Scugog, were drowned in Lake Scugog while drawing ice for the Fairhead Company.
Nov. 1906 - An early freezing of Lake Scugog caught frogs off guard. For miles near the shore the ice was covered with frogs which were slipping around lively.
April 1912 - Dead fish lined the shores of Lake Scugog following the ice going out, causing a menace to public health.
April 1952 - Don Crozier and Everett Prentice rescued two boys caught in an ice flow on Lake Scugog for six hours, by breaking through 150 yards of ice to reach the boat and tow it to shore.
Jan. 1954 - Anson Gerrow and Hugh Hiltz crawled out on thin ice to put ropes over the heads of 10 cattle which had fallen through the ice near the causeway.
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