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Harvesting Ice

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 'gold'.
  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 people.
  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 clear.


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.

Ice Activities

  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 boating.
  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 ice record.
  The horse racing continued for a few more years on the lake before coming to an end about 1912.

Ice Incidents

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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