Milton’s Ice Harvest of 1906

By Muriel Bristol  (Transcriber) | October 5, 2018

Massachusetts experienced unusually warm weather during the winter of 1906. High temperature records were set that would not be broken for over a century. (There were February days with temperatures ranging as high as 64 degrees). As a result, ice harvests at Massachusetts lakes and ponds fell short of the usual supply.

Some ice dealers looked north to Milton to augment their stacks.

By January 25, the Lynn ice men had given up hopes of securing a crop in the vicinity of that city and began preparations for obtaining their next season’s supplies from New Hampshire. The Lynn Ice Company has houses at Free Pond [Three Ponds?], in Milton, N.H., which will store 20,000 tons. The company has been transporting ice from there to supply its Lynn customers. Z.J. Chase and M.S. Coolidge own land at Milton on which they will build stacks for the ice they may cut there (Cold Storage, February 1906). 

John O. Porter, of the Beverly Ice Company, of Beverly, and Silas Boyes, of the Beverly & Salem Ice Company, went to Milton N.H., last week to arrange for cutting ice. Both of these companies usually get their stocks from Wenham Lake, but the ice at the latter place has not been thick enough for storage. Mr. Boyes’ men have cut some ice 7 inches thick from Wenham Lake, which has been used for present supply. The ice men about Wenham Lake recall the fact that several years ago, when little ice had been obtained there up to the middle of February, a full crop was harvested before the first of April. Mr. Porter is planning to cut from 40,000 to 50,000 tons at Milton, N.H., and will employ 150 men there. He has sent an engine, tools and horses there (Cold Storage, February 1906).

The Beverly Co-operative Ice Company cut some ice nine inches thick last week. The company has been obliged to get ice for present use from Milton N.H. (Cold Storage, March 1906).

The Lynn Ice Company of Z.J. Chase & Son and M.S. Coolidge & Co of Lynn, who cut ice at Milton, N.H., built 11 houses there and had two stacks. No ice was cut by them on ponds near Lynn. They secured 36,000 tons. Their stocks last year aggregated 54,000 tons (Natural Ice, April 1906). 

John O. Porter, of Marblehead, Mass. has filled his ice houses and stacked considerable ice for present use at his ice houses at Milton, N.H. (Cold Storage, April 1906)

Allowing for shrinkage, their stocks will be short about 22,000 tons. Mial W. Chase, of Z.J. Chase & Son, estimates that the ice will cost nearly double what it did last year. The Lynn dealers’ expenses were greatly increased by minor accidents and the high cost of lumber for their houses at Milton. Their work was also much hindered by snow storms. The ice harvested was 16 to 19 inches thick (Natural Ice, June 1906).

George Stackpole, an ice dealer of the Glenmere District of Lynn, fell through a hole in the run at one of the Milton, N.H. ice houses, July 19, and injured his foot so badly that he was obliged to walk with a cane for several days (Cold Storage, August 1906).

The stocks of ice in Lynn are very low. On October 20, M.S. Coolidge disposed of the last of his supply, while the Lynn Ice Company reported bare houses two days before that and the Independent Ice Company gave up selling some days previously. The dealers had been getting ice from Milton, N.H., but the last of that supply was shipped on October 20. Z.J. Chase & Son and G.F. Day & Son were still in evidence at the last report (Cold Storage, November 1906).

The Union Ice Company, of Concord, N.H. is making extensive additions to its plant at Milton, N.H. Over $10,000 are to be expended in the improvements (Cold Storage, November 1906).  

Milton once had a substantial ice industry, of which these accounts represent just an unusual spurt. The John O. Porter mentioned above had a gang of ice cutters working there in 1904 too, with their horse-drawn ice-cutting equipment. Railroad trains, with cars numbering as many as a hundred, shipped ice out of Milton.

Selectman Lucier recalled picking up nails left from where the ice houses, or some of them at least, had once stood at the Town Beach.


Cold Storage and Ice Journal. (1906, February-November). Massachusetts. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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