Havesting Ice

- jim Young

“‘I see,’ said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.” - anon

Long before the chainsaw came into popular use, crosscut saws were used by loggers to clear the forests across Canada. It was a two man operation. Standing on opposite sides of the tree or log they were preparing to cut, the men would take turns pulling and pushing the saw back and forth as the teeth of the saw blade cut through the wood.

Woodcutters using an old crosscut saw are about
to saw the trunk of a tree they just cut down.

As a means of preserving history and creating a work of art, many people have taken to painting antique saw blades to display inside or outside their houses.

So when my Grandfather offered me his saw blade, I was happy to take it. The handles were missing from the blade but that didn’t bother me. It wasn’t until sometime later however, that I noticed that only one end of this saw blade had been designed for a handle. The other end was rounded. I thought this was peculiar so I asked my Grandfather about it.

“That saw was not intended for use by two people,” my Grandfather explained, “It was designed for cutting ice from the lake in the winter.” Apparently it was hard to find someone willing to take the other end of a traditional crosscut saw when harvesting ice, so the ice saws were fitted with a handle on one end only.

Used for harvesting ice by the Belle Ewart Ice Company
in the early 1900s, this saw was designed with a handle
on one end and a rounded tip on the other.
(The original handle is not shown in this picture.)

Blocks of ice, harvested from Lake Simcoe
by the Belle Ewart Ice Company
are being loaded on a truck to be taken
to nearby storage. Circa early 1900s. 
My Grandfather had once worked for the Belle Ewart Ice Company in Innisfil Township. The Belle Ewart Ice Company which was founded in 1891, harvested ice from Lake Simcoe, supplying ice to its customers from Innisfil Township to Toronto and beyond and all points in between via The Grand Trunk Railway.

“Teams of horses were used to haul the ice to the rail cars and storage sheds”, my Grandfather once told me. “And occasionally the horses would break through the ice and fall into the lake. When this happened, much of the rest of the day was spent rescuing the horses and pulling them from the icy waters.”

Of course the invention of the refrigerator would eventually bring an end to the ice harvesting business and another chapter in our history would come to an end.

Yes, my friends… Those were the days.

- 30 -


Do you have some pictures or memories of the proverbial “good old days” that you would like to share? If so, please send them by clicking on this link, Those Were The Good Old Days.


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Published In The Great North Arrow, June 1, 2023: Do You Want Fries And Taxes With That?

Obituary: 173 Big Bay Point Road