Ice Harvesting

Chapter 15 -- Part 2

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A June 1891 News-Letter article reported, "Very hot and dry, and early potatoes and vegetables of all kinds are in want of rain, and the hay and apple crop will be light in this section. For some days the thermometer has ranged from 90 up to 102, and this causes the ice men to chuckle." Another traditional Hampton industry was the harvesting of ice. Before the days of electrical refrigeration, ice was a necessity for homes and for the hotels and restaurants at Hampton Beach. One of the main suppliers of ice was Curtis DeLancey, who in 1884 had some 20 private icehouses around town to fill. That year he was cutting 22-inch-thick ice from Drakes Pond, although most newspaper accounts of the 1890s reported that the ice was normally 10 to 11 inches thick. The ice cakes weighed about 300 pounds and DeLancey often harvested up to 1,500 tons. A strong team of horses could haul 40 cakes, or about six tons. Skilled in the work, DeLancey was hired by farmers and others in Hampton Falls, Seabrook, and Salisbury to cut ice in those towns. In 1878, the Lynn (Massachusetts) Milk Company opened a branch in Hampton, building an icehouse near the depot that they replaced with a larger building in 1895. David Lamprey signed a 10-year contract to fill the house.

Most hotels and the Casino had their own icehouses, which the ice men filled. One winter, the Hotel Whittier bought 300 tons of ice from DeLancey, who had a large icehouse of his own on the Mill Pond off High Street. Between 15 and 20 men were used for the harvesting, which was done when the weather was the coldest and the ice the thickest. A cover of snow, which had to be removed, made the work much more difficult. Sometimes the ponds would yield two cuttings of ice, but ordinarily the men could supply their customers through the summer on one cutting. The ice was stacked high in the icehouses and covered and layered with hay or sawdust as insulation.

In February 1914, the Union reported that "Thomas Cogger has a new ice house on Guinea road and has filled it with 1,070 tons. He also has an icehouse at the beach." A year later, Cogger filled the new icehouse with 1,000 cakes of ice and he expected to cut the pond again before the end of winter. Other ice harvesters in this century were the families of David Lamprey and Eugene Leavitt, who had icehouses at Lamprey Pond on Woodland Road, and Oscar and Horace Batchelder, who continued their father's business on Towle Farm Road at the site of today's Batchelder's Park and Pond.

This pond was once just a tiny stream, but Nathaniel Batchelder scooped out a depression with horse-drawn equipment to make a small ice pond. Horace later enlarged the pond and was cutting ice there as late as the mid 1960s. In more recent times, the Batchelders had ice-making equipment, and eventually the old icehouses were torn down.

The Beach remained the major market for ice, and it was used in restaurants, by many small cottage owners who hadn't bought electric refrigerators, and also by fishermen who used the ice to preserve their catch. In hot weather, the icemen sometimes came to the Beach twice a day. Regular customers received cards that were placed in their windows. When turned a certain way, the cards indicated to the delivery man how much ice the customer needed. One of the last houses was Eugene Leavitt's on Woodland Road, which was destroyed by fire in 1963. The Lamprey family continued to use their icehouse until the mid- 1970s, when the building was removed. Many of the old ice ponds were popular skating areas. Once periodically scooped out and cleared of vegetation, these ponds are now filling in and will one day disappear.

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