From around the 1930s, there was one man on the Whitefish chain that had special equipment to put up ice on the Whitefish Chain, especially in the Crosslake area. It was Maurice Chenevert.
Before the days of widespread refrigeration and ice makers, putting up ice from the winter was one of the only ways to keep things cold through the summer. Ice was harvested every winter almost as though it was a crop. Businesses, such as area resorts, as well as individuals would contract Chenevert for ice.
It was a big job to put up ice, and Chenevert had help from several local men. Long-time visitors may recognize some of the names: Morrie Swann, Clarence Erickson, Manley Satchell, George Day, Don Fernlund, Ray Anderson and Joe Hauser all helped harvest ice. Together they used Chenevert's ice machine to cut huge, crystal-clear blocks from the surface of the lake, then used huge hooks to load them onto pickup trucks.
Before Chenevert's ice cutting machine, the ice was cut by hand with long saws- a much more labor-intensive job.
According to an article by the Star Tribune, ice houses were often painted white and had good drainage and ventilation so that the ice could last all summer. Blocks could weigh around 250 pounds each.
Perhaps Chenevert's biggest customer was the Crosslake Store, which was the first store in town and was built in 1904. The ice was stored in a shed behind the Crosslake Store where it was packed with sawdust to insulate it and keep it cool through the summer months. Other businesses had their own ice houses packed with sawdust for keeping their own ice.
Ice house notwithstanding, the Crosslake Store's original building is still in town, located near where Andy's Restaurant is today. It was originally built at the corner of County Roads 3 and 37, near the present-day Reed's Market. A museum/replica of the store is located at the Crosslake Historic Log Village, a great place to visit. While the buildings are only open in the summer months, stepping into the village any time of year is like stepping back in time. Talking boxes that work year-round provide insight into Crosslake's rich history.
While today we simply plug in our refrigerators, keeping food cold was once a much bigger job!
Note: The information for most of this story came from A Taste of History, a compilation of Crosslake area history written and compiled by the Crosslake Historical Society and its friends. The comprehensive book can be purchased at Judy's House of Gifts in Crosslake year round. In addition to history on local businesses, families, resorts and events, the book includes several favorite recipes from old-timers.