Ice harvesting developed into a significant industry in early Sherburne County. Particularly around the City of Big Lake, ice earned a national reputation for purity and quality. The seasonal work also established itself as a significant part of the local economy. The lucrative process of harvesting the ice also proved tricky and dangerous.
|Ice Cutters and the Big Lake Ice Company warehouse|
The technique to harvest ice also provides interesting insight. Ice is plowed and cross cut into 14 inch by 30 inch squares. These squares measure 20 inches deep. Next, deeper cuts form large rafts of ice. These rafts are “floated” to a conveyor belt. Final cuts are made to break up the raft and the ice loaded on the belt to be hauled into the warehouse.
Working on slippery ice, that is also floating free in the lake, the work can quickly turn to disaster if the harvesters are not sure footed.
Yet, each year, the ice on lakes around Sherburne County are harvested, sold to the railroad companies of shipped to larger metropolitan areas for public consumption.
A significant contribution to the county’s economy took place in the months of January and February of each year in the early history of Sherburne County.