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130 winters ago ice was 9 inches thick in local quarries

And a thriving ice business was born

Imagine a Bluffton winter with nine inches of ice covering a water-filled quarry. The following accounts confirm this measurement and reveal an ice business created here as a result.

 

The following Bluffton News accounts show a glimpse of the ice business that once operated here. Bluffton may have had up to six quarries between the 1870s and early 1900s. We do not know the number of ice businesses operating here in the 1890s and later.

 

Bluffton News - Winter of 1894

Ice men have been putting up ice this week. The ice is between five and six inches thick.

 

January 1897

- A New Enterprise -

A.L. Conrad is erecting a large ice house on the old Ritzler, Greenwalt & Co. grounds and expects to deliver ice to the citizens of Bluffton this coming summer. He will have an ice wagon and will give his patrons advantage of regular delivering and hopes to get a share of their patronage. Satisfaction guaranteed.



(The “old Ritzler quarry” opened in 1882. The owners purchased 13.5 acres “south and west of the railroad bridge." By the 1930s and perhaps even earlier, it had become the village dump.

 

A Bluffton News article of Jan. 18, 1940, stated: Contract to continue the city dump ground in its present location was renewed with the Bluffton Hatchery company by action of the town council Monday night for a three year term. The dump located near the Nickel Plate Railroad right of way is part of an abandoned quarry on land owned by the hatchery.)

 

January 1897

The local ice men cut their first harvest Saturday and in anticipation of a thaw some of them worked all day Sunday to get up as much of the congealed water as possible, bit is generally enceded that the ice did not deteriorate in value any during Sunday night. Monday morning attempt was made again to cut but it was so cold the men could not stand it.

Winter – 1897

Ice nine inches thick was cut from the quarries Tuesday. It increased three inches from Saturday till Tuesday.


Dec. 14, 1914

 The winters of the very late 1890s were exceptional for the ice business. The following story from a Dec. 24, 1914, Bluffton News, references those years:


Bluffton ice dealers are harvesting the second ice crop this year, the first crop being cut last January. This is the first time in more than 15 years that dealers have been able to harvest twice in one year.

 

On a tragic note, is the occasional story of a horse falling through the ice while ice cutting took place on these quarries. Horses tied to the ice wagons did not always survive falling into the quarry. One local source of these stories said that the entire town mourned for the dead horses.

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Very interesting, educational And enlightening!

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As a small child, roughly between 1945 and 1948, I recall going to an Ice Plant to get a block of ice to cool food and drinks during a summer family reunion. It was located on North Main Street, across from the Buckeye quarry, probably where the driving school office is located now. We lived on North Jackson St at the time. There was a large ice fork (?) to pick up and carry a large block of ice. We used a smaller ice pick to break off small bits of ice for use. Presumably this ice was cut in winter-time from thick ice on the Buckeye.

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