Collecting ice from Foreman Ice Pond, Lamoni, 1913
Long before refrigerators were invented, people in rural Decatur County, Iowa kept ice in Ice houses. The ice would generally keep for a good six or seven months.

My gggrandpa Reuben Griffin, like a lot of others in the area, had a special small building just for the purpose of holding ice. The building was filled with sawdust, gathered from the sawmills in the local area. Resourceful people found a use for virtually everything back then. In the winter, ice blocks were cut from ponds with squarish ice saws, wider than they were long. The men would use ice forks to pick up the blocks and stack them in a wagon. They were then put in the ice house building and covered with the sawdust. The blocks of ice would usually keep into June, and a remnant of ice remaining until July, and if the ice house was packed enough of ice and sawdust, into August! Besides iced tea rural people of Decatur County could enjoy real homemade ice cream! they would keep their milk and other foods chilled as well.

One day, in the winter of 1898, the brothers Bill and Al Griffin went to cut ice for their Dad Reuben Griffin's ice house. They went to a neighbor's pond near Pleasanton, as he was glad to have the ice cut for his cattle to drink, plus the pond was bigger than the one on their Dad's place. They had cut quite a bit of ice blocks when Bill Griffin suddenly slipped and fell completely into the ice cold pond. His brother Al pulled him out of the drink but Bill was totally sopped! Al told him to get in the wagon, that he'd drive the horses and get Bill home. As Bill chattered his teeth he said, "go on without me, I'm too co-co-cold to ride, I'll walk home!". Al picked up the remaining blocks and loaded them on the wagon and caught up with Bill. Bill said later that it was the longest mile he ever walked, back home to in front of the pot bellied stove!

'Bill' William Francis Griffin, 1875-1959 (married Mary Lusk, 1875-1970). Samuel Albert Griffin, 1877-1951 (married Rachel Rosa Smith, 1881-1926). Both lived around Pleasanton, Iowa and were sons of Reuben Francis Griffin (1844-1924)

Contributed by William Baker, 2000
In the early days of electricity and those days before this energy was invented, folks used caves and ice boxes to keep their milk and perishables in. A square foot block of ice could keep the ice box cool for as long as four to seven days depending on the temperature of the day and the insulation of the particular box. Ice was purchased from several different ice houses through the years. One was located near the old railroad depot northeast of town. Still another was located downtown behind what was Fred Hall's Jewelry Store. It is a fairly large building and was there around 1921 and after. Horse and wagons brought ice from the reservoir to be unloaded at the dock. The Van Wert Meat Market also sold ice starting the latter part of 1909.

Pages 111 - 117 Contributed by Larry McElwee
~ 'A CENTURY OF MEMORIES' OF VAN WERT, IOWA 1880 - 1980 p. 117
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