The Ice Harvesting Business in Milton
1974 article by Charles R. Morris, then president of the Historical Society
Perhaps with most of us preparing for another New England winter, it is not the time for Milton citizens to grow nostalgic about ice, but the thoughtfulness of Joseph J. Donovan, a postal employee, in rescuing the Blue Hill Ice Co. sign and the ice spade shown here when they were about to be disposed of, and then presenting them to The Milton Historical Society deserves recognition. Alertness on the part of good citizens preserves a number of interesting local articles which otherwise would disappear.
Blue Hill Ice Co. Sign
Three place names in town are associated with the thriving ice business which flourished in Milton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—Myers Lane (off Canton Avenue), Pope’s Pond, and Turner’s Pond.
The “Number 1” license plate is owned by Dr. Frederick Tudor of Milton whose ancestor, Frederick Tudor, was the “ice king” of the world in the nineteenth century. Frederick Tudor’s wonderful story of Yankee enterprise is told well by Samuel Eliot Morison in one of my favorite books, “The Maritime History of Massachusetts 1783-1860.”
My own recollection of the delivery of ice in the days before electric refrigerators focuses on a heavy horse-drawn wagon, water dripping from it, with heavy scales on the right rear of the wagon. An enormous Swede named Bostrom, using ice tongs similar to those shown here, swings a hundred pound chunk onto the scales to weigh it, then onto a leather pad on his shoulder. Then into the house he goes to put the ice in the ice box. How I admired his strength! I prefer to forget, however, the pans set to catch water under the ice box, which it was my duty to empty from time to time.
But let me insert here a brief history of the Milton Ice Industry, and in doing so, as usual, I am indebted to that indispensable attic of local history, Teele’s History of Milton.
The business was started by John Meyers about 1853 (hence Myers Lane). Drawing his ice from the vicinity of Myers Lane, Mr. Myers ran his business until his death in 1878. Subsequently, following his death, the business was acquired by J. Frank Pope (hence Pope’s Pond) who eventually merged with Jacob Turner (hence Turner’s Pond) to create a joint operation. In 1884 they cut 6500 tons of ice from Pope’s Pond and 4500 tons from Turner’s Pond, making a total of 11,000 tons of ice cut and stored presumably in white pine sawdust, which was considered the best for packing ice. Turner and Pope employed twelve men for six months of the year and fifteen horses. In housing the ice they used steam and required the services of 100 men in both places, securing about 1000 tons each day when the weather was right for cutting and storing.
It was located at Central Avenue entrance to Turner’s Pond. Since the storing of ice was powered by steam, I believe that the granite stone unearthed by Norman Marsolino and the Milton Park Department supported a shaft equipped with block and tackle powered by a steam engine which hoisted the blocks of ice into place in the store house. As I write, I can picture the cheerful spurts of steam sent forth as each block was swung into the air and guided to its place in the ice house.
Early in the 1880’s Jacob A. Turner made provision for his own ice supply by using a dam of ‘Aunt Srarah’s Brook’ near the junction of Canton Avenue and Brook Road to build a pond. The old dam, a landmark for many years, was the site of the former wool works used by William Davis and others. As late as the mid 1920’s ice was still being removed and stored in sheds on the Central Avenue end of the pond.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Town acquired the two ponds which are now part of the Town of Milton park system.
Roger F. Turner
The Turner name was made famous by Jacob Turner’s son, American figure skater Roger F. Turner (1901-1993), who began his career on the ponds around Milton. His first big win was the 1926 US Junior Men’s championship. For seven consecutive years 1928-1934 Turner was US Senior Men’s champion; a record later tied by skater Dick Button.