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Tobyhanna Ice Harvest returns

Freezing temperatures didn't stop people in Monroe County from taking part in the centuries-old tradition of the Tobyhanna Ice Harvest.

COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP, PA — For nearly 29 years, people from near and far gather at Millpond Lake in Coolbaugh Township to take part in a tradition.

The Tobyhanna Ice harvest. 

Sue Smith has lived in the area her entire life. She thought it was time to come and experience it.

"This industry many years ago is what people survived on and we wanted to see the hard work that was involved and the tools and the cutting of the ice," said Smith.

Thin ice and the Coronavirus canceled the harvest last two years.

Merton Quick of Coolbaugh Township has come every year of the harvest, using it as a way to honor his grandfather.

"My grandfather used to work on the ice at this pond, plus all of the other ponds, and years ago there used to be a horse and donkey barn here a mule barn here and he used to come on weekends and take care of the animals. That's why we're here in memory of him," said Quick.

Harvesting the ice is a process, and some may say a workout.

Once the ice is cut with an antique power saw, people then get to work using a hand saw to get more precise.

After the ice is freed, it's then guided down this ice-cold water channel and onto a conveyer belt.

Horses then work pulling it up the ramp and into the icehouse.

"In the early 1900s, this lake was used for commercial ice harvesting. That was back before refrigerators and people had ice boxes in their kitchen and in order to keep that icebox cold they had to cut ice off of ponds like this. It's an important part of Coolbaugh Township history and the whole area here. Many lakes were used for the ice industry," said Organizer Bill Leonard.

The piece of local history was shared Saturday with people like, Elyssa Teter. 

She says the experience is humbling.

"I wish everybody could just see a little piece of history and maybe then they would appreciate how well we do have it and not complain maybe as much, because it could be a whole different story," said Teter of Orwigsburg.

270 ice blocks later and the hard work has paid off the Millpond Icehouse is stuffed with cakes of ice staying frozen well into summer.

Check out WNEP’s YouTube page.

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