"Cutting Ice for the Icebox"
History of a small town
industrial giant - “The Wallace Machine Works,
Ltd. and Wallace Manufacturing Co., Ltd. - Sussex, New Brunswick 1919 -
by K. Wayne Vail
coaxed, we begged, but Mum was not moving from her “No” position. Things changed when
Dad came in from doing the barn chores with the announcement that he
heard the train whistle blow from both Hampton and Bloomfield Stations
thus soft weather was on the way and could be the signaling of a coming
Gramp and Dad were working together, along with Gramp’s hired hands,
cutting ice on Green’s Lake. They needed another day’s work to fill the
Mum worried about the men working on that lake, let alone letting
children being there, as local lore stated that it was bottomless. Dad
said he could use all the help he could get so he was quite agreeable
that Cliff and I could spend Saturday helping.
In preparation, Ken let me borrow his gum rubbers and a couple of pairs
of heavy socks. He even let me have a pair of his leather mitts.
Mum spent the evening making sandwiches and wrapping them in wax paper.
She put several bricks in the oven to be used to keep them from
Cliff filled two jute bags with straw for seats on our ride on the
bobsleds that had boards on the sides.
About six inches of fresh snow covered the ground when we got up on
After a breakfast of pancakes, belly pork and hot oatmeal, we were
The horses would be doing a lot of standing so Dad brought along their
heavy storm blankets as well as nose bags filled with oats that would
provide them with a lunch.
When we arrived at the lake, Gramp was there ahead of us. He took one
look at me and remarked, “Does she plan to take over the ice business
as Georgina Whetsel of Saint John did when her husband Robert died in
1885?” He went on to say, “That lady managed solely by herself to
employ a large crew cutting ice on Lily Lake and nearly thirty teams to
haul the loads to the store houses on Leinster Street, Duke Street and
Sandy Point Road.”
I wonder if he knew that by 1895, her reputation as the only known
woman ice merchant to conduct the largest ice business in New Brunswick
had reached Woman's Era, a national magazine in Boston and her picture
was published in the publication.
Probably Mrs. Whetsel had the same worries of a thaw in January and had
her men work long hours.
To Dad, snow during the night, meant first using the slush scrapper to
get rid of it. Next came the rolls of binder twine to guide his
homemade pusher to mark the cutting lines.
When the block was cut by the ice saw which resembled a long handsaw,
it was pushed along the open water channel with a pike pole and removed
from the water with ice tongs. Once the blocks were placed on the sled,
I had the task of placing a little sawdust between them to keep them
from freezing together.
The wind blew and a squall came up but nothing short of stopping for
lunch was going to slow down the day’s work.
Cliff found some birch bark and with the kindling brought from home,
built a fire near the shore and boiled the water for the tea. Gramp
insisted the loose tea be thrown in the hot water in the kettle and
then some cold water be added. According to him, this was what made a
good cup of tea. The hot bricks had kept the sandwiches and molasses
cookies from freezing and the “grub” which we ate while sitting on the
bags of straw certainly tasted some good.
Darkness was approaching when the second load was completed and tied
with ropes. While driving home wet snow was falling and we knew rain
was just around the corner.
Dad took the lantern to the icehouse to provide some light as the
blocks were carried in and carefully covered with lots of sawdust on
The icehouse was now filled to almost the rafters so the January thaw
could come at any time.
Cliff and I carried the pails of scalded bran to the barn for the
horses. While they ate, we put the heavy blankets on them as those
horses were probably as cold as we were.
Once we were in the warm kitchen, our wet mitts, trousers, socks and
boots were placed around the stove to dry.
As we ate Mum’s stew, we told her of our exciting day and how Cliff
almost slipped into the lake as he was pushing the pike pole. She
shuddered and once again told us of her fears and how glad she was that
ice cutting was over for another year.
Come summer, the ice house would be a cool place to be on a hot day
when we were sent there to bring in a cake of ice for the ice box,
built by the Wallace Manufacturing Company in Sussex.
By the way, in his growing-up years, K. Wayne Vail lived on Peter
Street in Sussex where his backyard looked onto the mill of the Wallace
Manufacturing Company. Today this land is occupied by the Sussex Mall
and the Canadian Tire Store.
Since the plant and the mill yard are now just a memory for those
who worked there, and for the folk who are aware of its existence,
Wayne compiled the book, History of a
small town industrial giant - “The Wallace Machine Works, Ltd. and
Wallace Manufacturing Co., Ltd. - Sussex, New Brunswick 1919 - 1956".
The book traces the development of the manufacturing industries that
eventually led to the incorporation of The Sussex Manufacturing
and subsequently the Wallace Machine Works, the Wallace Manufacturing
Company, and Wallace Woodworkers as revealed by various legal
documents, company documents and correspondence, newspapers,
particularly The Weekly Record and its successor The Kings County
Record, and through interviews with members of the Wallace and Kelso
families and others connected in one way or another with the business
over the years.
The Company had its beginning in the early 1800s when Donald Fraser
left his farm on the Roachville Road and opened a woodworking factory
and William Howes built and operated a foundry and machine shop in
Wayne tells us that William Howes was born in Portland (Saint John) on
1 Mar 1844 to Richard Howes and Catherine White. By the 1871 census, he
was living in Sussex with his wife, Sarah, and two children, and
working as a moulder.
William Howes manufactured the Star stove and another called ‘Iron
Sides No. 31'.
Shortly after 1900, the ‘Sussex Woodworking and Electric Company’ and
the ‘Howes Foundry and Machine Works’ amalgamated to form 'The Sussex
Manufacturing Company’. The first man on the payroll was John Mahoney
who had previously worked at the G. and G. Flewelling Manufacturing
Company’s Mill in Hampton and prior to that at the Bostock Lumber
Company. He played a leading part in setting up the plant.
By 1904, the Company experienced an increase in demand for their
threshing machines and other farm implements thus an addition was
In 1919, the machine shop and foundry portion of ‘The Sussex
Manufacturing Co.' was purchased by Harry W. Wallace, William W. Kelso
and Charles W. Upham and the new company was incorporated as ‘Wallace
Another name change occurred in 1926 when the remaining assets of
Sussex Manufacturing were purchased and the company became the Wallace
This is a most interesting book, not only as to the history of the
companies and the mergers, but of photos, biographical information on
the men involved in the business, and the names of many of the
“The Wallace Machine Works, Ltd.
and Wallace Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Sussex, New Brunswick 1919 - 1956"
complied by K. Wayne Vail and published in 2006 is available for
viewing at the Kings County Museum in Hampton. It can be
purchased for $35.00, plus shipping and handling, if applicable, by
contacting K. W. Vail by phone (506) 433-9898 or E-mail email@example.com
- Sullivan: The first reunion for the descendants of
Patrick Flynn and Bridget Sullivan will be held in Miramichi in
conjunction with the Irish Festival July 20 to 22, 2007. Visit the very
interesting Flynn Family website at http://mflynn.ca
for more information. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org