The current subzero temperatures should produce good ice for the Millers Mills Grange Ice Harvest this year. Scheduled for Sunday, February 8, 2015, the event provides the perfect opportunity for visitors to step back in time and experience something that their grandparents or they, themselves, once did.
The Millers Mills community maintains the authenticity of a 19th century ice harvest by using old hand tools to saw, separate, and load the ice blocks onto horse-drawn sleighs. The only exception is the antique, gas-powered machine used to score the ice the day before. This insures that the blocks are relatively uniform in size and easier to cut and handle. Workers begin harvesting the ice at 11 a.m. and continue until mid afternoon when the ice house is full. Visitors are encouraged to participate in cutting the ice.
Ice harvesting has occurred in Millers Mills since its founding by Andrew Miller over two centuries ago. Then ice was needed to preserve food and to cool farmers’ milk. After electricity arrived in 1941, the community church, and later the Grange, continued harvesting ice to make ice cream for summer socials. Today the Millers Mills Ice Harvest has become a nationally known community effort to preserve and share a small facet of rural American heritage.
Members of the Eastern Regional Draft Horse Association and their teams of draft horses haul the ice from the Millers Mills pond to the ice house a short distance away. Packed in sawdust and snow, the ice blocks last well into the following summer. The empty sleighs provide rides for visitors back to the pond.
Visitors can warm up with homemade soup, hot dogs, doughnuts and hot chocolate at the Grange Hall. Nearby the Community Baptist Church offers chili, baked goods and a craft-bazaar. Jim Parker’s folk art is available at both sites. The Grange will have a 50-50 raffle with the cash as first prize and a basket of tasty treats from the Red Door Dairy Store as the second prize. A historical exhibit on the ice harvest will also be on display at the Grange hall.
Millers Mills is a small hamlet located in the town of Columbia in extreme southern Herkimer County just off Route 51 near Cedarville. Look for signs on Route 20 and Route 28. Admission and parking are free. Dress warmly and bring your camera. This is an event for the whole family.
As always, Mother Nature has the last word. To verify that the ice harvest will occur or for more information, visit the Millers Mills Grange website, www.millersmillsny.com or contact: Dave Huxtable, Ice Harvest Chairman, at (315) 822-5283 or Kathy Huxtable, Publicity Chairman, at (315) 822-6860.