Madison's Heritage (Ice Co.)

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Madison's Heritage (Ice Co.)


Before the invention of the electric refrigerator the people of Richmond and Madison County were able to have ice for summer use only through a rather difficult process.

In the coldest part of winter when the ice would form in a thick layer on ponds and lakes the people would use saws to cut the ice into blocks which were then carried to a special "icehouse" built in the ground nearby. Not only were the blocks heavy but the work of sawing them out was dangerous for those who walked on the ice. There also was serious concern about the purity of the ice since some germs in the water could survive the freezing. Typhoid fever especially was feared.

Although there were several attempts at operating small icemaking machines in the late 1800's, large scale ice manufacturing did not appear here until 1905, when the Richmond Ice Company was organized. The present ice plant building is the original one, built to the dimensions of 152 by 84 feet. A large amount of high quality machinery was installed and the small lake was made in order for the plant to have its own water supply. A cold storage section was also erected.

In 1910 the company officers were H.B. Hanger, president; L.B. Weisenburg, secretary-treasurer; W.B. Craven superintendent, and John S. Conway manager.

In an effort to produce pure ice the water was distilled twice at a temperature considerably above 212and then filtered three times. Forty tons of this pure ice could be made each day.

A railroad spur was built so that cars of both the L&N and the L&A (the new name of the RINB Railroad) could be loaded directly from the building. The L&N found the Richmond plant quite handy for it was the only such ice plant on the railroad between Cincinnati and Atlanta.

In the early days of the company enclosed horse-drawn wagons were used for local delivery. By the 1930's, specially built open wagons were drawn through the streets of the city with the large blocks of ice covered by tarpaulins. Housewives were supplied with cards with the large numbers, 25, 50, 75 and 100, in different positions to be displayed on the front porch so that the driver could tell by a glance from the street which home needed how much ice that day. After a block of the proper size was chipped off the iceman would throw on his rubber apron over his back and, using his ice tongs, carry the block to the back door of the house. There he would put it in the big oaken icebox.

Those of us who grew up in Richmond in the 1930's can remember a lot of happy moments on hot summer days when we would run after the slowly moving ice wagon and jump on the tailgate to grab a deliciously cold fresh chip.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “Madison's Heritage (Ice Co.),” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 19, 2024,