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The Great Northern Iceman

Ice cutting from local lakes kept houses, trains, and fare cool all year long.

Here comes the iceman! Ice delivery via horse-drawn sled was a staple of Whitefish throughout early part of the 20th century. Pictured here, the “ice wagon” trots south down Baker Avenue. The building in the background is the fire department, which is where City Hall stands today.

Ice chunks were chipped off and delivered to homes and businesses around Whitefish. Two ice wagons operated in the early 1900s; one by Frank Baker and one by W.T. Cole.

Photo circa 1923 and taken by Westphal.

From the Whitefish Pilot on

February 28, 1908:

“Frank Baker has finished filling the big ice house on the lake shore belonging to the Baker Bros., and the ice he secured was of the finest quality. It is Mr. Baker’s intention to run an ice wagon next summer, in connection with his water wagon, and Whitefish Residents need not fear that there will be any lack of the frozen substance during the summer months.”


Ice cutting happened across several local lakes including Bitterroot Lake, Marion Lake, Stillwater Lake, and Whitefish Lake. Pictured here, workers use a gas-powered saw to cut sections of ice off Whitefish Lake. In the background of the photo, ice is dragged through the water to a conveyor belt system that brings the slabs out of the lake. From there, the ice was cut and delivered to local ice houses (including the ice houses that used to sit across the tracks from the train depot).


Ice cutting was hard work! Workers harvested tons of ice from local lakes every winter. Youcan only imagine how easy it would have been for workers to slip and take a quick dip in the icy water! (Photo by unknown) Also pictured here is an ad for Frank Baker’s ice wagon from May 1, 1908 in the Pilot.


Pictured here, workers transport freshly-cut ice blocks from an unknown lake.

(Photo by Unknown)

Also pictured here is an ad for W. T. Cole’s ice wagon. This ad ran on March 10, 1908. It appears Cole and Baker ran competing ice wagons in Whitefish!


From the Archives

These clippings are from the early days of Whitefish Pilot. “Ice by Trainloads” ran on March 19, 1909. The piece about the “Great Northern iceman” ran on February 8, 1912.

Thanks for reading this story about the history of ice cutting in Whitefish!

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