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Ice harvesting at Timmer Hotel in the 1930s  | By Barbara Johnson and Eileen Eckert

January 7, 2022 – Big Cedar Lake, WI – In 2015 Barbara Johnson published a book about Timmer’s Resort. ‘Timmer’s Resort at Big Cedar Lake …a journey through time.’

Ice harvesting on Big Cedar Lak

The hardcover coffee table book is filled with black-and-white photos and fascinating nuggets about the Timmer family, the cozy resort, and the historic atmosphere.

Johnson wrote the book following a request from George and Judi Prescott. Below is an excerpt from the book titled ‘The Icehouse.’

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Icehouses were a common feature of many homes and most businesses before electricity and refrigeration were the norm. The Timmer Hotel and Pebbly Beach Resort icehouse was likely built before the turn of the century – perhaps in conjunction with the 1896 stone bake house. Keeping the house full of ice was a major undertaking by local men.

In 2005, Cecelia (Tennies) Strupp shared her memories with her grandson-in-law, Fred Luft, of how the ice was harvested at Big Cedar Lake and stored in the Timmer icehouse. Eileen Eckert wrote the piece and shared the c. 1930s accompanying photo.

Isidor Strupp found work in 1933 on an 80-acre farm owned by Leonard Timmer. Only 40 acres of the farmland was tillable. There was a small house and barn. Their livestock consisted of 2 horses, 10 cows, and chickens, which were raised for the eggs.

Isidor and his wife Cecilia rented the farm with the agreement Isidor would harvest ice for the Timmers who ran Timmer’s Inn & Cottages. He was also required to peddle the ice in the summer along with kerosene, which was stored in a big tank on the farm.

There were 10-12 cottages which all needed ice along with the inn.

They waited in winter until the ice was at least 20-22 inches thick on the lake. An auger was used to drill into the ice to see how thick it was.

The auger also made a hole large enough to use the saw to cut the blocks.

This saw was the same kind used by lumbermen for cutting trees. It had very large teeth, which they kept well sharpened. Blocks were cut 20 inches by 20 inches and whatever the thickness of the ice.

As the blocks were cut, they would float and could be grabbed with large ice tongs.

The blocks were loaded on a horse-drawn flatbed sled with boards on the sides to keep the blocks from falling off.

This same flatbed was used in summer by taking it off the sled and putting it on wheels. The horse wore spiked shoes to keep them from slipping on the ice. The spikes were about 1-inch long. Some of the workers may have worn spikes fastened to their rubber boots to be better able to maneuver on the ice.

Ice became very slippery with all the water splashing onto the area where men were working.

The ice harvesting crew consisted of 10 men. The work was very hard and was called “bull work.” Working out in the cold, the crew worked up quite an appetite. Cecilia was responsible for feeding the large group to meals a day just like they did with the threshing crews during harvest time on the farm.

Cecilia fed the workers well. The meal consisted of canned beef or pork, which she had canned herself. Potatoes and vegetables rounded out the meal with probably a lot of homemade bread.

The vegetables would have been canned beans or cabbage or carrots from their root cellar.

Cabbage was also made into sauerkraut in large crocks.

By the time Cecilia finished feeding and cleaning up for one meal it was probably time to start fixing the next meal.

She still had to take care of all her other regular chores which a farm wife was responsible for those days.

This went on until the icehouse was filled, which could take a couple weeks.

Timmer's Resort at Big Cedar Lake



To read more about the history of Timmer’s Resort and Big Cedar Lake pick up a copy of the book ‘Timmer’s Resort at Big Cedar Lake…A Journey Through Time.’  It can be purchased at GPMS, 2412 W Washington St, West Bend (cash or check). Also at Timmer’s Resort or email Barbara Johnson at [email protected]

The book sells for $28.40 + tax for an even $30.


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