Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hudson River Thoughts and Do-Gooders

A couple of ideas swirling around in my brain come together today in one old document.

I was writing about the Hudson River ice industry for my next then and now article for Our Towne.  I wondered about the men, and women, who worked the ice harvest.  The sub-zero temperatures and cutting wind.  The horses. The steam engines that powered the cakes of ice up into the warehouse. I think of winter on the river as a quiet time.  I find the stillness of Henry Hudson Park when cloaked in ice and snow very soothing.  100+ years ago I bet the air echoed with the noise ice harvest activity.

I also have a weakness for novels - silly romances or thrillers, science fiction or fantasy, I gobble them up like candy.  Which they are, for my brain.  One of them this week was describing America as a nation of do-gooders.  People who, when disaster strikes, show up with food and clothes, with willing hands and feet, with cash and donations.  I think sometimes we forget the good in the world a midst all the bad news headlines.

Then my thoughts turned to this document from 1907 courtesy of Allison Bennett's book More Times Remembered.  It manages to combine ice and do-gooders.

Francis F. Wright's team of horses fell through the ice and drowned during the ice harvest. A substantial loss for this Elsmere farmer.  His friends and neighbors rallied together to raise funds for replacements.  According to Bennett's article, Francis Wright and his wife Libby lived in the vicinity of Salisbury Road off of Delaware Avenue in Elsmere.  Like many farmers, he made extra money in the winters working the ice harvest.

Here are some horses hard at work on the Hudson River courtesy of the New York State Archives.

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