Harveys Lake
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The Bowman's Creek Branch

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The Bowman’s Creek Branch

Lehigh Valley Railroad (1887-1963)

Chapter 3: The Harvey’s Lake Ice Industry

An interesting sidelight to the history of the Albert Lewis Lumber and Manufacturing Company and the Bowman’s Creek Railroad is why the Lewis company did not develop a major ice-cutting industry on the 658-acre Harvey’s Lake, where Lewis had manufacturing facilities and access to a railroad.  In fact, Albert Lewis did attempt ice-cutting at the lake, but he was thwarted by a peculiar land issue involving the bottom of Harvey’s Lake.

In the fall of 1870, Hendrick B. Wright, a Wilkes-Barre lawyer, mine owner, and local congressman, who was attracted to the lake and later built a home there, and Charles T. Barnum, a local judge who also lived at the lake, applied to the state for ownership rights to the land underneath Harvey’s Lake, which had not been included in any previous state grants.  Land grants to areas under rivers and lakes in the state were not uncommon, particularly to support mining rights.  The lake bottom was divided into two large parcels, and on October 13, 1870, the state granted Wright a warrant for 285 acres and Barnum a warrant for 329 acres.  The lake was surveyed on November 3, and the state patents were issued to Wright and Barnum on February 20, 1871.

Although access to Harvey’s Lake was limited by a three or four-hour stagecoach ride, public interest and access to the lake for fishing and resort purposes was important to Wyoming Valley residents.  The lake patents drew the anger of local residents who, fearing that access could be blocked by Wright and Barnum through their patents, protested to the legislature.  The legislature responded with a law declaring Harvey’s Lake and Harvey’s Creek to be navigable waters.

The effect of the state law was not to challenge Wright and Barnum’s ownership of the land under the lake, but to assure access to the lake waters by adjoining property owners.  Wright and Barnum actually never intended to exclude public use of the lake.  The patents arguably provided a legal basis to support an ice harvesting business they had planned to develop. After exchanging half interests in each other’s lake patents, they built four large ice houses in the Alderson corner.  Wright and Barnum did exercise a proprietary interest in Harvey’s Lake by stocking it with 300 black bass, a new game fish, in late August 1871.

Wright and Barnum, however, did not enter the ice-cutting business themselves in any serious way, and the patents for the most part were not exercised.  Wright died in 1881, and Barnum in 1887, and the patents fell to their estates and heirs to manage.  In January 1888, the heirs of H. B. Wright and C. T. Barnum granted George R. Wright and Benjamin F. Barnum, sons of the original patent owners, a license to cut ice on the lake.  The license, however, was then leased to Albert Lewis who planned to cut at least 6,000 tons of ice annually at the lake, with a royalty to the heirs of Wright and Barnum.

From 1888 to 1893, the Albert Lewis Lumbering and Manufacturing Company cut ice at Harvey’s Lake.  The ice houses were in Alderson on the corner near the Alderson church.  In March 1889, for example, the Lewis company had fifty men at the lake working in the ice industry there.  Ten to twenty railroad cars were loaded daily, each with twenty to thirty tons of ice.  Older Wright and Barnum ice houses were filled, and two new houses, 40 by 80 feet, were also being filled while still under construction, each holding 15,000 tons of ice blocks.

The Lewis ice operations at Harvey’s Lake only lasted a few years.  The Wright and Barnum heirs were not pleased with their business arrangement with Lewis.  Their royalty from the Lewis ice contract in 1893 was only $60.75, and they had an undisclosed dispute over his business methods, which probably shaved their royalties to a meaningless venture.  In November 1893, the license with Lewis was cancelled.  Lewis quickly developed a new ice industry at Bean Run (Mountain Springs) and was expanding his ice business at Bear Creek.

The Wright and Barnum heirs leased the ice rights to Theodore Renshaw of Plymouth in the 1894 and 1895 seasons.  Afterwards the heirs unsuccessfully sought to sell the lake patents.  They abandoned the ice-cutting business, and seemingly, too, a claim to the patents, and in February 1900 the uninsured Barnum and Wright ice houses were destroyed by fire.  For the next 45 years, small individual firms cut ice on the lake, ignoring the lake patents.

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Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo

Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo