LOOKBACK: Cedar River once relied on for ice

For decades, Austin community, Hormel Foods used Mill Pond’s frozen ‘cakes’

By Tim Ruzek, Cedar River Watershed District

October 1910 ad
1930s-era ice harvesting by Hormel Foods on the Cedar River at Austin Mill Pond.
1910 — Cedar River at Austin Mill Pond. This was the layout of the backwater area prior to the city and state drastically changing it circa 1915–1925 to a uniform-shaped lake for Horace Austin State Park.
Aerial from the 1920s showing in lower left the S.L. Young property with access to the river for ice harvesting. The property today hosts the Austin Public Library.
S.L. Young’s ice houses in 1926 along the Cedar River are shown above upper left at today’s Austin Public Library property (top of the map is east). Map is a Sanborn Fire Insurance.
Hormel Foods’ ice gang cut and move “ice cakes” on the Cedar River at Austin Mill Pond in the 1920s. The company typically had a crew of 40 for ice harvesting.
Horses and men harvest ice for Hormel Foods Corp. at Austin Mill Pond.
January 1915 ad in Austin
1920s ad for Ramsey Ice Co. in the Austin Daily Herald
1892 hormel plant — ice house listed
Hormel’s ice gang moves frozen “cakes” off Austin Mill Pond with the help of horses.
1921 image of Hormel’s ice harvesting process along Austin Mill Pond
Spreadsheet from Hormel Foods’ ice harvesting in winter 1930–1931 from Austin Mill Pond.
Baudler property shown in 1896 (area of Cedar River downstream from today’s Interstate 90) where some ice harvesting was done for the community.
May 1901 ad for Gripman Bros.
A stone marker sites on the north side of Austin Mill Pond in the area where Hormel used to bring in ice cakes from the Cedar River into its cold-storage facilities.

Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.