The Ice House
Reford, Robert Wilson
Les Amis des Jardins de Métis Collection
Key to any fishing camp was the ice house. It was in these modest buildings that the catch of the day would have been placed preciously as the fishermen and their guides came off the river. The ice house was the predecessor to the refrigerator and used ancient methods to keep the contents cool.
During the winter months, ice was cut from the Metis River into large blocks. Ice tongs were used to pull the ice out of the river. The blocks were hauled with horse and sleigh to Estevan. They were then placed in a deep pit in the ice house and packed with saw dust to slow their melting. The building’s sole function was to keep the fish cool during the summer months.
Salmon was prepared and cooked fresh for every meal. But because the catch was often so great, salmon were put on ice. If you were a friend or a family member of Elsie Reford you might receive a fresh salmon at your door. It would have been packed in a special wooden crate and shipped by overnight train – arriving just in time for the evening meal. These special gifts were tagged with a special packing slip with the instructions “Fresh Fish: Forward at Once Compliments of Mrs R. W. Reford”.