THE BYSTANDER'S NOTES
Charles S. Rogers & L.K. Rogers, Publishers
Another of the local historic spots is vanishing, Tracy's Pond. For three
quarters of a century it has been one of the points of particular interest in
our community. But the wheels of the Jagannath of Science have crushed another
of its victims, and the beautiful little lake, with its cozy island, gives way
to modern transportation, the motor trucks.
Mr. O.T. Wilson, who has become the owner of this area in which are the pond and the grove on its west bank, has had the pond drained, and as soon as possible will start filling it up by bringing to a common level the island and the embankments of the pond to the highway level. Here he will develop a station for servicing heavy truck equipment and comfort to their crews.
Old timers well remember Tracy's Pond, the Tracy residence and the Tracy family. The Tracy residence still stands, the handsome large residence just north of the pond, and just outside the city limits. For many years a strong spring just southeast of the small island flowed a large volume of the clearest and purest water.
In 1877 Mr. John Tracy decided that the spring promised enough water to justify its impounding and proceeded to build the embankment of the well known pond. In the center he allowed to remain a circular section of the old level as an island. Slowly but steadily the Tracy spring water rounded out into a pond, each month deeper until finally it reached the desired level and the surplus escaped through a controlled sluice way and flowing southerly, and later emptied into Cole's Pond, which was dug by Mr. W.R. Cole in 1882.
While Tracy's Pond had an island as an identification mark, and was often called Island Pond, Cole's Pond also had its own identification, a fine large boulder brought down with the ice drift eons earlier. And Cole's Pond was often referred to as Boulder Lake.
Some years ago the city secured title to a small slice of the Tracy property lying between the residence and the pond and on it sunk a deep well into a heavily loaded water content, strata of sand and gravel. A powerful electric pump was put in diverting water to the city mains. With the city robbing water in the sandy strata the flow remaining for the Tracy and Cole ponds decreased, ruining the former and perhaps the later.
Testing the water level at Tracy's Pond after Mr. Wilson became owner revealed that the deepest depth was a scant 18 inches at what was left of the spring and evaporation was carrying off the water faster than the depleted waters of the spring could add to it.
At Cole's Pond the same thing happened. After the city began taking the water from the water filled strata, the flow of water in Cole's Pond began to shrink rapidly. Mr. Elbert Smith, attempting to preserve the water level of the pond, put down a deep well with a wind powered pump, continuously operating. But here again evaporation carried off more water than the spring and the deep well could match. Finally, after several years, Mr. Smith took down the windmill, sold it and let Nature take over.
Mr. Baron Crane, present owner of the Cole's estate, is putting up a fight to preserve historic Cole's Pond. The average level is hardly more than light-wading water. So excavation of accumulated silt and capture of the water cut off Tracy Pond is the hope that the old water level will be regained.
Boulder Lake, or Cole's Pond, and the area about it has been the play ground of the community. The generous hospitality of the Cole family has been appreciated and enjoyed and on the other hand shamefully abused. On the other hand the enjoyment of Tracy's Pond, which offered equal pleasure was early cut short by the tragic drowning in the fall of 1884. From that date to this the horrors of that fatal evening cast a gloom and forebodings of further accidents over the pond, and seldom was the vicinity of the pond used for the same activities that year after year drew thousands down to the waters of Cole's Pond.
The first ice house built in Mt. Pleasant for commercial storage was built by John Tracy. It had a capacity of 2,000 tons, and two delivery wagons were operated. Mr. Tracy furnished ice for the State Mental hospital until a pond was built there by the state for its source of ice. John Tracy did not remains in the ice business long. Later the ice house was taken down and now the pond passes into history.
With the retirement of John Tracy from the ice business, Mr. W.R. Cole took over, and in 1884, built two large ice houses on the north side of his pond. Mr. Cole managed the business, but others handled the delivery end of it. We well remember John Noble delivering ice about town. In 1904 Mr. Cole retired from personal management of the ice business and turned it over to Henry Traut. Mr. Traut developed the business, cutting around 3,000 tons each winter and operated four delivery wagons.
It seems that Mr. Traut leased Cole's Pond, paying rental. One of the provisions of the contract was that if in a mild winter the ice did not reach a thickness of 11 inches no rental was to be collected. The old schedule for ice follows: large users $2.50 per ton; local merchants 25 cts per hundred pounds; residents 35 cts per hundred.
In 1915 Henry Traut sold the ice business to Mr. Fred Traut who operated the business with profit until 1923, when he sold the business to Messrs. George Kitch and Ed Leeper. But in 1928 Fred Traut bought the business back again, and still handles that icy commodity.
As an auxiliary source of ice, Henry Traut, when in the business, built an ice house on Big Creek, about where highway 31 crosses that stream, west of town. The old firm of R. Brown and Co. meat market, also provided its own ice from the pond on their property at the rear of Forest Home Cemetery. Another venture into the ice business was the erection of a large storage building for ice located on the east side of North Adams, and just south of the present Burlington station. An unfortunate enterprize and soon given up, the building taken down and a residence now in its place.
The first artificial ice manufactured in town was in 1915 by the Gheen Fuel Co. at their plant on North Main, and now owned and operated by the Scarff Fuel Co. For some five years the Gheens operated the plant but the business did not pay and the plant sold and moved to some town in Kansas.
Until 1923 Mt. Pleasant still depended upon natural ice, but in that year the city erected its municipal plant in connection with its light and power plant and the use of natural ice came to a stop. But the story of the municipal ice plant is a story in itself.
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