St. Croix River - 1900’s

The weather finally broke zero yesterday after several days but on the way up, not down, which tells us it’s been pretty cold for a winter that’s only a couple of weeks old. The river is freezing and, if it isn’t already, will soon be solid and impassable which for us in the 21st century is not problem particularly. This was not true in the old days and even into the 1950’s a frozen river could present some pretty serious difficulties for us here in the St Croix Valley. For many decades spanning the late 1800’s and well into the 1900’s we heated with coal in the St. Croix Valley. The largest wharf on the river was the coal wharf in back of the Heritage Center which was designed to handle large schooners and freighters laden with coal to keep us warm through the long winters. Large supplies were stockpiled in the fall and early winter and icebreakers were  employed to keep the river open. However sometimes the ice was too thick and the icebreakers couldn’t get through. The local newspapers would report breathlessly on the progress being made to break through so the coal ships could get to Calais. Everyone was exhorted to burn wood if possible to conserve coal.