The Risky Business of Ice Collecting
Filling the ice house was a dangerous activity, and the detailed weekly reports maintained by Washington and his managers in 1792 illustrate the challenges. Slaves from Mansion House, Dogue Run, Muddy Hole, River, and Union farms all assembled for the process of ice collecting.
For two weeks in January, about 200 men worked at one time to harvest ice. In addition to the perils faced while cutting and hauling blocks of ice out of the frozen river, the ice house itself was so damp that the wooden platform covering the “deep well” was prone to rotting. Washington obviously saw this as a safety hazard to his men and asked his farm manager to test the joists, because if rotten, "they may give way and destroy those who may be below pounding the ice as it is thrown in."