The Bear Creek Ice Company
Albert Lewis, seeing the lumber industry declining, pivoted his business into ice. By 1880, Pennsylvania was the third largest producer of ice in America. Farmers needed ice to ship their products via rail lines to large urban areas. Albert Lewis and a partner founded two major ice companies in Luzerne county; Mountain Springs near Ricketts Glen and the Bear Creek Ice Company, formed in March 1895.
The Bear Creek Ice Company developed gradually, by building dams along Bear Creek and Meadow Run:
Bear Creek Dam 1, held ice plants #1 and #2. (currently named Bear Creek Village)
Beaupland (or Beauplant) Dam 2 & 3, held ice plants #3 and #4 (abandoned now)
Meadow Run Ponds had Dams 4 & 5, and ice plants 5 & 6.
The old Lehigh Valley RR bed was rebuilt with a smaller gauge line by Lewis, so he could transport his ice from all the storage buildings to the main Lehigh Valley RR line.
From 1896 - 1902 Bear Creek annual Ice sales rose from $14,500 to $68,000. A 1904 newspaper article wrote that 80,000 tons of Bear Creek ice supplied the cities of New York and Philadelphia and would fill 6,120 railcars and if laid end-to-end the railcars would be 42 miles long.
In 1909 storage buildings were built for the ice being made at Meadow Run and in 1910 the RR line was further improved and conveyor facilities were added at Dam #4 (now called Mountain Lake Dam). Dam #5 (now called Meadow Run dam) had a six room ice house on the left side of the tracks and a four room ice house on the right side. The two plants at this location had a combined storage capacity of 62,000 tons of ice. The total amount of freshly cut ice from Bear Creek, Beaupland and Meadow Run lakes was 139,500 tons in 1912.
Albert Lewis’ eldest son, Albert ‘Bertie’ Lewis, Jr. died tragically at age 22 in September of 1916 from a fall off a gasoline powered rail-truck. Bertie was taking two friends to Beauplant to show them the ice operation when the vehicle hit an obstruction on the rail and derailed. His two friends landed safely in a ditch, but Bertie was thrown onto a stack of railroad ties, fracturing his skull. He was taken to the Wilkes Barre City Hospital, and died soon-after of the head injury.
Albert Lewis Sr. passed away in 1923, leaving no will, but the company continued to operate on behalf of his three heirs: his second wife, Lillian C. Lewis, son Hugh Romaine Lewis, and daughter, Lily A. Lewis.
The natural ice business went into a slow decline beginning in 1912 due to refrigeration, mechanically produced ice and unpredictable weather. The Beauplant and Meadow Run facilities were completely shut down at the end of the 1927-1928 season, but old ice that had been stored at Meadow Run continued to be sold until 1930, mainly used to refrigerate railroad cars. In the spring of 1931 workers were told to dismantle the railroad tracks from Meadow Run to the Bear Creek plant and in June of 1932 the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station at Bear Creek was officially closed. The railroad line spur to Bear Creek was removed in the spring of 1938.
Albert Lewis’ widow, Lillian (1868-1950) passed away at the age of 82. Their son, Hugh passed on in 1948, and the only remaining heir was Lily A. Lewis Seneff (1896-1971). Ultimately, the vast properties held by the family were sold to developers with Meadow Run and Penn Lake being marketed as summer retreats for families.