Ice Cream for the 4th of July

On July 4th 1849, Charles Ross Parke wrote in his journal that:

I determined to do something no other living man ever did in this place and on this sacred day of the year, and that was to make Ice Cream at the South Pass of the Rockies.

Dreams to Dust: A diary of the California Gold Rush, by Charles Ross Parke, p. 46
South Pass

South Pass, a low saddle between two ranges of the Rocky Mountains, made passage of the Rockies possible for wagon trains. Many of the travelers noted that they found ice and snow there in the middle of the summer.

Parke’s company had two milk cows, so he had plenty of milk.

I procured a small tin bucket which held about 2 quarts. This I sweetened and flavored with peppermint — had nothing else. This bucket was placed inside a wooden bucket, or Yankee Pale [sic], and the top put on.

Nature had supplied a huge bank of course snow, or hail, nearby, which was just the thing for this new factory. With alternate layers of this, and salt between the two buckets and the aid of a clean stick to stir with, I soon produced the most delicious ice cream tasted in this place. In fact, the whole company so decided, and as a compliment drew up in front of our tent and fired a salute, bursting one gun but injuring no one.

This is almost exactly how my husband and I make ice cream — in a hand-cranked White Mountain ice cream maker, which has an inner metal bucket and an outer wooden pail. Although we don’t have to milk our own cow or get ice from a snowbank.

Ice Cream on the 4th is an old tradition, and long may it wave!

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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