On the American frontier houses were small and families were large.
And the frontier continued to move West. At one time it was Western Pennsylvania or Western Virginia. Then it became Ohio and Tennessee. The future states on either side of the Mississippi took a turn. And then the Great Plains — after a short interruption for settlers taking the Oregon Trail or heading for California gold fields.
But no matter which future state the pioneers settled, a few things were constant. The cabin, or house, or soddy needed a kitchen. And until well into the 1840’s that meant the heating-lighting-cooking all-purpose fireplace.
It what is now the American Midwest in the 1830’s you could get an idea of where the newcomers hailed from by where they put their fireplace. Those from the south put them on one end of the cabin. Families from New York and Pennsylvania put them in the center, opened both sides, and heated the bedroom.
Remember I said the houses were small. It follows that storage was limited. Forget knick-knacks or “prettys”. The mantle was for practical things — platters, candles, the clock, and hooks or pegs for tongs and ladles.
Can you smell the stew in the pot? Bread is in the Dutch oven.
1 thought on “Kitchen Past”
In the living area of my town house is a tiny kitchen. No room for a hearth but above the sink hangs a wooden rectangle. On two rows of metal hooks, old kitchen tools, cookie cutters, a couple of hot pads and colorful coffee mugs are scattered. Along the very narrow top of the wood lay old wooden spoons. Is that my hearth?