Wood Cookstove: Heating Baths on the Family Farm

An Iowan talks about the ways in which the wood cookstove was used on her family farm

| Good Old Days

When I was growing up, Saturday night was time for a bath, but you didn't just turn on the faucet. Water was pumped and carried in from the well and heated, either in the reservoir on the back of the wood cookstove or on the heating stove. Cobs – often picked up after the hogs had eaten the corn off – wood or coal were burned in the stove, and all had to be carried in. Water was put in a round galvanized tub beside the stove. Once my brother got too close and burned his backside. I wonder if he still has a scar.

Our wood cookstove had other uses than baking. My dad often warmed his feet on the open door. Many mornings I would wake up to the baa of a lamb, the squeal of little pigs or the peep of baby chicks, all of which needed to be warmed to survive. Occasionally a new calf might need to be warmed up too.

There were no snow days at our school. Since we lived some distance away, when the roads were blocked with snow, Dad hitched Bonnie and Bell-our team of black horses-to the bobsled and put lots of straw in it. Mother heated a soapstone to keep our feet warm and wrapped us in a horsehide robe. Dad donned his heavy sheepskin coat and heavy mittens and we were off over the drifts. We never missed a day.

Marie Denner
New Hampton, Iowa

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 

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