Object No. 45: Pioneer fireplace

The village of Washington was America's western frontier long before Cincinnati or St. Louis.

The one-room log cabin was the primary form of shelter and housing until 1800, after the Indian Wars ended and materials could be imported, or manufactured locally.

The fireplace was the center of the log cabin.  It served as a source of light after nightfall, provided warmth in cold weather and served as the family's oven and stove.

Pioneer fireplaces in Washington are made of stone gathered nearby, and placed in the center of the cabin wall.

A fire was kept going at nearly all times: at night the embers would be banked to provide warmth, during the day the embers would be stoked to provide adequate heat to cook and bake bread.

An iron crane was set inside the fireplace to hold cooking pots, and dutch ovens. The crane pivoted out toward the hearth, enabling the cook to monitor temperatures as items cooked and safely remove the pots and dutch ovens away from the heat when it was time to portion out the contents.

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Foods that didn't need direct heat were set on the hearth on trivets and spider skillets to warm/cook the food.

The fireplace was also essential to the making of candles. Large pots containing melted wax were set near the flames, keeping the wax from hardening during the dipping process, which could take all day.

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